- The growing militarisation of space
- Roscosmos’ Rogozin at it again
- When international cooperation works
A Pentagon report
In the post-Cold War renaissance of orbital and galactic affairs, the commercial space sector is booming.
However, the division of private space endeavours and militaristic activities is no easy feat, according to a new report by the Pentagon on Wednesday.
“Military and civilian space services are not easily separated,” the US’ security watchdog said, alleging that Russian and Chinese are developing weapons to specifically target US satellites.
After accelerating their space efforts in the 1980s, China’s space agency has doubled its number of annual launches over the past decade.
The country, which has been at the centre of growing geopolitical tensions with the Western superpower, “has devoted considerable economic and technological resources” to its space program.
But in doing so, “China has also development and probably will continue to develop weapons for use against satellites in orbit to degrade and deny adversary space capabilities”, the Pentagon claims.
China currently owns and operates over 60 communication satellites, with at least four intended for military use, according to the Pentagon’s intelligence data.
The Pentagon has also accused China of conducting so-called “cyberespionage” against foreign space entities, amid growing animosity above Earth’s surface.
Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, Beijing spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that China “always advocates the peaceful use of outer space,” and that the US “has been weaving a narrative about the so-called threat posed by China and Russia in outer space in order to justify its own military build-up.”
The boss of Russia’s Roscosmos has turned down a meeting with NASA’s administrator, amid tensions between the two space agencies as a result of the ongoing Ukraine invasion.
Dmitry Rogozin, an ally of Putin’s, confirmed on Monday that he, after all, would not be meeting with NASA’s head honcho Bill Nelson.
Nelson, 79, stepped to the galactic helm in May last year, however, the meeting had been postponed on several occasions over the course of the pandemic.
“Despite my numerous invitations, I myself have not met with Bill Nelson, who has held this post for a year,” Rogozin said in an interview with state-backed newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
“Possibly due to age-related reasons, he was afraid of contracting the disease during the pandemic, which is why he never came to Russia. And he definitely will not be coming now.”
The NASA chief was expected to visit Moscow in the first half of this year, according to Roscosmos deputy CEO for international cooperation Sergei Savelyev in December.
Resuming cross-flights and further cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS) was supposedly on the cards for the meeting, Savelyev added.
However, given Rogozin’s current stance, and his repeated threats to the safety of the ISS and its astronauts via Twitter, the meeting will no longer be going ahead.
With satellite giant’s like OneWeb snubbing Russia’s launching capabilities in response to the invasion, which has seen the country accused of horrific war crimes, Russia’s position alongside other spacefaring nations has been knocked.
The Pentagon report days later pointed to the global reliance on Russian launch vehicles to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS, which “garnered Russia a measure of prestige” and “reinforced the perception of Moscow as a global leader in space”– a reliance that is quickly being dismantled.
US & UAE: International collaboration
While Russia, China and the US have thrown in the towel when it comes to cooperation, the stateside space agency has this week announced it will be collaborating with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to analyse data from Mars.
The partnership will see both space agencies share data from their respective missions to the Red Planet, with a focus on the Martian atmosphere and upper-atmosphere system, the pair said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
“The opportunity to work alongside other Mars missions and derive greater insights by sharing our observations and working together to fit together the pieces of the puzzle is one we are delighted to take,” the project director for the UAE’s Mars mission, Omran Sharaf, said.
The UAE’s 2020 Mars mission, known as Hope, was the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation.
“Combined, we will have a much better understanding of the coupling between the two and the influence of the lower atmosphere on escape to space of gas from the upper atmosphere,” added Shannon Curry, research scientist and principal investigator for NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission.