Space Force Journal: Great Power Strategic Competition on Earth and in Space

By Lamont Colucci and Joshua Carlson

Abstract

The United States Space Force was established due to rising threats in space, a domain that is vital to U.S. national security and economic interests. Strategic competition among great power on Earth and in space is likely in the coming decades. This paper analyzes strategic competition among great powers to make predictions about future conflict in space.

Great power conflict has for millennia been earth-based.[1] However, humanity is now at a pivot point where the great powers may take their conflicts into space. The United States must maintain its military primacy to deter adversaries from starting disputes resulting in catastrophic conflicts.[2] The recent Space Capstone Publication, “Spacepower,” summed up the U.S. Space Force’s main challenge: “The U.S. must adapt its national security space organizations, doctrine, and capabilities to deter and defeat aggression and protect national interests in space.”[3] The document cites the late U.S. Air Force General Bernard Schriever, who notably stated in 1957 that “our safety as a nation may depend upon our achieving space superiority.”[4]

Following the end of the Cold War, some international relations (IR) and foreign policy scholars, such as Francis Fukuyama, argued that great power conflict was a relic of the past and that liberal democracy would continue to flourish.[5] President Barack Obama similarly argued that great power conflict is passé and the United States should prioritize multilateral issues such as terrorism, climate change, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, energy, and migration.[6] However, many of the global flashpoints today are great power motivated.[7] Space may intensify and amplify these flashpoints. Space itself may become the ultimate flashpoint.

The changes today are alarming. The first change is the United States’ slow disengagement from the dominating role after WWII, marked by a rollercoaster of lowering or increasing its defense spending and commitments.[8] During the Trump administration, America considered retreating from its leadership role in the rules-based liberal international order.[9] The fringes of the two major U.S. political parties, for different reasons, call on the United States to have either a light or a non-existent footprint across much of the globe.[10] This is not only a military footprint but also a cultural, economic, and diplomatic role.

The United States has begun a global recoil, as evident in the calls for a drawdown in Europe, Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Korea. There are calls in America’s body politic to withdraw further. This American withdrawal coincides with the second change. Four of the current great powers, such as Russia, China, India, and Japan, are re-evaluating, amplifying, or changing aspects of their grand strategy, especially as it applies to space. That last change is what this article discusses.

Russia Resurgent

The Global Firepower 2021 Military Strength Index ranks Russia second out of 140 countries ranked worldwide. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Russia ranks fourth globally in defense spending, with a defense budget of $61 billion in 2019.[11] Russia also spent nearly $4.2 billion on space programs in 2018.[12]

Creating and exploiting the “constellation of forces” to benefit “Mother Russia” governed Soviet grand strategy.[13] Russian strategic thinking today is dominated by several factors, all of which provide a window into their quest for space power. These factors include the border it shares with Eastern Europe, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion, its border with China, a blessing and curse of natural resources, military modernization, nuclear weapons, and national pride. One of its greatest fears is an attack along its periphery. This requires the creation of buffers between itself and potential adversaries. Russia can do this by claiming to protect ethnic Russians in what it often calls the “near abroad,” where Russian minorities are large and loyal to Moscow.[14] One can postulate that the desire for strategic buffers will carry over into space.

Russian space strategy reflects its current and historical grand strategy. The U.S. and its allies and partners such as NATO, South Korea, Japan, and Anzus are preoccupied with the rise of China.[15] This preoccupation is a mistake for many reasons. China is the most severe threat to allied geopolitical interests, but that is different from dismissing Russia. Despite its relative weakness in comparison to China, Russia has a history of overcoming privation, setback, disaster, and incompetence. In the words of Edward Luttwak, “Drunk they defeated Napoleon, and drunk again they defeated Hitler’s armies and advanced all the way to Berlin.”[16] Drunk they could win against NATO.

President Vladimir Putin is attempting to reinvigorate the Russian space program that has been in decline following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Citing threats from U.S. missile defenses and programs like the X-37B experimental spaceship, Vladimir Putin restarted various counter space programs to prevent Russia from falling behind.[17] Russia will also likely continue to deploy new anti-satellite weapons within the next few years that will threaten U.S. space assets.[18] Some national security experts have contended that Russia is far more aggressive in threatening American satellites than China.[19]

According to Vladimir Putin, Russian’s intentions in space are “to drastically improve the quality and reliability of space and launch vehicles … to preserve Russia’s increasingly threatened leadership in space.[20] Russia’s space strategy includes essential modern warfare critical components such as space access and denial. Russia has begun the genesis of creating an organization that is similar to a space force.

The Russian Aerospace Forces is in many ways a three-branch service combining elements of the space forces, air forces, as well as air and missile defense forces under a single command.[21] The Russians are developing enhanced jamming and cyberspace capabilities and advanced weaponry such as directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities, and ground-based anti-satellite missiles that can achieve a range of reversible to nonreversible effects.[22] The service will monitor space objects and identify potential threats, attack prevention, and carry out spacecraft launches and placing into orbit controlling satellite systems.[23]

The United States has taken notice. Earlier this year, General John “Jay” Raymond, the service chief of the U.S. Space Force, detailed how Russian satellites were tailing American spy satellites.[24] However, a even more significant strategic concern is Russia’s plans to establish a moon colony between 2025 and 2040.[25] Russia recently signed a memorandum of understanding with China to construct a lunar research station on the moon’s surface or in lunar orbit.

The current Russian space doctrine can be titled the 3 Ds: disparate, desperate, and dynamic. Globalnaya Navigazionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema (GLONASS) is an excellent example of the establishment, fall, and rise of their independent global positioning system (GPS). Russian resilience and its willingness to endure deprivation and long-term sacrifice will likely spoil this myopic view. Russia may rise to turn out to be the more significant threat to international safety and stability, and one that the west may pay a high price for ignoring.

