Ep. 63: War in space

What might orbital war look like? How might it start, and how could it proceed?

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Guests include Jeffrey Lewis, professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif.; Jonathan McDowell, astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.; Bleddyn Bowen, lecturer in International Relations at the University of Leicester, in the UK, and author of the forthcoming book, “War in Space“; and Brian Weeden, director of Program Planning at the Secure World Foundation.

A transcript of this week’s episode is below.

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Almost exactly one year ago, a ballistic missile screamed through the atmosphere over India’s east coast traveling at the average speed of about a mile per second. About two and a half minutes after takeoff, the missile slammed into its target, which was a satellite launched just weeks earlier that is owned and operated by the country of India. Same as the missile that hit it.

It wasn’t the first time India aimed for the stars, as it were, to shoot down one of its own satellites. A month earlier, that is last February, India reportedly tried the same task and failed when the interceptor missile quit working about 30 seconds after launching from that island on India’s coast. 

The failure was concerning enough, especially for India; and it was quietly flagged by specialists in the U.S. military’s intelligence community. 

But the successful intercept was far more concerning for the rest of the world. That’s because it left a debris field that turned out to last considerably longer than Indian officials initially led the public to believe. 

Bridenstine: “Here’s what we know about the most recent direct-ascent anti-satellite test that was done by India—”

That’s NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine just a few days after the successful test.

Bridenstine: “—the risk to the international Space Station was increased by 44 percent. The risk, and I’m talking about small debris impact to the International Space Station, went up 44 percent. That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris in an apogee that goes above the International Space Station. And that kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human space flight that we need to see have happen.”

McDowell: “You know the Indians famously said that all the debris would be down within 45 days. It’s been a year and there are still about a dozen pieces in orbit being tracked.”

That’s Jonathan McDowell, astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. And we’ll hear more from him throughout the episode.

You can probably understand why officials in New Delhi would downplay the scattered consequences of this first-of-its-kind successful test. 

And you can especially understand it if you’ve seen the 2013 film, “Gravity,” which I just rewatched for the first time in years this past weekend.  

Mission control: NORAD reports a Russian satellite has incurred a missile strike. The impact has created a cloud of debris orbiting at 20,000 mph. Current debris orbit does not overlap with your trajectory. We’ll keep you posted on any developments.”

That, of course, changes quite dramatically.

Mission control: “Debris from the missile strike has caused a chain reaction, hitting other satellites and creating new debris, travelling faster than a high-speed bullet up towards your altitude. Out copy.”

That was seven years ago. It was also, of course, a movie and therefore imprecise in its physics and exaggerated in its effects. For one thing, the timeline of that destruction so central to Gravity’s plot would have been years rather than the 90 minutes Sandra Bullock programs into her stopwatch. 

Or, as McDowell told me, “instead of being you know a few hours to have that chain reaction, it takes decades.”

But to space policy experts like Brian Weeden, the drama portrayed in “Gravity” — the film won five Oscars, after all — was actually pretty useful, even if it was quite exaggerated. 

Weeden: “And we had this running debate in our community, is that movie good or bad? Because you know it portrays an absolutely unrealistic view — it’s not gonna happen like that; you know it magically took out every satellite in every orbit, including ones that are tens of thousands of miles away from each other at the same time. But it certainly has raised awareness of the issue far more than anything else.”

And I focus on this aspect of I guess you’d call it space warfare up front in this episode because as far as I could tell, if there’s gonna be some kind of conflict in space, it’s probably gonna involve shooting down somebody’s satellite. 

Lewis: “So I have been working on this issue since the early 2000s, and it is remarkable to me how little has changed.” 

That’s Jeffrey Lewis, professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif.

Lewis: “The direct answer to the question ‘What is the most likely vector for conflict to find its way in space?’ Yeah, it’s shooting down people’s satellites. But you know there’s a second piece of it, which is if you imagine that our goal is to use space and have access to it, there are all kinds of threats to our access that aren’t conflict or war. So for me, the risks run from people trying to shoot down a satellite to people putting satellites into space in careless ways so that you generate a lot of debris. And it kind of doesn’t matter to me why our satellite dies — whether it’s shot down or hit by an accidental piece of debris — like all of that to me is part of the picture of space security.”

