Astronauts and astronomers need better space governance

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, News, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

On November 15, 2021, seven astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) were ordered to take shelter because of the possibility of catastrophic collisions as the station passed through a cloud of debris. The astronauts remained in lifeboats while the ISS passed through the cloud multiple times.

What kinetic ASAT testing tells us about space security governance

Jessica West Featured, Reports, Space Security

The testing of kinetic anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons and the debris that they produce are currently garnering global attention and concern. This is partly because of the November 2021 ASAT test conducted by Russia; partly because of our expanding use and dependence on outer space; and partly because of the accelerating development, testing, and demonstration of kinetic ASAT capabilities.

The Sputnik moment re-examined

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

A U.S. military official recently described a missile test conducted by China in August as “very close to a Sputnik moment.” It seems that the test involved the launch of a re-entry vehicle capable of entering orbit and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere with its payload intact; this primary vehicle also carried a hypersonic glide vehicle that was released following re-entry.

Time to ban debris-generating weapons tests in space

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

Orbiting our planet are thousands of satellites that support military operations as well as critical civilian and commercial infrastructures that provide essential services for humans all over the world. These satellites are unprotected and can be seriously damaged by even the smallest piece of orbital shrapnel or debris. And in space, the danger is ongoing, because the debris stays in orbit.

Has the first shot been fired in space?

Jessica West Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

What if space has already been weaponized? This is the claim of the United States military. Following the official establishment of the Space Force in January 2020, a new Defense Space Strategy published in June presents a strategy for “winning wars” in a domain that it depicts as “weaponized” by Russia and China. Russia and China have made similar accusations against the United States.