The Dragon Reborn-China

China’s strategic doctrine since the Deng Xiaoping era has been defined by the phrase “to preserve China’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”[26] In recent years, other slogans and statements have been added, such as desiring a “harmonious world” system and taking advantage of a period of “strategic opportunity.”[27] The Global Firepower 2021 Military Strength Index ranks China third in overall military strength internationally.[28] The IISS ranks China second in military spending with a defense budget totaling $181 billion, of which the space budget is estimated to be around $8 billion.[29]

The Mao Zedong era attempted to destroy the “olds” of Chinese Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and classical Confucianism. China is filled with bellicose nationalism and wounded pride.[30] The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its allies in the People’s Liberation Army use aggressive nationalism to unify them. There is no difference between the party, the government, and large Chinese business enterprises.[31]

Under President Xi Jinping, China has resurrected neo-Maoist evangelism and appealed to third-world Marxists. Xi’s ideology is anti-democratic, self-righteous, and revanchist. In many ways, China is restoring Ming and Qing dynasty ambitions by trying (with much difficulty) to create semi-vassal states in Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and North Korea. If the battle in Russia was between Slavophiles and Westernizers, the struggle in China is between the “Yangtze River” mentality and the “Pacific Ocean.” The former desires to sit behind the Great Wall like the late Ming and Mao periods. The latter desires domination through adoption and expansion exhibited by Zheng He’s treasure fleet and the current President Xi Jinping. Nothing could be more evident than this latter view concerning the space front.

Space provides critical capabilities for China: China wants “cislunar space supremacy.”[32] China is obsessed with “First Presence” and currently exhibits the world’s second-largest space budget.[33] In addition to reaching Mars in 2021, China’s goals include sending probes to asteroids, Jupiter, and Uranus, developing quantum satellites, building a scientific research station in the moon’s southern polar region, and establishing a sophisticated large-scale space station within ten years.[34] In 2019, China continued to develop its space launch capabilities, providing cost-savings through efficiency and reliability, extending its reach into multiple Earth orbits, and improving its capacity to reconstitute space capabilities in low Earth orbit rapidly.[35] In 2020, China reached total operating capacity with its BeiDou-3 constellation, providing worldwide positioning, navigation, and timing capabilities to its users and additional command and control for the PLA, reducing China’s dependence on U.S. GPS.[36]

China plans to place a permanently operating space station in orbit by 2022. By 2025, China plans to construct a lunar research station to develop into an established crewed lunar research and development base before 2050.[37] They are using a similar timeline to pursue space-based solar power.[38] Under the current schedule, China will be the following country after the United States to send an astronaut to the moon by 2030 and is pursuing a Mars base, which they are currently testing the prototype of on Earth.[39]

China’s privatized space industry is flourishing, as are the private-military partnerships. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation states that China plans to become the most developed space power by 2045.[40]

China’s development of a space force is beyond that of the other great powers. The Chinese equivalent of the U.S. Space Force has identified space as a vulnerability for the United States and is doing everything it can to capitalize on that vulnerability by advancing its space capabilities.[41] The creation of the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) in 2015/2016 made one organization responsible for developing the PLA’s space and information warfare forces.[42] This will allow China to integrate its capabilities into a space force by enabling long-range precision strikes and denying other militaries the use of overhead command, control, communications, computer intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.[43]

The PRC continues to strengthen military space capabilities despite a propaganda public stance against the weaponization of space.[44] China claims to be building a “nuclear fleet” of carrier rockets.[45] Reusable hybrid-power carriers will be ready for “regular, large scale” interplanetary flights and carrying out commercial exploration and exploitation of natural resources by the mid-2040s.[46] According to state media, they will have the ability to mine resources from asteroids and build solar power plants in space soon after.[47] “The nuclear vessels are built to colonize the solar system and beyond,” Wang Changhui, associate professor of aerospace propulsion at the School of Astronautics at Beihang University in Beijing, stated.[48]

If Russia is the 3 Ds, China is the 3 A(s): adventurous, advanced, and aggressive. The Biden administration is considering its options about China to include an aggressive containment strategy.[49] Any discussion of China’s power politics will weigh space as a significant factor.

Japan- Rising or Setting Sun?

Japan is not usually considered a great power. However, it remains an economically powerful nation with space ambitions. Japan solidified its great power status in the late 19th century. Japan is at the cusp of recapturing aspects of that period as it faces rising rivals and the threats of the new frontier of space. Japan perceives the world as hostile due to Chinese imperial dreams in Asia, North Korean aggression, and Russian resurgence.

The Global Firepower 2021 Military Strength Index ranks Japan fifth in global military power.[50] The IISS ranks Japan eighth in military capability and international status with a defense budget of $48.6 billion.[51] Japan’s space budget is estimated to be $4 billion.[52] Unlike the other great powers, Japan’s constitution, written by the United States, hampers its military, and it depends on the United States for its national defense.[53] Then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the most critical prime minister of the 21st century, continued the evolution away from this dependency by slowly returning Japan to its intrinsic geopolitical imperatives.[54] If America retreats, Japan will accelerate its strategic independence. Traditionally, Japan’s need to protect its sea lanes of communication to provide raw resources to fuel its economy at home dictated its grand strategy.[55]

Under Abe’s direction in 2013, the Japanese cabinet approved Japan’s first national security strategy, resulting in creating a Japanese National Security Council.[56] In response to China’s aggressive moves in the Pacific areas such as the Senkaku Islands, the strategy argues that Japan needs to make a more “proactive contribution to peace,” and thus it needs to contribute more to its military alliance with America despite its pacifist constitution.[57]

Japan’s national security space ambitions have been limited compared to Russia and China. The government exploration agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), has stated that it does not intend to militarize space. The Basic Space Law of 2008 emphasized that Japan will “guarantee international peace and security as well as ensuring the security of the country” within the framework “of the pacifist principles of the Constitution,” while the Space Act of 2016 encouraged and defined the role of the private sector and space. These offer other windows into Japanese space thinking.[58] The Japanese government is currently working on a ground-based space tracking system expected around 2023.[59] The unit’s main task will be to monitor space debris, threats of attacks, or interference by other countries’ satellites.[60] Cooperation between the United States and Japan is crucial for the new space race because their primary goal for space is democratic control.

