The Cold War may be over (or not), but Space War I is clearly heating up as the world’s major superpowers continue to appear to be scrambling to get as many weaponized satellites and secret space drones into orbit as they can before the other sides do the same. We cannot afford a killer satellite gap!
The latest development to suggest we’re heading towards a war in space comes in the form of a new Pentagon publication which was quietly released this week. The 46-page report is titled Challenges to Security in Space and was published by the Defense Intelligence Agency. According to the document, the Pentagon believes “some foreign governments are developing capabilities that threaten others’ ability to use space” and “developing jamming and cyberspace capabilities, directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities, and ground-based anti-satellite missiles that can achieve a range of reversible to non-reversible effects” on other satellites and spacecraft. Clearly it’s only the other guys doing these things, too; the US wouldn’t be up to the same shenanigans, no way!
One of the threats the document cites is a new laser technology China is developing which it claims is intended to zap space debris. Orbital pollution is becoming a serious issue after all, one which threatens every nation’s ability to conduct safe operations in orbit around Earth. While China’s anti-debris lasers certainly seem like they could clean up space if they wanted to, the Pentagon notes (as I did last year when the technology was unveiled) that these seemingly peaceful technologies could easily also function as full-on space weapons:
These systems could include payloads such as kinetic kill vehicles, radio frequency jammers, lasers, chemical sprayers, high-power microwaves, and robotic mechanisms. Some of these systems, such as robotic technology for satellite servicing and repair and debris removal, have peaceful uses but can also be used for military purposes.
The document outlines several technologies the People’s Liberation Army is known to be testing which could pose a threat to other nations’ space-based defense and surveillance capabilities. It makes you wonder what type of reports the Chinese and Russians are publishing concerning the same types of technologies being developed here in the West.
It sure is looking more and more like the next major conflict between superpowers will look like something straight out of the science fiction of the mid-20th century. Space lasers, space-to-surface missile strike capabilities, cyberwarfare conducted by artificial intelligence constructs - nothing is off the table for the oncoming struggle over Earth’s dwindling natural resources. Who will come out on top?
Other than the irradiated super-cockroaches, that is.