Space Is Truly the Final Frontier (For the Next Great War)

    Zachary Keck

    Security, North America

    The weaponization of space is inevitable, but there’s still time to make it as peaceful as possible.

    The weaponization of space is inevitable, but there’s still time to make it as peaceful as possible.

    Those are the major conclusions that can be taken from a new study by Brian Chow published in Strategic Studies Quarterly, the strategic journal of the United States Air Force. Chow is formerly a senior physical scientist for twenty-five years at the RAND Corporation and described the inevitability of space weaponization in his article “Space Arms Control: A Hybrid Approach.” He argues that this will be the result of spacecraft that can remove debris and service existing satellites. These dual-use spacecraft are necessary for peaceful space activities. However, they can be quickly refashioned for military purposes—with devastating consequences.

    The first type of dual-use spacecraft—called active debris removal (ADR)—are designed to deal with the rapidly growing problem of space debris. One preliminary ADR example came from China in June 2016 when it launched the “Aolong-1” spacecraft, which was a demonstrator device. These ADR spacecraft—which are also being developed by the United States, European Union, and Russia— can retrieve debris floating in space. Then, the ADR spacecraft bring the debris down to re-enter the atmosphere, destroying it by the intense frictional heat. Alternatively, they can also instead place the debris in graveyard orbits to reduce the probability of colliding with operational satellites.

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