Sep 10, 2018 - Science

War and commercialization in space

SpaceX deploys a satellite this morning. Photo: SpaceX

Early Monday, Musk's SpaceX launched its 16th rocket of the year. The first stage fell away and landed flawlessly on a drone ship in the Atlantic, reports ArsTechnica's Eric Berger, while the rocket went on to deploy a satellite in orbit (see above).

The big questions: Space is rapidly becoming internationally commercialized by governments and companies, particularly in the U.K., India, China, Russia, Israel and the U.S. But, how will they protect the trillions of dollars in assets going up? What happens if one country or company decides that another's actions or its stuff are a threat, and attacks?

And there is much to attack. Already, the valuation of big companies depend on space assets. What is Uber, for instance, without GPS, asks Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist whose new book, out tomorrow, is called "Accessory to War." He tells Axios:

"A rogue player can go up and shoot out our satellites and now we are running blind without GPS."
"So we would then say we need to protect those assets. This is no different than protecting your war supply on the ground. It's just now the regime is space instead of Earth's surface."

This explains the Space Force proposed by President Trump. According to Tyson, it does not suggest controlling access to space, but protecting assets.

"Control of space doesn't mean that I have a gate through which everyone must pass," he says. "That's normally what we think of patrol as that, but that's not what military control means. It means that I have the power to defend myself."

The bottom line: "In the end, this can all go off peacefully," concludes Tyson — as long as you are not posing a threat to someone's stuff. He points back to the age of exploration.

"It's not different than a seafaring nation that they have ships — England, Portugal, France, Spain — and occasionally they had conflicts. But basically everyone is going everywhere in the world on the ocean."
"And if we have space-faring nations, they are going to want to go places. I don't have any problem with that. It's a big universe."
Go deeper