Lewis: “And all of the things that are in space play kind of supporting roles. So communications, navigation, imaging. And we are kind of on the edge of this new world where there are small satellites that can conduct maneuvers in orbit, which at the moment is mostly for inspection and spying, but could be used to grab things and pull them down. And then the possibility that some of the stuff on the ground like lasers for dazzling or systems for jamming are being followed on by very destructive capabilities and that would include direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons of the kind that the U.S. and Russia and China and now India have all tested.”

Watson: “To that last point: How hard is it to shoot down a satellite?”

Lewis: “It’s really easy. For the basic technology that most countries are pursuing — this idea of a so-called direct-ascent anti-satellite weapon — all those are are missile defenses. A kinetic energy interceptor that one uses to intercept a ballistic missile, as long as it’s got enough oomph to get to the altitude of the satellite you want to hit, can do the job. And we saw that with USA 193, the reconnaissance satellite that was out of control and tumbling [in 2008], and when the U.S. wanted to shoot it down, instead of dusting off one of the many anti-satellite weapons that had been developed—”

Watson: “They used the Aegis system, right?”

Lewis: “That’s right. They just did a software change and used an SM-3. So the reality is that ballistic missiles are hard to intercept. But satellites because they are in orbit, they are basically traveling on a fixed path, right? You know the way I think about orbit is the object is falling, but it’s just falling at such a speed that it keeps falling over the horizon forever. So there isn’t really any maneuvering in space because there’s no atmosphere. I mean you can change orbits but it makes it really easy once you know the path something is on to shoot it down.”

Lewis’s description of falling over the horizon forever — “the way I think about orbit is the object is falling, but it’s just falling at such a speed that it keeps falling over the horizon forever” — it reminded me of what Harvard’s Jonathan McDowell told me about perhaps a better way to conduct anti-satellite tests. 

And that is to use the lower altitude, sub-orbital region above the Earth. That’s in the neighborhood of about 60 miles or so. India’s test last March was about three times that altitude. 

McDowell: “For example, the Chinese, right, did a much worse test where there’s still many hundreds of pieces in orbit from the 2007 test. That was very bad, but they learned their lesson and their subsequent tests have been against sub-orbital targets, which exercises a lot of the same technology but doesn’t create orbital debris.”

One key point for understanding this stuff:

McDowell: “In order to stay in space without using propulsion, just falling around the Earth like the Moon does, you have to reach orbital velocity. And so what a satellite launch does is it punches up through the atmosphere a couple hundred miles in a few minutes, and then it spends the next five minutes sort of flying pretty much horizontally but building up speed so that its sideways speed relative is about 18,000 mph. And at that speed, you can switch your engine off and fall, and you’re falling but you’re going sideways so fast that by the time you’ve fallen a mile, the Earth has curved away from you by a mile because it’s round and so you just keep falling around the Earth and missing. That’s orbit. And that takes a lot more energy than sub-orbital where you have less than that velocity and so you fall back to Earth immediately in less than one circuit round the Earth. So that means that any debris that you generate will also fall back and not be whizzing around. And the thing is once you have debris in orbit, right, again it’s traveling at 18,000 mph in some direction and satellites are going around the Earth in all directions. And so you have another piece, your precious satellite or space station might be going around the Earth at 18,000 mph in a totally different direction and if they meet at 90 degrees or head-on, you know that can easily be sort of 30,000 mph relative velocity and that’s gonna hurt.”


And what about down here on Earth? Say some nation decides to shoot down another nation’s satellites? Or if multiple satellites are destroyed from debris, which as explained before, is a pretty big if — how might life down below be altered? 

McDowell: “The obvious thing of course is GPS where the younger generation don’t know how to read a map so without GPS they’d be hosed.”

Watson: “Right.”

McDowell: “But also weather forecasting. Less obviously communications. Particularly now we’re starting to see a bunch of low-orbit systems that are relaying data from IoT, Internet of Things devices, and so a lot of that traffic is going over low-orbit satellites, or will be soon.”

So that smart home of yours may look pretty dumb should there ever be a war in space. But that’s not all. It could also be hard to get money out of your bank’s ATM.

Bowen: “There’s a lot of inefficiencies that you’ll get in the way that we run things on Earth if you lose a lot of space services.” 

That’s Bleddyn Bowen, Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Leicester, in the UK. He’s got a book coming out this June called — appropriately enough for this episode — “War in Space.”

