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Review: Space and Counterspace, Launch to Orbital Strike (18/5/23)

The CCW Emerging Threats Group met to discuss space and counterspace, focusing on disruptive technology from launch to orbital strike. The session spanned the capabilities of technology both within the physical domain of space itself and the cyber domain (with the potential to attack satellites and key navigation tools).

Ukraine and Space Technologies

First, the session looked at the Ukrainian crisis, and examined the seeming lack of cyber-attacks, given Russia’s known technological capabilities. Here, the significance of private actors such as Starlink was raised. The session also examined whether technological advancements in cyber and space domains offer new platforms for mass destruction in escalatory scenarios.

Kinetic & Non-Kinetic ASAT Approaches

Second, the session explored physical space attacks, with attention being drawn to China’s 2007 anti-satellite tests. The tests generated much debris, disruption, and condemnation that showed such means can be counterproductive. Countries including the US have since publicly rejected the use of such kinetic means. The session then looked to other alternative methods to disable and destroy satellites. Moving forward, non-kinetic technology may gain popularity as it can target opponents’ satellites in a controlled manner without damaging others.

Winners and Losers in Space

Finally, the session closed by reviewing whether there were “winners or losers” in space. Looking at individual countries there is much variation is satellite quantity and quality. Strategically, some nations are more reliant on satellites than others. In addition, private actors increasingly possess great influence with state actors and greatly shape the future of space warfare.

Looking Ahead

The group convenes fortnightly (with some extra sessions, so check out blog). We look forward to our next discussion, Accelerating Combat; Hypersonics, Directed Energy, and Autonomous Systems on 25 May 2023.

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