Japan’s Space Force is currently limited. There is a space operations squadron as part of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces; however, it has less than 100 members.[61] Japan’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has revealed that it will assign 100 military personnel to its space domain mission unit expected to be stood up by their fiscal year 2022 and probably merged with the space operations squadron.[62] This began when Japan announced its desire to launch a military space force by 2019 with the initial tasking of protecting satellites from dangerous debris orbiting the Earth.[63] The move to a Japanese space force aims to strengthen Japan-U.S. cooperation in space and comes after the countries pledged to boost joint work on monitoring space debris.[64] The number of personnel assigned to the space domain mission unit may increase over the coming years as Japan participates in a growing number of space-centric joint operations with allies such as the United States and some European countries. In August of 2020, Abe met with Raymond. They agreed to enhance bilateral defense cooperation in outer space between the U.S. Space Force and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Space Operation Squadron.[65]

Japan’s space posture mirrors its overall grand strategy, tied to the United States in almost all areas.[66] Its geopolitical imperative is based on its negative WWII legacy, its inherent natural resource problem, and its robust alliance with the United States. Both Tokyo and Washington, D.C. must enhance this alliance into space to counter adversarial power.

India- Expanding Power or Regional Hostage?

While not yet a global power, India is a regional power and a strategic competitor to China. India also has space ambitions. India spent much of its post-independence history as a nominal leader of the non-aligned movement, though it has recently dedicated minimal attention to articulating a grand strategy. The Global Firepower 2021 Military Strength Index ranks India fourth in military capability.[67] The IISS ranks India fifth in military spending with a defense budget of $60.5 billion.[68]

India’s strategic outlook is within the context of Hinduism and Hindu nationalism, using concepts like Niti (Difficult choices, unworthy means to achieve good ends), Artha (prosperity), Dharma (Moral obligations, duty), Mandala (geopolitical configuration), and Danda (force and punishment).[69] General V. K. Singh’s “Transformation Study” created a window into India’s new strategic thinking by envisioning an Indian military able to fight on “two-and-a-half fronts” – namely, against China, Pakistan, and an Islamic insurgency at home.[70] However, India has been unable to develop a consistent policy for its three major geopolitical issues: Pakistan, China, and the Indian Ocean.

India’s decision over the Indian Ocean will determine its pathway as a great power. A new generation of policymakers has indicated that they want to consider the Indian Ocean as an Indian lake.[71] India’s naval power projection buildup continues, despite the nation spending only $60.5 billion on defense. It has two aircraft carriers, and by 2022 intends to have a third.[72] This would give it the largest carrier fleet in the eastern hemisphere, aside from the United States. India’s challenge will be to build the technological and military capabilities of great power without a clear goal or strategy. In conceiving such a strategy, India may align itself with the United States and the West, which it has avoided since independence. That choice will dramatically affect the worldwide geopolitical situation and likely increase tensions with China.

India is on the cusp of becoming a space power but spends only $1.2 billion on space.[73] The Indian space force is rudimentary. India’s first military application of space was surveillance of Pakistan.[74] This is potentially one of India’s most serious handicaps, not only in space but in geostrategy. She is a prisoner of her adversarial relations with Pakistan. India is forming a space force equivalent to its tri-service Defense Space Agency (DSA) of the Indian Armed Forces.[75] In April 2019, India formed the DSA to command its military space assets, including its anti-satellite capability.[76] The DSA is also in charge of formulating a strategy to protect India’s interests in space, including addressing space-based threats. India successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon in March 2019.[77]

The DSA’s integrated space cell uses the country’s space-based assets for military purposes and defends these assets from various threats.[78] India proclaims that it remains committed to the non-weaponization of space. Still, there is the emergence of offensive counter-space systems and anti-satellite weaponry seen as new threats to counter.[79]

India’s participation in the global space arena has primarily focused on making scientific advancements and discoveries, not on military development of space, as evident in the Chandrayaan project, which, so far, has sent two probes to the moon.[80] India strives to launch its astronauts into space by 2022, becoming just the fourth country behind the United States, China, and Russia.[81] It is also increasingly collaborating with the United States on lunar exploration.[82] India is also becoming more autonomous with its Indian Regional Navigation System and its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, launching satellites from India, the United States, and Brazil in 2021. Indian grand strategy needs cohesion and foundation and is attempting to straddle realism with Hindu nationalism.

Conclusion

Conflict is fully rooted in the international relations system because most great powers use realist theory. Religion, history, and cultural influences also shape some great powers’ realism.[83] Strategic culture is a product of grand historical strategy, and national security policies are both.

Space is an organic extension of great power conflict. All great powers are engaging in space force creation, and powers that have a thriving space strategy will, by definition, have a grand strategy for the future. Russian and Chinese grand strategies are on hostile trajectories with the United States and allied nations.

A multi-polar world and a less engaged United States will result in more chaos and instability on Earth and space. The creation of the U.S. Space Force in December 2019 signaled that the United States wants to retain strategic leadership in space. Whether the Space Force will be funded and manned to compete with the increasing ambitions of great power rivals is a critical concern with significant implications for the security, safety, and stability of space and the world.

This paper originally ran on The Space Force Journal on 20 July, 2021.

NOTES

[1] A great power is defined as a nation, rather than a state, with global reach and scale. It influences the international relations system as a whole, can exert hard power and aspects of soft power, and go beyond DIME (Diplomatic/Informational/Military/Economic) instruments of power to include cultural and religious influence.

[2] General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., “Accelerate Change or Lose,” U.S. Air Force, August 2020, https://www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/2020SAF/ACOL_booklet_FINAL_13_Nov_1006_WEB.pdf.

