Space Force and the New Space Race
I’ve been binging the new Netflix comedy, Space Force, lately. The show is hilarious and a welcome distraction during these crazy times. Much of it is satirical, poking fun at the current occupant of the White House and the widespread distrust of experts. In fact, the unlikely heroes of the show are the scientists who regularly save the day, despite the ignorant people surrounding them.
There is a lot that is great about Space Force. The writing is fantastic, and the veteran actors do not disappoint. The show is very funny, and I would recommend it to anyone.
Despite being a comedy, the show does touch on some serious topics, even if they are depicted in an unrealistic way. One of the main themes is the competition between the USA and other countries over the militarization of space.
In Space Force, countries like China, Russia and India compete directly with the United States for orbital dominance, with China portrayed as capable of destroying US satellites by severing their solar panels. While this is fiction, some of it might not be far off the mark.
Since World War 2, and especially after the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has emerged as the sole superpower on Earth. Its dominance of the air and the sea unquestionably make it a global hegemon. But what about space?
Many countries now have space-faring capabilities and ambitions. Several have even sent missions to the moon, including Russia, the European Space Agency, China, India, Japan, Israel and even Luxembourg. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and South Korea, plan to send missions to the moon as well. Meanwhile, companies like SpaceX are helping more countries and companies send satellites into orbit.
Any way you look at it, access to space is opening up and fortunes will be made in the years to come. The concept of property rights in space has already come up and I fully expect that countries will try and stake their claims in the future. Whether it be on the moon, an asteroid, or eventually another planet, if there are strategic interests somewhere, someone will try to claim ownership. Will that ownership be recognized, or will it be challenged?
As the dominant military power on Earth, would the United States stand by and allow another country to claim a strategic interest in space as their own? If not, how would they go about dislodging them?
This brings us back to Space Force and the coming competition for orbital dominance. The ability to knock out an enemy’s satellites is invaluable to the success of any 21st century earthbound conflict, as it would render the opponent blind. Several nations have demonstrated their anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities, including the United States, Russia, China and India. Granted, these capabilities have a long way to go, but the race is on.
Will we see one country emerge as the dominant orbital power one day? Will that country then decide who has access to the rest of the solar system? Or will many countries possess enough ASAT capabilities to deny an orbital hegemon and keep the solar system open to all?
Time will provide the answers to these questions and I likely won’t be around long enough to see how it will all play out. As a consolation prize, at least I have science fiction and hysterical shows like Space Force.
G.P. Hudson is the author of The Pike Chronicles and Fall of The Terran Empire