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Offensive War in Space

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A new arms race is unfolding among spacefaring nations. Space experts have been telling us about contested space for the last several years. Today, there are about 1,300 active satellites in a crowded nest of Earth orbits. They provide worldwide communications, GPS navigation, weather forecasting and planetary surveillance.

Military organizations rely on many of these satellites in support of modern warfare. The three main contenders are the U.S., China and Russia. The ongoing power struggle may ignite a conflict that could cripple the entire space-based infrastructure while reducing the capabilities of warfighter organizations.

There are several ways to disable, destroy or reduce effectiveness of satellites. One obvious way is to attack them with anti-satellite devices. Another is to simply approach a satellite and spray paint over its optics.

Other ways include manually snapping off communications antennas and destabilizing orbits. Lasers can temporarily or permanently disable satellite components. Ground station interference using radio or microwave emissions can jam or hijack transmissions to or from ground controllers.

The concept of war in space is not new. The prospect of Soviet nuclear weapons launched from orbit in the 1950s motivated the U.S. to begin the testing of anti-satellite weaponry. Fortunately, orbiting weapons of mass destruction were banned through the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Consequently, space-based surveillance became a major component of the Cold War that served as an early-warning system for the deployment or launch of ground-based nuclear weapons.

Throughout most of the Cold War, the U.S.S.R. developed and tested “space mines” which could self-detonate in order to destroy U.S. spy satellites.

The militarization of space issue peaked again when President Reagan initiated the Strategic Defense Initiative to develop orbital countermeasures against Soviet ballistic missiles. In 1985, the USAF staged a demonstration when an F-15 fighter jet launched a missile that took out a failing U.S. satellite in low orbit.

Today, the situation is much more complicated. Low- and high-Earth orbits have become hotbeds of scientific and commercial activity, filled with hundreds of satellites from about 60 different nations. Despite their largely peaceful purposes each satellite is at risk because a few military space powers insist on continued development and test of new space weapons.

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House committee delays decision on funding Space Force

Washington (UPI) Jun 10, 2019

A draft of the National Defense Authorization Act released by the House on Monday has no mention of the Space Force envisioned by President Donald Trump.
The House Armed Services Committee will debate the matter on Wednesday, members of the committee said.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., committee chairman, said any inclusion of funding would build an outer space military branch “smaller and more focused” than Trump’s plan, which calls for a Space Command as a division of the U.S. Air Force be … read more

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