February 2017 Space Security

Protecting our space interests

A kinetic energy weapon launched to destroy a satellite.
A kinetic energy weapon launched to destroy a satellite.
Gerard Brachet Space Policy Consultant, France

The safety and security of space activities in Earth orbit are becoming a matter of grave concern, according to Gerard Brachet who has served as chairman of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). From first-hand experience he provides an insight into the quagmire of international relations and the fight to establish a framework that will ensure a sustainable future for activities in outer space.

While security issues in outer space were mostly handled at a bilateral level between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War, most actors in outer space, space agencies and commercial satellite operators, realise today that our use of outer space since 1957 has been rather careless of its long-term sustainability. The situation might be compared to that of the 19th and 20th centuries with respect to maritime shipping and exploiting the oceans’ resources where there was a wilful ignorance of the negative impact of pollution and a general blindness to the long-term effects of over-fishing.

The successful use of near-Earth space systems to support national security and to deliver many now indispensable services to society has resulted in a massive increase in the number of operating systems in space, both government and private, which has in turn generated problems associated with overcrowding security.

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