There are things that president Trump likes them very much. He loves the crowd size of his inauguration, He loves the golf, and he loves ratings, he loves the wall. And now there is the space force.
In last few months, President Trump talked about creating the sixth branch of U.S. Army: The Space Force.
The idea found a lot of resonance between his core supporters and became one of the themes of his speeches.
Like many of his ideas, this one also has evoked lots of controversies. While some analysts suggested that the concept will remain as part of rallies, but it seems that the administration wants to advance this plan.
On August 9, 2018, Vice President Mike Pence has announced plans for a new, separate US Space Force as a sixth military service by 2020. Still, there are no details about what this military space force will look like and what will be their missions.
Pence said: “The US vice-president said the development is needed to ensure America’s dominance in space amid heightened competition and threats from China and Russia.”
According to the Guardian, even if the Department of Defense (DOD) is dangerous in pursuing this plan, it still needs the confirmation of the Congress.
The idea also becomes a constant subject for late-night shows to make fun of it.
But let us forget about Trump—if you can—for a few minutes and take a closer look at the concept of the space force.
A Little History
There is no denying that space age is like the phoenix that has been raised from the ashes of the war. During the world war II, Germany developed the V-2 missiles which became the backbone of the space race between the US and USSR.
Even the first space missions from Sputnik to the landing on the moon had strong political and security rationales behind it.
During the cold war, both superpowers of the time considered the space as part of their defence and military doctrine. In 1984, the Reagan administration proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative or as media referred to it: “Star Wars.”
This initiative had different components which included laser guns and high energy particles beams. This initiative never became a reality—at least not in the way that its designers hoped.
Still US military never abandoned the space. In 1984 US Air Force developed an anti-satellite missile system. This multi-stage system tested in 1985 and launched from an F-15 and destroyed an active research satellite.
The presence of the military in the space is not something hidden.
Not only many military contractors are among the primary lunch systems developers, but some of the advanced space technology originated and developed in the military. GPS which is an essential part of our daily life today was designed by the military, DARPA has many space-related projects under development, and for long years unmanned Pentagon Space shuttle is going to orbit and back. And all of these just small examples of public domain activities of the military.
In this case, what is the meaning and necessity of creating a space force?
There are few arguments for creating the space force. The main idea is the US has commodities in space and needs to protect it.
International Space Station is a multibillion-dollar station that mostly funded by the US. There are many satellites ranged from communication to spy and weather, which orbits earth every.
The rise of the privet section in space travel with companies such as Space–X, Blue Origins and others will bring The American civilians into space, and they need protection from other countries or even rouge groups who want to damage US properties anywhere they can.
And in not very long future, if the idea of space mining success, there will be the issue of protection of the goods that extracted in space. In 2015, Congress passed the Space Act (H.R.2262) which recognised the ownership of the space-based material. This legislation seems to have some contradictions with Outer Space Treaty 1967 but more important than that it shows that the US is ready and considering protect the possible future assets of its companies in space.
And the treat is also real.
Few publicly known accidents showcase how other countries were thinking about the future of space warfare. In 2007, China tested an anti-satellite missile and successfully destroyed one of its own satellites. Russia allegedly is testing a multilayer satellite that could possibly have military applications.
In last decade there were few countries (including Iran and North Korea) that developed the intercontinental ballistic missiles under the umbrella of space technology development, and there is a potential danger for the US if they decide to weaponised them.
The supporters of this idea also argue that even right now a good portion of the black budget old DOD is spending in the space defence systems, and by officially recognising the sixth branch of the military, these efforts could come together and be more cost efficient. They also believe that such a force with specific budget and support can develop technologies which could find application in scientific and civic space exploration.
The other side of this debate recognised the existing budget and efforts in the military to gain the superiority in the space.
But they argue that the US already has dedicated a part of its defence structure to, and there is no need to create a new branch of the military with the focus on space. They argue that creating such an office will need lots of money—both for the project and also for the bureaucratic system—and it could lead to reducing the budget of organisations such as NASA.
Also, any military branch should define its own m, missions and report on its progress. So far there is not a real conflict in space and by creating such a military branch—whatever it will look like—we have to develop real treats to justify the existing of this military branch.
The other downfall of such an initiative is recognising the legitimacy of expanding the national military force to space by the US. It will create a political challenge about the definition of the federal territories in the Space. The borders that we have here on earth are meaningless in the space, and we have to redefine all the space policies again.
And more importantly, it means that the other countries will recognise their right to create their own space forces. Russian and China are already ready to go there and as soon as you have military forces—in any shape or kind—from adversarial countries in a place that there is no way to define boundaries you just have one step away from inevitable conflicts.
We have to keep mind that the history of recent decades of military shows the tendency for creating conflicts. If the concept of the pre-emptive strike will apply to space, it could rapidly escalate to real battles. All it takes is a decision that a satellite launch or rocket test by a country such as Iran., North Korea, China or Russia consider a potential danger and the space force do a pre-emptive strike against that satellite. The potential of conflict is more than we can even imagine.
And such conflicts could have a real consequence.
In 2009, a rogue Russian satellite collided into an Iridium satellite. It was an accident, but the result was the creation of a cloud of more than 2000 pieces of debris, which any of them could create another collision.
The China anti-satellite test in 2007 also created the similar situation.
According to the data that Sky and Telescope published in Aug. 2018, more than 45 per cent of all space junks and debris belongs to military projects.
It is not hard to predict military test, exercises and even real mission which will conduct by the space force of the US and other countries will add to this mess.
And by the way, if it comes a day that we will face a real space treat—for example, if an asteroid or comet decide to pay a visit to us—this force and its commanders probably will have a higher hand in decision making. And what could possibly go wrong when military generals decide instead of the scientists in such an issue?
Is it inevitable?
Both sides of the debate in the creation of space force have some legitimate concerns and rationales.
If we considering the worst-case scenario, this could lead us to one of the predicated future that science fiction writers warned us about it: militarizing the space.
When we can’t handle our differences on Earth, it seems unlikely that we can scape of expanded our conflicts into space.
This creation has a high potential for destruction and in our real world may be the only chance to put a break on such initiative is proving that the cost of this space force will exceed any potential benefit. But we can’t do that because so far there are no details about such a plan. Again, we are left in suspense.
Some moments shape the future—for better or worst—and maybe we are witnessing one of them.
This article originally published in The Swamp