[3] “Space Capstone Publication: Spacepower, Doctrine for Space Forces,” U.S. Space Force, June 2020, page vi, https://www.spaceforce.mil/Portals/1/Space%20Capstone%20Publication_10%20Aug%202020.pdf.

[4] “Space Capstone Publication: Spacepower, Doctrine for Space Forces,” U.S. Space Force, June 2020, page 27 https://www.spaceforce.mil/Portals/1/Space%20Capstone%20Publication_10%20Aug%202020.pdf.

[5] Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992)

[6] Noah Rothman, “Flashback: In Russia, Obama Declared ‘great Power Conflict’ a Thing of the Past,” Mediaite, March 3, 2014, https://www.mediaite.com/online/flashback-in-russia-obama-declared-great-power-conflict-a-thing-of-the-past/; “Remarks by President Obama to the United Nations General Assembly,” The Obama White House, September 28, 2015, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/28/remarks-president-obama-united-nations-general-assembly.

[7] The list includes the Euro-Russian frontier, the Baltics, the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Sea of Japan, the Indian Ocean, the Sino-Indian Border, the Taiwan and Korea/Tsushima straits, and the Middle East, specifically Syria and Iraq.

[8] “U.S. Military Spending/Defense Budget 1960-2021,” Macrotrends, accessed March 23, 2021, https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/military-spending-defense-budget.

[9] Charles Kupchan, “America First Means a Retreat from Foreign Conflicts,” Foreign Affairs, Septemgber 2019, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2019-09-26/america-first-means-retreat-foreign-conflicts.

[10] Robin Niblett, “Liberalism in Retreat-The Demise of a Dream,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-12-12/liberalism-retreat.

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[12] Simon Seminari, “Op-Ed | Global Government Space Budgets Continues Multiyear Rebound,” SpaceNews, November 24, 2019, https://spacenews.com/op-ed-global-government-space-budgets-continues-multiyear-rebound/.

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[51] United States Widens the Gap,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, February 14, 2020, https://www.iiss.org/blogs/military-balance/2020/02/global-defence-spending.

[52] Peter B. de Selding, “Japanese Government Seeks to Reorient Space Spending,” SpaceNews, September 28, 2010, https://spacenews.com/japanese-government-seeks-reorient-space-spending/#:~:text=The%20Japanese%20space%20budget%20totals%20about%20%244%20billion,directed%20toward%20JAXA%2C%20and%20the%20remaining%20one-third%20.

[53]Emma Chanlett-Avery, Caitlin Campbell, and Joshua A. Williams, “The U.S.-Japan Alliance,” Congressional Research Service, June 13, 2019, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33740.pdf.

[54] He was the longest serving of the post war era. In a short time frame, he has pivoted Japanese strategic thinking back to some of its pre-contemporary underpinnings like no other before him.

[55] Christopher Hughes, “Japan’s Grand Strategic Shift From the Yoshida Doctrine to and Abe Doctrine?,” Power, Ideas, And Military Strategy in the Asia-Pacific, Strategic Asia, 2017-2018.

[56] “National Security Strategy,” Office of the Prime Minister of Japan, December 13, 2013, http://japan.kantei.go.jp/96_abe/documents/2013/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2013/12/17/NSS.pdf

[57] “National Security Strategy,” Office of the Prime Minister of Japan, December 13, 2013, page 5 http://japan.kantei.go.jp/96_abe/documents/2013/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2013/12/17/NSS.pdf

[58] Matignon, Louis, “All About Japanese Space Law”, Space Legal Issues, June 5, 2020, https://www.spacelegalissues.com/all-about-the-japanese-space-law/.

[59] “Japan Launches New Squadron to Step up Defense in Outer Space,” Japan Times, May 18, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/18/national/sdf-launches-space-operations-unit/.

[60] “Japan Launches New Squadron to Step up Defense in Outer Space,” Japan Times, May 18, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/18/national/sdf-launches-space-operations-unit/.

[61] “Japan Launches New Squadron to Step up Defense in Outer Space,” Japan Times, May 18, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/18/national/sdf-launches-space-operations-unit/.

[62]“Japan to Assign 100 Personnel to New Satellite Monitoring Unit,” Japan Times, May 14, 2019, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/05/14/national/science-health/japan-assign-100-personnel-new-satellite-monitoring-unit/.

[63] Miriam Kramer, “Japan’s Military to Track Space Junk by 2019: Report,” Space.com, August 5, 2014, https://www.space.com/26737-japan-military-space-force.html.

[64] Mari Yamaguchi, “Japan Launches New Unit to Boost Defense in Space,” DefenseNews, May 18, 2020, https://www.defensenews.com/global/asia-pacific/2020/05/18/japan-launches-new-unit-to-boost-defense-in-space/; Junnosuke Kobara, “US and Japan Join to Tidy up Space-junk-cluttered Orbit,” Nikkei, September 10, 2019, https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/US-and-Japan-join-to-tidy-up-space-junk-cluttered-orbit.

[65] Elizabeth Shim, “Shinzo Abe Meets with u.s. Space Commander After Hospital Visit,” United Press International, August 27, 2020, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2020/08/27/Shinzo-Abe-meets-with-US-space-commander-after-hospital-visit/3271598545563/.

[66] John Wright, “Where No Alliance Has Gone Before: US-Japan Military Cooperation in Space,” The Diplomat, February 4, 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/02/where-no-alliance-has-gone-before-us-japan-military-cooperation-in-space/.

[67] “2021 India Military Strength,” Global Firepower, accessed March 23, 2021, https://www.globalfirepower.com/country-military-strength-detail.php?country_id=india

[68] International Institute for Strategic Studies, February 14, 2020, https://www.iiss.org/blogs/military-balance/2020/02/global-defence-spending.

