Military & Civilian Satellites: A Brave New Battlefield

By: | December 10th, 2014

The U.S. Strategic Command reported that Russia’s Kosmos-2495 Imaging Reconnaissance Satellite fell out of orbit and burned up in the atmosphere on September 9, 2014. The news was immediately denied by the Russian Defense Ministry, who insisted that its satellites are operating normally. This is just the latest incident showing that geopolitics trumps the truth.

As IndustryTap has reported in “Time To Clean Up The Thousands Of Dead Satellites Orbiting Earth” and “Lockheed Martin Team Meeting Up With EOS To Build Facility Specifically For Tracking Space Debris” the problem of aging, dead or malfunctioning satellites is very real as is the increasing importance of satellites as linchpins of world economic and military command structures.

Aging Satellites All Around

Aging satellites falling from the skies know no borders.

In the US, for example, the American Security Project recently noted that US satellites monitoring climate change are rapidly aging and due to budget austerity replacements are far off. In addition, US military and civilian analysts note that there are a large number of military satellites aging that could fail at any time.

Satellites: New Military Chess Pieces

In 2007, China intentionally destroyed an old weather satellite with a ground base missile creating 2,500 pieces of new debris circling the Earth. The test was considered a trial military exercise.

With the United States, Russia and China developing anti–satellite missile destroying capabilities, the worst-case scenario would be a war between the major powers conducted in the Earth’s atmosphere through the destruction of critical satellites running aground based communication systems, the underpinning of modern banking, trading, and military systems.

Countries with advanced economies now depend on satellites for secure communications and emergency response.. And satellites in the atmosphere are guided by GPS satellites which could also become targets.

While the termination of the space shuttle program has led to a dearth of new satellite deployments, this will soon change as a number of private and national organizations will soon pick up the pace. Private sector, state, local governments, research agencies and first responders around the world will soon fill the Earth’s atmosphere with more satellites, exacerbating a seemingly intractable problem.

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David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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