Satellite anomalies and other examples of spaceborne intrigue continue to add up, suggesting that the looming war in space might be getting closer to hot than we think. In late March 2019, India blew up a satellite in orbit with a missile, littering near-orbits with debris. The display was intended as a show of force for India’s military in the midst of more and more nations testing anti-satellite weaponry and technology.
Shortly after, United States Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson issued a statement which appeared to warn that the U.S. would soon start flexing its muscles in space. At the Space Foundation’s 35th annual Space Symposium this month, Wilson suggested that the Air Force and other armed forces are beginning to shift their focus towards space as the next warfighting domain. With that in mind, Wilson hinted that the U.S. may soon show the world what it’s capable of in space in order to serve as a deterrent for would-be space conflicts:
We looked at all of our missions in space, from missile warning to communications and intelligence collection. We took the best estimates of the threat and presumed a thinking adversary who would respond to the actions that we take. That capability needs to be one that’s understood by your adversary. They need to know there are certain things we can do, at least at some broad level, and the final element of deterrence is uncertainty.
That uncertainty is further hinted at by many recent incidents of strange satellite behavior observed in near-Earth orbit. Earlier this week, satellite tracking firm ExoAnalytic Solutions spotted communications satellite Intelsat 29e behaving erratically. Footage collected with telescopes showed the satellite splintering apart in space as streaks of flammable gasses and debris shot out in all directions. The cause of the satellite’s demise remains unknown, but ExoAnalytic Solutions is currently investigating the incident.
A few days later, astronomers at the Russia-based Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics spotted an anomalous satellite in orbit which appears to be maneuvering between other satellites. Russia, China, and the US have in recent years launched experimental and largely secret micro-satellites which are believed to be able to hijack or manipulate adversaries’ satellites and monitor their communications first-hand. It’s unknown who might be controlling this particular satellite, but of course Russian government mouthpiece Sputnik News alleges that it’s the Americans as they always do. But hey, maybe it is. It probably is.
While science fiction has for decades predicted that the next war would happen in space, the fact that many of the superpowers are already testing space weapons shows that art indeed often becomes reality. I’m left to wonder how many of the current anomalous phenomena being observed may be a byproduct of this new weapons testing.