[69] Namrata Goswami and Peter A. Garretson, Scramble for the Skies: The Great Power Competition to Control the Resources of Outer Space (Lexington Books, 2020), 258.

[70] Nitin Gokhale, “India’s Doctrinal Shift?,” The Diplomat, January 25, 2011, https://thediplomat.com/2011/01/indias-doctrinal-shift/; Sushant Singh, “Can India Transcend Its Two-Front Challenge?,” War on the Rocks, September 14, 2020, https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/can-india-transcend-its-two-front-challenge/.

[71] Meia Nouwens, “India treats the Indian Ocean Region as its ‘own lake’, but China has different plans,” The Print, April 25, 2018, https://theprint.in/opinion/for-india-indian-ocean-region-is-its-own-lake-this-conflicts-with-chinas-belt-and-road-initiative/52676/.

[72] “Indian Navy Seeks Third Aircraft Carrier with 57 Fighter Planes Worth $25 Billion,” Defense World, January 16, 2018, https://www.defenseworld.net/news/21763#.YFouP4lKiCS.

[73] K.S. Jayaraman, “India Allocates $1.2 Billion for Space Activities,” SpaceNews, March 9, 2015, https://spacenews.com/india-allocates-1-2-billion-for-space-activities/.

[74] Dinshaw Mistry, “The Geostrategic Implications of India’s Space Program,” Asian Survey, November/December 2001, https://online.ucpress.edu/as/article-abstract/41/6/1023/91794/The-Geostrategic-Implications-of-India-s-Space?redirectedFrom=fulltext.

[75] Namrata Goswami and Peter A. Garretson, Scramble for the Skies: The Great Power Competition to Control the Resources of Outer Space (Lexington Books, 2020), 258.

[76] Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India to Launch a Defense-Based Space Research Agency,” DefenseNews, June 12, 2019, https://www.defensenews.com/space/2019/06/12/india-to-launch-a-defense-based-space-research-agency/.

[77] Doris Elin Urrutia, “India’s anti-satellite missile test is a big deal. Here’s why.,” Space.com, March 30, 2019, https://www.space.com/india-anti-satellite-test-significance.html.

[78]Amit Saksena, “India and Space Defense,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs, March 23, 2014, https://mea.gov.in/articles-in-foreign-media.htm?dtl/23139/India+and+Space+Defense.

[79] Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India to Launch a Defense-Based Space Research Agency,” DefenseNews, June 12, 2019, https://www.defensenews.com/space/2019/06/12/india-to-launch-a-defense-based-space-research-agency/.

[80] Manveena Suri and Swati Gupta, “India’s Polar Moon Mission Puts Chandrayaan-2 in the History Books,” CNN, September 5, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/04/world/india-moon-lunar-chandrayaan-2-explainer-scn/index.html.

[81] Meghan Bartels, “India Will Launch Its Own Astronauts to Space by 2022, Government Says,” Space.com, August 29, 2018, https://www.space.com/41657-india-will-launch-astronauts-in-2022.html.

[82] Elizabeth Howell, “Trump Hails India’s ‘impressive strides’ On Moon Exploration, Pledges Greater Cooperation On Space,” Space.com, February 27, 2020, https://www.space.com/trump-hails-india-moon-missions-us-space-cooperation.html.

[83] Such as Pan Slavism for Russia, neo-Maoism for China, and Hindu Nationalism for India.

Newsmax: It is US Duty to Lead in Space Technology

As I have previously written, dominance in space will determine dominance on earth. In order to silence flawed thought from the start, one needs to understand the following premises.

First, space has been and is being militarized, with or without the United States. Second, the new space race based on geo and astropolitics is already under full throttle.

Third, Russia and China are making aggressive moves while the E.U. has been relegated to a state of passivity and chaos. Each year that passes, the space race will overshadow conflict on Earth to determine the winner on Earth.

Fourth, there will be a pivot point of no return at some point and there is much speculation on this. In other words, there is a future date whereby any nation that is not in the prime position will be unable to attain it and will be relegated to a peripheral or tertiary power.

This race will first be determined by will. Second, it will be determined by strategy. Third, it will be determined by a synthesis of sound economic policies and the securing of strategic technologies.

One of those technologies that the United States needs to develop is called Superconductor-based Magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thrusters, known as SUPREME.

One of the massive problems for utilizing, exploring, exploiting and conquering space is the cost of transportation. Ultimately, the ability to move cargo and material from the Earth, the moon, Mars and beyond will determine who wins the military and economic space domain.

There are two primary systems for providing propulsion, chemical and electric. Most of the readers are familiar with chemical, having witnessed the space programs of NASA and companies like SpaceX.

These chemical systems push high thrust, but at the cost of increased fuel consumption, use around 2/3 of the spacecraft for fuel while being cost-prohibitive when trying to carry large amounts. On the other hand, electric propulsion is much more energy-efficient but falls short on thrust and maneuverability.

A new alternative, SUPREME using argon gas (100 times less expensive than the current xenon), can be one of the game-changers for the new space economy. The savings to transporting goods is literally astronomical when one compares transport to the moon.

Compared with chemical propulsion (think space shuttle or SpaceX), savings of up to $1.3 billion per cargo transfer from Low Earth Orbit (LEO, below 1,200 miles) to the moon.

Compared with conventional electric propulsion technology like the Hall Effect Thrusters (current electric propulsion), the savings can be around $100 million.

When we look at the case for Mars, the savings would be even higher, up to $10 billion compared with chemical propulsion and up $350 million compared with electric propulsion. Further, MPD is recognized as the most compatible technology to be used with nuclear reactors.

This system would be most beneficial for cargo transport, satellites for secured communications, asteroid mining, human exploration, space tugs and ultimately nuclear-powered ships.

One of the leading companies, Neutron Star Systems, winner of the New Space Business Plan Competition at the New Worlds Conference in Austin, Texas, is developing this technology right now and is promoting its relevance for security and defense, not just an economic one.

