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Clearing Up in Space: The Next Global Flashpoint?

Alexandra Stickings
RUSI Defence Systems, 2 September 2016
Aerospace, National Security and Resilience Studies, Military Sciences
The space domain, with over 1,000 currently operational satellites, is becoming increasingly congested, and the issue of how to deal with space debris is more important than ever. How worried should we be about possible threats from new debris-clearing technologies?

Since the middle of the Cold War, space has been a contested domain, with both the US and the Soviet Union developing anti-satellite missile capabilities. Although that war never went ‘hot’, some who study the standoff between China and the US in the Pacific have suggested that in the event of a great power conflict the ‘first shots’ will be fired in space. As a result of a return to great power competition in Europe and the Asia-Pacific, and the West’s widely acknowledged military dependency on space, the security and integrity of vital space assets is once again a subject of serious concern at the highest levels of Western militaries and governments. Unlike during the Cold War, commercial organisations and civilian critical national infrastructure components are also dependent on access to space assets, alongside the military. This means that the stakes are higher than ever.

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Author

Alexandra Stickings
Research Analyst, National Security and Resilience

Alexandra Stickings is a Research Analyst within the National Security and Resilience Studies group at RUSI. Working primarily within... read more

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