There’s a new Cold War, and just like the last one it has its very own space race. This time the adversary squaring off with the United States of America for space supremacy is China.
On April 29 China launched Tianhe-1, the first and main module of a permanent orbiting space station called Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) that will soon be accompanied by two additional science modules in 2022. China has also completed its own global satellite navigation system called Beidou, and landed an unmanned spacecraft on Mars in May, the precursor to their planned crewed mission to Mars in 2033 that is being sent to establish a base.
America, meanwhile, is sending astronauts back to the moon as part of its Artemis program and aims to establish an ongoing presence there with an orbiting station known as the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. The country has also established the United States Space Force as the newest branch of the military.
Space, it is increasingly clear, will be the realm where international security is contested. This CapX article lays out the state of the competition and its implications.
Competition over global broadband risks further polarization and reduced coordination between the major powers. This, as Lukas Fiala details, coupled with the uncontrolled and competitive expansion of mega-constellations of satellites, could lead to collisions, space debris, and other problems that could affect the whole world.
“Aside from the risk of cyber, and even violent warfare blasting into orbit, analysts have identified two further emerging risks associated with the new space race. The first is a security risk resulting from Chinese state involvement in global broadband. The second is the danger of collisions or natural disasters caused by space debris, or unfettered activity in extra-terrestrial locations of particular scientific interest.”