Founder of Neutron Star, Manuel La Rosa, put it this way, “SUPREME technology offers a unique opportunity to build in a platform that is scalable over a wide range of power and that it can serve as the standard for supporting operations not only in near-Earth domain but also in the moon, Mars and other planets of the solar system, it is of paramount importance that this technology is developed and commercialized. The USA is the only country in the world that offers the necessary conditions to successfully develop this technology.”

MPD is one of the many new space technologies that the United States will need to develop to continue its preeminence in space and prevent adversaries, not only to itself but also of democratic values from dominating.

The beneficiaries of these new technological and engineering marvels are not just the private enterprises that produce them, but the American entrepreneur and consumer who will have a new frontier to profit by, protected by the United States and her allies.

THis piece originally ran on Newsmax on 13 July 2021.

AFPC: DEFENSE TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM BRIEF, The Case for Space Development

This brief originally ran as a part of the American Foreign Policy Council’s Defense Technology Program in August 2020. It can be downloaded and viewed here.

by Lamont Colucci

The Trump administration’s creation, in late 2019, of the U.S. Space Force, as a free-standing branch of the American armed forces and concurrently the reestablishment of the U.S. Space Command, has brought new and much-needed attention to what is a critical emerging domain: space. What remains lacking, however, is a broader strategy to properly frame and articulate American priorities in the space domain, and to guide U.S. conduct within it.

Such a strategy begins with a mapping of cislunar space, a domain that encompasses near-space environment between Earth and the Moon. Cislunar space is the space between the Earth’s atmosphere and the area right beyond the orbit of the Moon. Strategically, cislunarincludes the Lagrange points, which are the points in space where there is an equilibrium between Earth’s and Luna’s gravitational force. It is an area that holds military, political, cultural and economic consequences that will determine the success or failure of American strategic primacy for the 21st century and beyond.


BRIEFING HIGHLIGHTS

Russia and China have surpassed the U.S. in the military space sector, as well as in the development of civilian space.

Their innovations include China’s proposed work in Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) and testing of anti-satellite weapons, as well as Russia’s advancement of hypersonic missiles. China intends to build space vessels that utilize nuclear propulsion, colonize the moon, and potentially create areas of anti-access and area denial in space. This activity belies the geopolitical imperative of primacy, now playing out in a new strategic domain.

Development of the near-space economy will require economic and industrial output and innovation that will fundamentally change the international economic system in ways not seen since the transformation that accompanied the Industrial Revolution. It will also require mankind to reorient its economic system as a whole.

Over time, space transport will revolutionize the global economy generally and several industries in particular—namely, aerospace & defense, IT hardware, telecom sectors, space tourism, package delivery, and energy. It will be energy that might have the most immediate and direct impact on the lives of Americans, as it will eliminate many of the problems surrounding climate change and conflict over fossil fuels.

Many of those who oppose the Space Force did so because they see space as primarily a realm of exploration and scientific interest. Yet if we want it to become more, an arena for commerce and innovation, we will need to ensure its safety and security. That, in turn, requires a new type of military thinking.


THE ECONOMICS OF NEAR SPACE

Any discussion of space development needs to begin with a basic question: is it worth it? While the projected evolution of a space economy is still conceptual in nature, it is already clear that the benefits of space development will be innumerable.

As it stands, the realm of space represents a nascent—and as yet mostly untapped—market. An increase in space satellites would facilitate a faster and more reliable internet on Earth, as well as reinforce the speed and reliability of calling and messaging on terrestrial telecom networks. Shipping capabilities in space could also be a growth industry, and eventually blasting a payload into space will become less costly and faster than shipping across an ocean or via commercial aircraft. Asteroid mining is also a likely space industry—and potentially an extremely lucrative one. Resources that are often scarce on Earth are many times as plentiful on asteroids across the galaxy.

Over time, space transport will revolutionize the global economy generally and several industries in particular—namely, aerospace & defense, IT hardware, telecom sectors, space tourism, package delivery, and energy. It will be energy that might have the most immediate and direct impact on the lives of Americans, as it will eliminate many of the problems surrounding climate change and conflict over fossil fuels. This will be especially true if America becomes the leader of spacebased solar power.

This new economic revolution will grow exponentially from its inception. Morgan Stanley estimates that the “space industry” will generate 350 billion dollars annually, a figure which could grow to $3 trillion a year if this system begins to be implemented.

The creation of strategic trade routes in “near space” will hearken back to the change in trade and globalization during the Renaissance. The term “globalization” will need to be altered, and a new term such as “cosmosization” will replace it in more than a name. The NASA Gateway project (see Figure 1), which will be built in orbit around the Moon, will deliver goods, services, and personnel to and from the lunar surface. (1)

This mission currently depends on the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft.

This new economic revolution will grow exponentially from its inception. Morgan Stanley estimates that the “space industry” will generate 350 billion dollars annually, a figure which could grow to $3 trillion a year if this system begins to be implemented. (2)

This, however, does not even account for the upward changes created by the continually evolving technology created by the space economy as it evolves.

In order for this to happen, however, an industrial reorientation is necessary. Simply focusing on exploration and scientific discovery are not sustainable economic and strategic models purely in themselves. Development of the near-space economy will require economic and industrial output and innovation that will fundamentally change the international economic system in ways not seen since the transformation that accompanied the Industrial Revolution. It will also require mankind to reorient its economic system as a whole. This imperative may be hard for many people to grasp, but it is also why America will have the best chance to lead this new economic revolution. After all, it was America that landed men on the Moon and answered the call of President Kennedy’s dream. American culture and history are infused with the ability to pivot and adapt and innovate. It will need a rebirth of the frontier spirit and a declaration that what famed historian Frederick Jackson Turner said in 1893, that the closed frontier has been reopened on a much grander scale.

It was America that landed men on the Moon and answered the call of President Kennedy’s dream. American culture and history are infused with the ability to pivot and adapt and innovate.

