In an unexpected announcement, the US government announced the end of anti-satellite weapons testing programs. The announcement was made by Vice President Kamala Harris during a visit to the Space Force Base in Vandenberg, Santa Barbara County, California.
According to the US Deputy Commander, the idea is to take the first steps towards a better coexistence between nations in space, where the United States serves as a model for other countries with space capacity to follow this example and also seek to perform most peaceful activities outside the Earth.
According to the Naval Institute’s Guide to Naval Weapons Systems of the World, anti-satellite (or simply “ASAT”) weapons were designed with military strategies and tactics in mind. Its tests go back to the height of the Cold War, when the United States and the former Soviet Union also fought for technological supremacy militarily.
In fact, since the first of its kind was launched (Sputnik 1), satellites have been used in a number of contexts: militarily, they are used for troop navigation, communications with military centers, and divisions in the regions in conflict, and perhaps largest interest of nations with this capacity, gathering and delivering intelligence from hostile countries.
Armed satellites, though never used in a real combat context, have already been demonstrated by countries such as China, India, Russia and, of course, the United States. Demonstrations have always been conducted on disabled domestic targets – such as “dead” satellites, for example – and never on foreign targets.
In practice, this seems like a major deterrent: “if you attack my structure on Earth, I will retaliate from above”. However, growing concerns about increased space waste – mainly driven by the growing private sector’s involvement in space exploration – have changed the public’s perspective, and anti-satellite weapons are no longer seen as protective tools. , and is now becoming another aggravating factor. debris in our circuit.
Space debris itself may not bother many people, but it is important to remember that in space, the physical standards we are bound to on Earth have been raised to deadly forces: May 2016, one of the double-glazed glass windows on the International Space Station ( ISS) has been cracked … by a drop of ink escaping from an ancient decaying satellite.
In fact, regardless of the size of the space debris particles, it follows the Earth’s rotational speed, which is 1674 kilometers per hour (km / h). A shock at this speed, even with such a small object, can be enough to destroy a satellite, knock it out of orbit and possibly even crash into the earth’s surface. Now imagine this happening in a city.
According to the United Nations Office for External Relations (UNOOSA), at the end of January 2022, 8,261 satellites were registered in orbit, an increase of 12% over the previous 10 months. With companies like Starlink, SpaceX’s Internet platform aiming to put more and more satellites into orbit, that number is set to rise – roughly. And collisions between satellites, despite the technological advances in each of them, have already been recorded.
For this reason, the United States is betting on the idea that using anti-satellite weapons to destroy objects in space is not as harmless a proposal as it seems. Then start a kind of conversation that sets out rules for coexistence in space – just as military troops on Earth have “rules of engagement” (which determine if and when soldiers can react, and how to react, to situations at hand). – can be a way to avoid all these possibilities.
“There’s a lot of discussion going on about the different standards – there is no one solution and no way to develop one. The approach you take is likely to be very different depending on each content and context,” says Robin Dicky, senior analyst at Aerospace Center for Space Policy and Strategy, to Phys.org.
The problem is that nations tend to put their own interests first: recent events have seen Russia and China, for example. has broken up from large economic blocs, and as a result a more universal solution seems increasingly distant as the principle of national sovereignty. , each country is free to develop what it wants, how it wants and when it wants. In practice, this indicates that a possible consensus will be a matter of choice – and countries that disagree can simply decide not to follow any rules.
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