Bowen: “If things like GPS or the more complicated satellites are hit, you can’t replace those satellites overnight very quickly either. So you’re looking at not a lot of immediate effects, but the cumulative effects would be quite great and would also take time to address as well. So the whole ATM thing — that would probably happen if GPS is switched off for about three days. And then people would not be able to take out money, the financial system would have to find some other reference point for timing. Unless everybody switched to the Chinese Beidou system for timing or the European Galileo system or the Russian GLONASS. So in a good sense, GPS is not our only civilian navigation services provider anymore.”

Now. I want to get one thing out of the way about conflict and space. And this is pretty much the worst-case scenario. 

For this I’m gonna turn to my discussion with Jeffrey Lewis.

Watson: “I guess if I talk about space weapons and what war in space could be like, I feel to some degree I can’t not talk about EMPs somewhere along the line.”

Lewis: “Well look if a nuclear weapon goes off in space it is gonna fry satellites, for sure. EMP effects and the pumping of the radiation belts — that’s a real physical phenomenon. And you know the one event that we have is Starfish Prime, one of the high-altitude nuclear tests that the U.S. did in the 1960s, which did have a very deleterious effect on satellites. So if a nuclear weapon goes off in orbit, that is real; it really is gonna damage a lot of satellites. The place I have always been skeptical with EMP is whether you’re going to actually on the ground going have the kind of ‘Hunger Games’ scenario in terms of how much infrastructural damage there. So you know for me, I’ve always been skeptical of the kind of modeling; and you know like if I have to choose between taking my chances with a poorly-modeled theoretical threat or that bomb going off in Manhattan, I’m always gonna pick the poorly-modeled theoretical threat as like the least-scary option. But if a nuclear weapon goes off in space, it will absolutely kill a lot of satellites. That’s real, and you should talk about that; that would not make me laugh.”

Another thing that’s real? Or at least it was back in the early 1980s: an orbiting missile launcher the Soviets built to target anywhere on Earth. Kinda, sorta. More or less. Here’s Jonathan McDowell.

McDowell: “Yes. So this was their orbital rocket. They the Soviet name for it was the orbital, the gallows near Chesty, their orbital payload. And it was tested about 15, 20 times with sort of three quarters of an orbit round and then down to impact in Kazakhstan. It was never tested with a live warhead. So in that sense, we’ve we’ve you know, that didn’t break the tradition of no weapons in space.”

Lewis: “So the Soviets really built fractional orbital bombardment system and—”

Jeffrey Lewis again.

Lewis: “—you know. We really should just call it orbital bombardment because the reason they stuck fractional on the front is because the U.S. and the Soviet Union and other countries signed the Outer Space Treaty in which we said we wouldn’t station nuclear weapons in outer space. And so obviously on an ICBM, a nuclear weapon is going to transit space. And we always said, well, that doesn’t count. But of course, it could have gone up into orbit and stayed. And then we would have been like, you’re violating the outer space treaty and then the bomb would have gone off. Right. So this is a real capability that the Soviets developed and deployed. And the advantage of doing it is that you can shoot up over the South Pole. Right. The the weapon can go up into orbit and it can then come down pretty much anywhere. So it gives you infinite range. And that’s a real advantage. If the U.S. has, for example, as we do now, a missile defense system sitting in Alaska. Right. That the system is in Alaska because the theory is anything from North Korea is going to have to come up over the North Pole and at the U.S. if you make it bigger. That would also be true of China. So I think there is a real possibility that a country like North Korea might seriously consider a an orbital bombardment system to come up over the South Pole, which, by the way, the Russians now they don’t do it with an orbital bombardment system, but they have this huge ICBM they’re building, which they say precisely can do that. And that means that, you know, the the the things coming from the wrong direction from the perspective of the missile defense system. And it doesn’t get a shot. Now, I would say that disadvantage is real challenges to accuracy. It’s very hard because you have to put the nuclear weapon up into orbit and then you have to have a rocket stage since again, it’s falling. Right. It’s going to stay in orbit once it’s there. You have to use energy to push it back out of orbit, to push it down into the atmosphere. And that that does raise real questions about whether one can control it and make it accurate. So from the Soviet perspective, they built this thing in the late 60s. They deployed it. And then eventually they decided that their submarine launch ballistic missiles were just as likely to give them a short notice attack against the United States, but would be more accurate; then they gave up the system. North Korea might feel differently. Yes, that subs were a great option for them. It’s not an option that at least North Korea will have in the near term. And so that’s why we all wonder whether we’ll see FOBS again.”

