|Lee Billings reports that China, Russia and the U.S. are developing and testing controversial new capabilities to wage war in Earth orbit. The most worrisome military flash point is arguably not in the Taiwan Strait, the Korean Peninsula, Iran, Israel, Kashmir or Ukraine. In fact, it cannot be located on any globe. The contested territory? The no-mans-land of Earth orbit, where a conflict is unfolding that is an arms race in all but name.|
About 1,300 active satellites now reside in the region of outer space immediately surrounding our planet, where they provide worldwide communications, GPS navigation, weather forecasting, and more. For nations that rely on a select number of those satellites for modern warfare, space has become the ultimate high ground, with the U.S. as the undisputed king of the hill.
Now, as China and Russia aggressively seek to challenge our superiority in space with ambitious defense and exploration programs of their own, this power struggle risks sparking a conflict that could cripple the entire planetary space-based infrastructure. And though it may begin up high, such a conflict could easily ignite full-blown war on the surface of Earth.
Without rigorous international accountability and oversight, the risk of accidental collisions and debris strikes will continue to grow as more nations launch and operate more satellites. And as the chance of accidents increases, so, too, does the possibility of their misinterpretation as deliberate, hostile actions in the high-tension, cloak-and-dagger military struggle in space, just as we prepare to head offworld to explore and mine mineral commodities, and further expand civilization.