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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the last year, countries including the U.S., France, Russia and Japan took steps toward further militarizing their uses of outer space, according to a new report from the Secure World Foundation.

Why it matters: As space becomes increasingly key for militaries, nations are starting to find new ways to protect their military and research satellites, raising concerns that they might develop ways of destroying enemy satellites and making some parts of space unusable.

Details: Last year, France established its own offensive and defensive posture in space, as it looks to counter any threats to its own space-based assets.

  • Japan, which has long been involved in scientific endeavors in space, has also recently started to develop the ability to track satellites in orbit to protect its own military interests.
  • A Russian satellite has reportedly spied on a U.S. spy satellite from orbit, and the country is believed to be spoofing and jamming position, navigation and timing signals in Crimea and Syria.
  • The U.S. also performed its own tests of new military technology in orbit, including the release of small satellites from the secret, uncrewed X-37b space plane.

The big picture: Space-faring nations have shied away from using destructive means to respond to threats to their satellites, but that could change in the future.

  • Experts are particularly worried that the destruction of a satellite could create large amounts of space junk that would endanger functional spacecraft and make wide swaths of certain orbits unusable.
  • "Right now, there appears to be a norm against using kinetic capabilities, but I fear that could change, particularly in a future high-stakes conflict between a couple of space powers," Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation told Axios.
  • "Policymakers might consider all options on the table, including ones that have devastating long-term effects."

Between the lines: Demonstrating the ability to destroy a satellite may now become a signal to other nations that a country has major capabilities in space.

  • India's test of an anti-satellite system last year may set a new standard for other nations hoping to establish themselves in orbit.
  • "It may have established the norm that destroying a satellite is how you publicly signal you’re now a space power," Weeden said.

Go deeper: Trump's Space Force gets a new, recognizable logo

Go deeper

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden turns to experienced hands for White House economic team

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden plans to announce Cecilia Rouse and Brian Deese as part of his economic team and Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: These are experienced hands. Unveiling a diverse group of advisers also may draw attention away from a selection of Deese to run the National Economic Council. Some progressives have criticized his work at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.

Biden taps former Obama communications director for press secretary

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Jen Psaki, who previously served as Obama's communications director, will serve as President-elect Joe Biden's press secretary, the transition team announced Sunday.

The big picture: All of the top aides in Biden's communication staff will be women, per the Washington Post, which first reported Psaki's appointment.