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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 - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

6 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 6 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."