China and Russia are currently competitors for military advantage in space, and it seems this has got America worried. In 2007 China successfully shot down one of its old weather satellites, orbiting 500 miles above the planet. In 2015, Russia launched a successful test of an anti-satellite missile.
Approximately 1800 active satellites currently orbit earth, half of them sent up by America, are vital to many of our day to day activities. We rely on satellites for the following:
- Anything using GPS positioning for navigation – which includes various civil and military organisations
- Financial markets depend on them for super-sensitive time-synchronisation
- Weather forecasting
- Traffic lights
- Various mobile phone applications.
- Some television and video conferencing.
It would seem that satellites have somehow become the ‘foundation’ of our daily postmodern, globally networked lives.
What might space war look like…
Besides firing missiles into space, there are other options: lasers could be used to blind or dazzle satellites in order to disrupt their functionality, or cyber attacks could be ‘launched’ to hack into them.
As with most things warfare, it seems that the USA is already years ahead of its competitors. The USA first launched a successful strike against an obsolete satellite in the mid 1980s, and they are already ‘hardening’ existing satellites against attack – by positioning redundant satellites to act as back ups, for example, and they are looking into giving them their own defensive capabilities.
What are the possible consequences of Space War?
If there was an all-out space war, it could create a debris-cloud which would render space unusable for future generations, however, if global relations deteriorated to this point, we’d probably be more worried about the radiation sickness from the previously deployed nukes!
Relevance of this to A-level sociology…
Quite a useful example of the continued power of the Nation State in a global age…. seriously, how many nations have the power to shoot down satellites…. really just a handful, and no other body besides them!
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The Week, 25 August 2018.