Space weaponization is the process of placement of weapons in outer space or on heavenly bodies. It also involves the creation of weapons that will transit outer space or simply travel from earth to attack or destroy targets in space. Read further to know more about space weaponization, its impacts, and its implications.
Weaponization of space v/s militarization of space
The weaponization of space is different from the militarization of space. Militarization of space includes the usage of space-based assets for command, control, communication, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities.
Militarization of space assists armies on the conventional battlefield whereas via weaponization of space, outer space itself becomes the battlefield. Space emerges as the ‘fourth frontier of war’
Examples of space weaponization include the placement of orbital or suborbital satellites with the intention of attacking enemy satellites, the use of ground-based direct ascent missiles to shoot space jets, jamming signals sent from enemy satellites, etc.
Why space weaponization?
- The desire to establish military supremacy on all fronts of warfare.
- lack of faith in the present missile defense system to stall an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.
- To preserve space assets from incoming anti-satellite weapons (ASAT).
- Space supremacy complements other areas of warfare like sea, air, and land
Implications of Space Weaponization
- Mutual suspicion-Fear of war generates competition and aggressive deployment between nations
- Threat to other commercial and scientific missions-A country that deploys a military satellite would be reluctant to disclose sensitive information like orbital and radio frequency. This affects the entire coordination system
- Space Debris– Space weaponization and may further aggravate the concern of an increase in space debris. It further paves way for Kessler’s syndrome. Want to know more about space debris and the threat that it creates? click here to know more.
- The monopoly of orbits-The limited number of orbital slots gets monopolized by developed countries limiting the scope for scientific and commercial explorations.
India in the race for space power
- INCOSPAR was created under the department of atomic energy in 1962. This was further reconstituted as the Indian space research organization (ISRO) in 1969.
- Defense Space Agency (DSA) was created in 2019. It is expected to act as a full-fledged aerospace command.
- Defence Space Research Organisation is also expected to be established. It is expected to undertake research and development as per the strategy and policy developed by the DSA.
- Mission shakti (Anti Satellite Missile Test)-India is now the fourth country in the world to conduct ASAT missile test after the US,Russia, and China
Global Frameworks to Prevent Space Weaponization
- Outer Space Treaty -It was conceptualized by the United Nations in 1967. It emphasizes that the use of outer space should be peaceful and beneficial to all mankind. It claims that one nation cannot claim national sovereignty in outer space.
- Prevention of an outer space arms race-It stresses the use of space for peaceful purposes. Further, it calls for the importance of avoiding an arms race.
- The necessity of a strong legal framework: existing space laws should be revisited to develop a new legal framework to address concerns about the weaponization of outer space.
- Space situational awareness: In order to increase situational awareness of space objects already in space, states should submit valid information to international institutions. This data can be further reorganized and provided as open-source information to all.
- Technology transfer– legitimate access for all states to outer space and provision of training and access to technology without discrimination should be promoted.
- Transparency-Transparency and confidence-building measures can help maintain space security by complementing a negotiated international legal instrument on outer space arms control.
- India as a global leader: India can take leadership and use international platforms for negotiating a treaty for the peaceful use of outer space.
Article written by: Vivek Rajasekharan