Though there are a good amount of treaties such as the Outer Space Treaty (1967), The Moon Agreement (1979), which regulate space conflicts and limit the installation of weapons and nukes in space, the world might gradually and yet unknowingly be moving towards a future tainted with space warfare. As there are scores of conspiracy theorists who believe that space warfare will be the dystopian end to humanity. 

Geopolitics and war have always been complementary to each other, a unified process. Every individual thinks of his own interests, which is quite natural. Similarly, every individual country plays in its own interests. There have been countless cases in history where communities have fought over conflict of interests. These interests were generally concerned about territory, power, and resources. 

For a moment, imagine a world with no territories. There will be three basic, unchangeable constants: space as a factor, territory as behavior, and territory as the central value through which other values of political being might be expressed. Geopolitics is dynamic as the interests of nations vary upon the ongoing world order. For instance, two countries having a common goal form a coalition that may affect any other country adversely. This, in turn, may result in impaired ties. This way even the most minute effect may lead to an all-out war. 

Space warfare is a staple of science fiction, where it is portrayed with a wide range of realism and plausibility. Now, what would be the main reason over which there is a possibility of having a space war? It can be land, resources, political dominance or anything for that matter. According to The Economist, The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data. So the most plausible reason in our era would be data. As now countries rely heavily on data, the insight and knowledge that can be extracted from it, is potentially more valuable. Like oil, raw data’s value comes from its potential to be refined into an essential commodity. 

Nowadays if you mention the phrase “Space War”, the common thought that pops in every individual’s mind is about huge intergalactic warships shooting high powered energy beams at one another. And soldiers in a white suit of armor battling it out against the Rebellion. But in the real world, it’s quite different. Everything is about data these days. And most of the countries use space for almost everything, from spy satellites to navigating areas through maps. Almost 1300 active satellites orbiting Earth provide a wide array of services, some of which are vital for emergency response and the military. An attack on the country’s satellites could be catastrophic and could possibly breed war. Authoritative powers have developed various capabilities for destroying satellites. Now, companies are building advanced service spacecraft which, with intent, can be weaponized. The purpose of this service craft is to repair and move existing satellites but all it takes is a change of intent for one of these spacecraft to become a Warcraft. 

The Chinese space weapon test, which destroyed one of its own defunct satellites in 2007 created a great deal of debris that put other satellites in danger. If debris from one act of destruction goes on to destroy further satellites, a sequence reaction could ensue, rendering some orbits unusable. This is known as the Kessler syndrome. Because America’s armed forces gained more capability from satellites than the others, so having a lot to lose, it is planning to increase its capabilities in the area. The world will hope for peace within the cosmos, but history dictates something else entirely. 

David Goldfein, US Air Force Chief of staff says that “ I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years and we are the service which must lead warfighting in this newly contested domain.” In 2018, US President Donald Trump ordered The Pentagon to establish the sixth arm of the United States Military, the space force. In 2019, Trump signed the National Defence Authorization Act, formally

establishing the Antecedent to the US Air force’s Space Command into the US Space Force, to create the United States’ dominance in the dark vacuum. Recently, Russia has launched a commercial satellite with the specific purpose to rendezvous with other satellites. 

Some theorists believe with reasonable doubt that the International Space Station is spying on the planet and its residents. Alongside news like this, if one hears that China is planning to place 3 artificial moons in the Earth’s orbit by 2022, does it not seem fishy at all? 

This quest to win absolute control of the cosmos surrounding the blue planet is pushing us towards an inevitable war, because the one who controls space, controls the future. And this can take the face of an all-out space war. Now comes the question of How. How can a space war even happen, because it isn’t as easy as firing guns in your shooting range right? 

There are several ways to hurt your foes or attack their interests in the atmosphere. One can do that by directing an intense beam of microwave radiation at an object like a satellite in outer space, disabling all its electrical circuits, discreetly. 

Another option at hand is indulging in radio jamming to disrupt radar and communications,(which dates back to World War II); or by swamping a radio receiver with radio noise, one can obscure the reception of genuine signals and render them completely non-functional. 

Also, lasers are being considered as defensive (or perhaps attacking?) weapons, with the idea being to take out satellites’ solar panels. With no power, the satellites won’t be able to communicate with the ground station and are essentially lost.; not to mention the recoil from a laser is relatively less and the vacuum would allow them to perform much better than on the Earth’s surface. 

With such options at disposal, we cannot even begin to think of the repercussions of a war in space right? Maybe all the 195 countries of the world should sign the Outer Space Treaty, which provides for – a basic framework on international space law and the exploration and that the use of outer space shall be carried out only for the benefit of all the countries and shall be the province of all mankind 

“It is absolutely inevitable that we will see conflict move into space,” says Michael Schmitt, professor of Public International Law and a Space War expert at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. The first Gulf War in 1991 has often been called the first space war, though it wasn’t actually fought in outer space. Rather, the US and coalition forces relied heavily on GPS and other satellite technology to conduct that conflict. Space has been seen as a potential asset since time immemorial, which makes it naturally susceptible to power-plays. 

Space warfare isn’t anything which is not possible, given that the parties to the subject-matter have requisite motivation and belief to take such drastic steps which can be particularly life-threatening. Many motivational factors may result in a space-war, including but not limited to data, global-spying, New-World dominance, control over resources and the likes.. Hence, it is a possibility yes, though the morality clauses imbibed inside each human heart must protest if any such step is taken.

– This article has been written by Harshit Sharma, a 2nd year Bcom hons. student at Shri Ram College of Commerce, and Anshdeep Singh, also a 2nd year Bcom hons. student at Shri Ram College of Commerce.

Referred to Economic Times article, dated 2019, May 22

Referred to Space News article, dated 2016, January 11

Referred to Economic Times article, dated 2019, December 22

Referred to The Guardian, dated 2018, April 15

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