President Biden wants to control space as they announced it is barring anti-satellite missile testing by the United States, a move that White House officials say is meant to underscore its hopes of establishing new norms for military action in space.
The US has sharply criticised Russia and China for conducting anti-satellite missile tests, although it also used an interceptor missile fired from a US Navy warship more than 14 years ago to destroy a malfunctioning spy satellite.
“The long-lived debris created by these tests now threaten satellites and other space objects that are vital to all nations’ security, economic, and scientific interests, and increases risk to astronauts in space,” the White House said in a statement.
“Overall, these tests jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space and imperil the exploration and use of space by all nations.”
Biden wants to control space
The issue is one that’s taken on greater urgency after Russia in November launched a missile to destroy a defunct Soviet-era satellite. Vice President Kamala Harris criticized the Russian action as an “irresponsible act.”
The strike created more than 1,500 pieces of space debris that increased the risk to US and Russian astronauts aboard the International Space Station and China’s Tiangong space station, according to US Space Command.
Why does the US want to control space?
In a digital world the satellites in the sky control and provide a virtual infrastructure that the US army and global intelligence agencies rely on. Space is the new frontier, Elon Musk needs the safety and debris to be limited to allow safe travel in his Space X program.
Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, called the Biden administration’s move a significant one that puts pressure on China and Russia to take similar action.
“They have made a lot of diplomatic noise the last decade about preventing a space arms race, while also testing their own (anti-satellite) weapons and creating orbital debris,” Weeden said of Russia and China.
The White House is making this move in order to prevent upcoming nations from taking control of space. It is a real danger if Iran or Pakistan develop and build a space program, where countries can target US infrastructure in space.
This threat may not be real today, but it will be in the future. It is understood the White House administration will introduce this as part of the UN charter in coming years with a view to extending it globally by the end of next year.
White House plans to push the anti-satellite missile tests as the norm
Harris, who chairs the White House National Space Council, planned to discuss the US commitment to bar anti-satellite missile tests and establishing norms for space during a speech at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The Russian test occurred as it was massing troops ahead of its latest invasion of Ukraine. The more than seven-week-old war has left thousands dead and has caused the US and its allies to hit Russia with massive economic sanctions.
A similar weapons test by China in 2007 also resulted in widespread debris.
Anti-satellite missile tests by the US in 2008 as well as one by India in 2019 targeted satellites at much lower altitudes, well below the space station at about 260 miles (420 kilometres).