This, in turn, requires us to seriously tackle the matter of security in space. Many of those who oppose the Space Force did so because they see space as primarily a realm of exploration and scientific interest. Yet if we want it to become more, an arena for commerce and innovation, we will need to ensure its safety and security.

That, in turn, requires a new type of military thinking.

SECURITY MATTERS

In the context of space, security can be viewed on two levels. The first is international security – that is, the security of the international system as a whole. The second is the security of the western alliance: western nation-states (including the U.S.), their allies, their economy, their values, and their political culture. A serious plan for the former, if carried out by America and its partners, will necessarily serve to bolster the latter.

Currently, the global system has no protection against an extinction-level event, nor is there an alternative for human civilization to escape a disaster. At first blush, this state of affairs may seem acceptable, but it becomes decidedly less so once one grasps the dangers posed by asteroid collisions, a Carrington Event (solar storm), and a number of other existential dangers.

The current coronavirus pandemic provides a case in point; although far from a civilization-ending event, the disease has nonetheless illustrated the weaknesses, vulnerabilities and gaps in our ability to protect national populations, as well as the fact that there is no alternative but to do so.

The same holds true for space. As the United States moves more and more into the space domain, the imperative will grow for the nascent economy there to be protected. On a mundane level, it will need to be protected from space debris, which can wreak havoc on space-based technologies such as satellites. There will also need to be a defense against a breakdown in communication or travel.

But other security needs prevail as well. No economic system can viably exist without adequate safeguards. That is the reason nations, irrespective of political and ideological outlook, have uniformly created penalties for threats to private property, penalized breach of contract, and provided security from hostility, violence, chaos, and criminality. There should be no doubt that a new economic revolution in space will foster the same challenges there. From the potential of electronic disruption to the (currently fanciful) notion of space piracy, the space domain will assuredly face potential criminality and sabotage as it develops. Assuring that this disorder stays at a minimum will go a long way toward instilling confidence in the emerging space economy.

As the United States moves more and more into the space domain, the imperative will grow for the nascent economy there to be protected.

Therein lies the conceptual case for a more robust American military presence in space. On June 18, 2018, President Trump changed the space dynamic by ordering the DOD to create a new sixth branch of the military entitled the Space Force, whose job will be to unify American national security concerns regarding Space. It was created as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The current mission is to train, equip, and organize forces for space. In August of 2019, the United States reactivated U.S. Space Command as a unified combatant command whose job currently is to “conducts operations in, from, and to space to deter conflict, and if necessary, defeat aggression, deliver space combat power for the Joint/Combined force, and defend U.S. vital interests with allies and partners.”

A LOOK AHEAD AT A TRIPLANETARY PROJECT

The Triplanetary project, encompassing the Earth/Moon/Mars (see Figure 2), is an idea which recognizes that the strategic future of the United States in specific, and the western alliance in general, is not confined to cislunar space, and extends out to Mars as a way of ensuring prosperity for humanity. The name is more for literary purposes rather than literal, as the Moon isn’t actually a planet, but the project itself envisions a future of robust commerce and safe human transport spanning the range of space between Earth and Mars.

Space explorers, colonizers, and entrepreneurs see Mars as the future crown jewel.

“Newspace” advocates view Mars as the initial epicenter of a serious human presence among the stars. However, there are several developments that need to be completed in order for this dream to become a reality. The first stage of a Triplanetary economy would be an exchange of goods and services between two Earth-based entities in space (the Earth and Moon). An asteroid mining company may lead the economic impetus that will send raw extractions to a “floating” base, or to a moon-based processing plant where the minerals and metals can be extracted and used. Future stages would expand from Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) and cislunar space on to the Moon, and then Mars. (3)

Basic resource use will eventually become trade, communication, and energy production, and finally move from a human presence to colonization. Ultimately, this will set the conditions for an even farther stage of interstellar exploration and expansion.

The Moon is a stepping stone to the future, but Mars will be an important next objective as it has comparatively more to offer for human colonization.

The Moon is a stepping stone to the future, but Mars will be an important next objective as it has comparatively more to offer for human colonization. Solar energy can generate power on the Moon and Mars, but Mars has the possibility of wind power and has greater ability to support agriculture and create a more “indigenous” civilization than does the Moon. Mars has the potential for rich and profitable mineral supplies, especially Deuterium—a fundamental element for nuclear power, particularly with the promise of fusion. Furthermore, there is today a discussion about “terraforming” the environment to eventually make it possible to create a stable civilization on a place like Mars, which scientists think could be rich in nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, copper, sulfur, water, and ice. The NASA Gateway project and the Trump Moon-Mars Development project provide early glimpses into the possibilities that an economic zone that encompasses Mars has to offer. (4)

The Triplanetary project will be the launchpad to a permanent human presence in this arena and beyond.

HIGH STAKES

Throughout their existence, nations encounter pivot points – moments where they can choose between disaster and surrender or triumph and victory. A failure to expend the needed time and resources to plan for the future can lead to military disasters, and even to civilizational downfall. History is rife with such examples: Athens during the Peloponnesian Wars (404 BC), the Roman Empire in 476 AD, China in the 19th century (which suffered three stunning military defeats, in 1842, 1860, and 1895), France in 1940, and so on. In each case, there was a failure to appreciate the technological and strategic advancements that no longer conformed to past doctrine. History is littered with those who lacked the requisite foresight and imagination to properly adapt and seize the moment.

America is no different. In 1897, the famed officer and strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan took note of the last time the United States faced such a challenge—with the inception of what is now the U.S. Navy. He wrote: “Those who hold that our political interests are confined to matters within our borders, and are unwilling to admit that circumstances may compel us in the future to political action without them, look with dislike and suspicion upon the growth of a body [the navy] whose very existence indicates that nations have international duties as well as international rights, and that international complications will arise from which we can no more escape than the states which have preceded us in history or those contemporary with us.” (5)

Mahan was warning that the high seas had increasingly opened new vistas for commerce and communication, and the nation that invests in new seapower capabilities would therefore inevitably dominate the globe. The ingenuity and power of the aircraft carrier subsequently fulfilled Mahan’s prediction, ushering an era of American maritime—and ultimately global—dominance.