The more likely scenario in international space activity? It played out about two months ago — and it involved a Russian spy satellite following a U.S. spy satellite in orbit. 

It’s the sort of activity that pretty much has to be intentional, and it’s also fairly standard by now, Dr. Bowen told me. 

Bowen: “Such is the nature of the conduct of intelligence communities, really. It’s just part of the cat and mouse game that’s happening between Russia, China and the United States. You know the Russians did have a lot to gain by doing that in a serious sense. So, one: to prove its own capabilities to itself and learn how to do such proximity operations, which isn’t easy to do especially without having a massive cockup and having a disaster by bumping into something and creating a cloud of debris. Second is eavesdropping on the communications; that’s you know a perfectly expected intelligence activity for anyone to be doing, if they can do it. Well, you’d expect them to eavesdrop.”

Watson: “Sure.”

Bowen: “It’s the fault of the victim to not take precaution. It’s too easy to eavesdrop, so stop complaining. It’s fair game. Three, if you’re close enough and you can get a visual and look on the hardware, that’s a very good reason do this thing as well. Because you can’t get payload inspections, not like nuclear weapons where Russia and America have verification regimes, they can inspect warheads and missiles. There’s nothing like that when it comes to satellites because the equipment is far more sensitive and also because the Americans are much further ahead in that technology as well. So there’s a lot of reasonable things to gain by doing those things. Now of course there’s the added symbolic political element as well. So there’s the Russia being able to show, hey look, we can annoy the Americans, or we can do things that the Americans can do. You know, we’re powerful, we’re advanced, we can keep up with the Americans. And also showing they can do it to the Chinese as well.”

Weeden: “On the one hand it was not surprising—”

That’s Brian Weeden, former U.S. Air Force ICBM nuclear officer. Today, he’s a space policy expert and director of Program Planning at the Secure World Foundation.

Weeden: “Over the last ten years, we have seen multiple examples of Russian and Chinese and American satellites doing what are called rendezvous and proximity operations, or RPO, in space — that is, getting close to other space objects. In most times, that’s with sort of their own. But increasingly, they’ve started to do it with other countries’ space objects. And so it was not surprising because this is a trend that’s been going on for at least the last decade. I think it was a bit surprising in that the Russians chose to shadow this satellite, which is an unacknowledged, classified NRO [National Reconnaissance Office] satellite that the government doesn’t even really acknowledge exists.”

McDowell: “And it’s a bit odd because it’s staying at a distance of about 500 to 1,000 km, which is quite a way away, really.” 

That’s Jonathan McDowell of Harvard again. 

McDowell: “So you know if it were like rendezvousing with the satellite and staying between 20 or 30 km away, then there’d be no question. What it’s doing 500 km away, it’s a little odd. I will mention, for example, there’s another NRO satellite that was launched a couple years ago that was launched into an orbit very similar to that of the ISS. And for some months, it was making fairly close passes to the ISS — within 50 km or so. And so there was question then about is it doing some clandestine experiment with ISS? But in the end, the orbit moved away and I think was just one of these coincidences that actually space isn’t as big as you think it is. And it’s possible for similar requirements to drive you into similar orbits.”

One of the things that drew my attention to this topic of conflict in space is a fairly ambitious project from none other than Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.

This project is called Starlink, and the idea is to beam broadband internet to the terrestrial world down here on planet Earth. But here’s the thing: today there are about 2,200 satellites in orbit. This Starlink plan envisions a low-end estimate of 12,000 satellites in a webbed constellation that today is rather difficult for me to envision.

McDowell: “At least 7,000 of that 12,000 — I’m going with the 12,000, which is the initial request that they put in — 7,000 of those are below 600 km in what are called the lower part of LEO  [low earth orbit]. So there’s big satellites in very low orbit. Prior to Starlink there were only about 350 of those, including junk. 

Watson: “That’s crazy.”

McDowell: “Big things below 500 km, where the orbital lifetimes are short — it was 300 or 400 objects. Now that’s already doubled after five Starlink launches. And it’s going to go up by factors of ten to thirty as they deploy the rest of the constellation.” 

