Is U.S Ready for China's Space Militia?

Tianzhou 1 - The first unmanned cargo spacecraft of the Tianzhou series

Tianzhou 1 - The first unmanned cargo spacecraft of the Tianzhou series

The space industry is booming! In 2016, the global space economy totaled $329 billion worldwide and is expected to reach $2.7 trillion within the next 3 decades. With that, nation militaries are moving aggressively into space and the old, poorly-defined international norms/laws encourage countries to do so. More specifically, China, that is using gray zone tactics and are starting to create space militia.

Space Militias, like maritime militia, will be a commercial spacecraft that can quickly switch into a military or Law Enforcement role. The United States can expect these spacecraft to protect territory, provide awareness, and even attack other spacecraft using anti-satellite systems. These spacecraft will not be manned, but rather controlled by automation and artificial intelligence for operations, which will increase its risk tolerance.

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Laws and norms about the separation between commercial and military space endeavors remain unsettled. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibits claims of sovereignty over celestial bodies, but it does not say anything about owning the resources coming from those celestial bodies. Besides that treaty from 1967, the space laws are poorly defined. Also, there isn’t an international organization that addresses these types of space activities. This lack of law and unclear understanding is an ideal for space militias to arise.

Although the US does have an advantage over China in commercial space ventures, China is quickly catching up. There should be a pursuit of international agreements that state clear laws, regulations, understanding, and norms that govern commercial space activities. These should not substitute the 1967 Space Treaty, but rather aide its purpose.

Biggest Space Budgets by Nations (2017)

Biggest Space Budgets by Nations (2017)