Weeden: “So Starlink is one of several concepts being proposed for these large constellations to provide broadband services—” 

Brian Weeden again.

Weeden: “—There’s also something called OneWeb that’s putting up a somewhat smaller one that’s actually launching. Amazon has something called Project Kuiper, which is gonna be several thousand satellites. A TV company called TeleSat has a plan on the books for several hundred satellites, and there’s a couple more out there. You know the Defense Department is actually seeing this more as something they can leverage to actually increase their mission assurance and resilience rather than something they must defend. There’s been an ongoing debate in the DoD, not just on space but on kind of across the board on do we continue to buy and own and operate DoD things? Or do we look to purchase those from the commercial world where available? So think of like laptops. By and large the military buys laptops from other companies rather than design their own chips and everything from the ground up to build their own stuff. There’s a discussion going on in the space world as the commercial space capabilities get better — things like imagery, communications, all sorts of services — at what point do we stop having a DoD-owned and operated communications satellite and just buy that exact same service from IntelSat or Inmarsat or any one of a handful of other companies. So I think Starlink is more in that sense than something the military has to defend. Because actually with that many satellites, it’s really hard to attack.”


Lt. Gen. Thompson: “Let me close by stating once again that we do not seek conflict in space.”

That’s U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Thompson again. He’s Vice Commander of the United States Space Force.

Thompson: “However, we must maintain a position of strength and develop a credible warfighting capability in order to deter conflict and maintain a full range of options to ensure our national security.” 

Remember that he also told lawmakers that same day: 

“The U.S. Space Force is pursuing a strategy to ensure we can deter hostile action, defend and protect our interests, and, if necessary, fight in, through and from the space domain… developing a broad range of options to respond with national security space capabilities, if attacked.”

So I got to wondering: How in the world do you quote “deter hostile action” in space? 

I put it to former space officer Brian Weeden. 

Weeden: “That is an extraordinarily difficult question. I have been a part of multiple workshops and conferences and scholarly journal editions for the last almost 15 years or so, trying to address this notion of space deterrence. And on the one hand, you have the community people saying space is special, we need to think about it differently. On the other hand, you have probably a larger community of people saying deterrence is deterrence — go back and read your [Thomas] Schelling. And, you know, it’s just kind of the same thing applied to space. A very difficult thing. Also, I think it’s difficult because we tend to think of deterrence in the nuclear mindset, which is one special form of deterrence. It’s the ‘I’m going to threaten to shoot you in the head with a nuclear weapon and you’re going to threaten to shoot me’ with a nuclear weapon and therefore we’re both deterring each other through threat of force. There are other types of insurance out there, the primary one being deterrence by denial, which is denying benefits. So, for example, if I construct a system, I’ll say it’s got thousands of satellites in it; you’re basically deterred from attacking any one of them with a destructive weapon because it doesn’t really matter to me. My system is going to survive. So that’s part of this discussion is trying to figure out, you know, is a threat-of-reprisal-style deterrence going to work for space? So far the United States government has determined that it hasn’t. Or that it won’t work. And so the focus for the last 10 years or so in official policy has been on deterrence by denial, or what the space world has called ‘Space Mission Assurance.’”

One thing any good space strategist should get clear: 

Bowen: “Space is not a high ground.” 

That’s Dr. Bowen once more. 

Bowen: “And even if it is [literally the high ground], it’s not useful in the way that you think it is.I mean, you know, you get all these military people talking about space as a higher ground or, you know, if you control space, you control the world. Well, it doesn’t really work like that. Strategy is not that simple. What’s even weirder is that when Americans talk like that, they seem to have forgotten that America’s had its ass handed to it in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past 20 years.”

Watson: “Indeed.”

Bowen: “And, you know, nobody contested American space and those wars. So how useful is that high ground in Afghanistan? Well, there we go. It feels basic when he’s saying that the literature and policy maker language is still talking in terms of, you know, you have to dominate it or you will lose or you will win or you cannot allow other countries to do things. Well, the reality is, is that, you know, the sea and the air are often contested in, you know, any significant war; and even if you dominate such an environment like the sea in the air, you know, you have to work to make it useful. And if your ultimate overall strategy is rubbish, then you will fail no matter if you have quite a dominating military capability. But if your grand strategy is not really working, if you can’t really control, you know, the land properly or people are still resisting, then you know what good is a few satellites in space and you’re you just seeing how badly you’re losing. In very good resolution. ‘Oh, brilliant!.’”

Bowen: “Lots of people like to think of America as sort of trying to dominate space like Britain at sea in the 19th century, but the Royal Navy even at its height in the 19th century, they couldn’t face a hostile coast because of coastal defenses, mines, etc. Land-based powers could challenge sea powers like that in the same way Earth-based powers can challenge what’s in Earth orbit because you have Earth-based space weapons that shoot up into space — you don’t have to put them in orbit to create a hell of a mess. And like a coastline, there’s nowhere really for a big fleet to hide. You know Britain and America have always had to project their power over sea in terms of great power international conflict. It’s had to use the sea, and all of the major threats came from overseas — whereas land powers always had land-based threats that tend to dominate their thinking, and then resources. Now today, all space powers are Earth-based powers, they’re terrestrial powers. Where do all or most of their threats come from? Earth, not space. So space will be a secondary concern because the biggest strategic effects that you can deliver will be sent to Earth or can be done so far more cheaply and effectively. So what role is space gonna play in that? Well it’s purely supporting. It’s not the only way to reach the adversary. For example, India and Pakistan. What role is space there when they’re right next door to each other?”

Bowen: “So what you’ve seen in, you know, Europe and among America’s other allies now is that the argument has been won on should we be doing more in military space? Are there threats to our space systems? That argument has been won like. Yes, affirmatively to both of those. The question now and you know, America’s allied capitals is, OK, what do we do about it? How do we work alongside the Americans on this? And how much do we need to spend on it and what to spend that money on? So that’s where the debate is now in America’s allies, in terms of government and military. So America’s when the arguments about, you know, there is a threat in space and we need to exploit space more for military and intelligence, purpose and commercial purposes. So that’s where I see the debate has shifted behind closed doors in the last 10 years anyway. What that means for what larger cultural awareness? I don’t know. People needs to get away from the vision of space purely for science — especially what robotic probes are doing, but they need to get away from that as the vision of what humanity is doing in space and see it as, you know, thousands of machines in orbit providing data and services for all sorts of users and users. And that’s what we really mean by a space age today.”

So that’s a sort of strategic angle on war in space. But for the U.S. and its new Space Force, the most immediate problems and challenges are pretty much bureaucratic ones. The kind of stuff you’d expect from a reshuffle inside the Defense Department, famously the largest employer in the world with more than three million people on the payroll. 

Here’s Brian Weeden again on what’s going through the heads of Space Force planners inside the Pentagon. 

Weeden: “They’re trying to figure out right now how they’re going to do new accessions from the next graduating class from the Air Force Academy. They’re trying to figure out how they’re going to create a personnel system and whether that needs to be the same system both other militaries use. We’re talking about one general officer for X thousands of troops. That doesn’t make sense for space because space is a very personnel-like field. You’re talking about a handful of people in a room with a bunch of computers controlling satellites. And the ratios of officers to enlisted are probably very different than something like the Army. So they’re trying to work through all of those, you know, thought processes right now. How do we do the organizational structure? How do we do the hierarchy? How do we do the rank structure? How do we do the incentives? How do the training? These are all huge questions. And it’s going to be a year or a couple of years, maybe longer, before they get sorted out.”

McDowell: “What we will see more of are these sort of inspector satellites, like the Russian one that’s doing some shadowing, like some of the U.S. ones that have been playing around in geo[stationary orbit, or geosynchronous equatorial orbit].”

That’s Harvard’s Jonathan McDowell one last time.

McDowell: “And so we’re gonna have to establish norms. You know space is available to everyone, so if I come up somewhat near your satellite and have a look at it, that’s gotta be okay. But if I come too close so that it’s a safety of flight issue, that’s not okay. And so we really need I think to internationally flesh out those restrictions so that we avoid escalating situations militarily due to misunderstandings.” 

Lewis: “The other thing is there are so many satellites in space now, particularly small SATs—”

Jeffrey Lewis once more.

Lewis: “—and there are so many countries that have access to space that on the one hand we have this enormous explosion in human activity in what the space may I shouldn’t call human activity. We have this enormous explosion in activity in space with new actors. And that’s great because it means more people have the benefit of space. But it also makes it so much harder to imagine the kind of rules that we’re going to need so that everybody can use space safely and sustainably.”

That’s it for us this week. Thanks for listening.

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