Will America lead in space, where it can create and facilitate a new economic revolution, bolster the democratic international order, and dominate the next great battlefield? Or will it cede that advantage to others, with potentially ruinous consequences for American primacy and global stability?

The United States faces the same need to innovate again today. For policymakers, this imperative presents simple yet weighty choices: will America lead in space, where it can create and facilitate a new economic revolution, bolster the democratic international order, and dominate the next great battlefield? Or will it cede that advantage to others, with potentially ruinous consequences for American primacy and global stability?

Whether Washington likes it or not, a scramble for space is inevitable, and in fact is already well underway. Today, both Russia and China have surpassed the U.S. in the military space sector, as well as in the development of civilian space. Their innovations include China’s proposed work in Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) and testing of anti-satellite weapons, as well as Russia’s advancement of hypersonic missiles. China intends to build space vessels that utilize nuclear propulsion, colonize the moon, and potentially create areas of anti-access and area denial in space. This activity belies the geopolitical imperative of primacy, now playing out in a new strategic domain.

Notably, Russia and China have been quite open about their ambitions. Both countries have recognized that nations that dominate space will end up dominating the globe. These nations are now angling for space dominance, and for good reason. The civilization that is the first to establish a durable presence in space will have the most vibrant and dynamic economy, the most advanced, high-paying jobs, and a technological edge that is second to none. Moreover, the potential for adversaries to put offensive weapons in space will blunt current American military superiority. U.S. aircraft carriers and land-based missiles will simply become convenient targets. China or Russia’s ability to dominate either energy or communication will make other nations into technological vassal states. As such, nothing short of America’s current superpower status is at stake.

In order for the United States to maintain its position of primacy, the country must embrace a reinvigorated space strategy. America will need to progress beyond a mere space program, and lead a new military, economic and scientific revolution that will determine mankind’s destiny. The stakes here are high; the nation that achieves space dominance will win future military conflicts. The 5000-year evolution and history of military technology have confirmed this trajectory.


ENDNOTES

  1. NASA Gateway Project, https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars/lunar-gateway; “NASA’s Lunar Outpost will Extend Human Presence in Deep Space,” May 2, 2018, https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-s-lunar-outpost-will-extendhuman-presence-in-deep-space
  2. “Space: Investing in the Final Frontier,” Morgan Stanley, July 2, 2019, https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/investing-in-space; Also see, Brian Higginbotham, “The Space Economy: An Industry Takes Off, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, October 11, 2018, https://www.uschamber.com/series/above-the-fold/the-space-economy-industry-takes
  3. Objects in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) travel between 99 and 1200 miles above the surface of the Earth and have an orbital period (the time it takes for the object to orbit the Earth of between 88 and 127 minutes). LEO is where the majority of manmade space technology currently exists, such as the International Space Station. Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) Is where objects are in high orbit above 22,000 miles match Earth’s rotation (24 hours), which is useful for communications and surveillance satellites.
    Cislunar space is the space between the Earth’s atmosphere and the area right beyond the orbit of the Moon. Strategically, cislunar includes the Lagrange points, which are the points in space where there is an equilibrium between Earth’s and Luna’s gravitational force.
  4. Newt Gingrich, “Trump’s plan to develop the moon and mars will change the future of the human race,” Newsweek, July 23, 2019, https://www.newsweek.com/trumps-plan-developmoon-mars-will-change-future-human-raceopinion-1450736
  5. Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future, (originally published 1897).

Newsmax: Why It’s Time for a ‘Triplanetary’ Economy

The Triplanetary project is an idea that recognizes the strategic future of the United States and the western alliance. It’s dependent on the dominance of space.

The concept envisions activity stretching from the planetary surface, Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO), Cislunar space, the moon, and Mars.

The Triplanetary (Earth/the moon/Mars) concept has far-reaching military, political, cultural, and economic consequences that will determine the success or failure of American strategic primacy for the 21st century and beyond.

The term, Triplanetary, is a catch-all phrase integraing  Earth, the moon, and Mars into a single synthesis. It’s a good and direct concept regardless of the howls by some that the moon is not a planet; those individuals — at best — miss the point.

The United States government must lead the Triplanetary project, but in partnership with American corporations, allied nations, and their corporations. It is the positive and optimistic side of a dark future dominated by authoritarian and totalitarian nations and organizations which are casting a wide net to dominate the same arena.

For example, the threat posed by nations like Russia and China, as well as non-state actors such as ISIS, is real and outlined. Failure of the United States to act, will by default, result in victory for those that seek not only the emasculation of American civilization but that of western values and the moral concert of nations.

The first stage of the Triplanetary economy will be an exchange of goods and services between two Earth-based entities in space. The economic impetus may be led by an asteroid mining company that will send raw extractions to a “floating” base, or moon-based processing plant where the minerals and metals can be extracted and used by another entity to build another spacecraft for future space exploration.

Regardless of what is the first great economic venture, none of it can be achieved without resolving the issue of security. This is not only security against threats to western democracy but against natural extinction-level events from space.

America is at this crossroads, not later, but right now.

This crossroads presents us with a decision about whether or not America will lead in space, create and facilitate the newest economic revolution, ensure the democratic international order, advance medicine through space technology and be able to dominate the next battlefield.

It is a national security and economic imperative, where anything else pales in comparison.

The benefits of a Triplanetary economy are innumerable.

The U.S. will lead and facilitate a new economic revolution based on an untapped market in the realm of space, the increase in satellites, and entirely new and exponentially powerful internet capabilities, shipping, space resources, energy production, surveillance, and military primacy.

The Triplanetary project will require economic and industrial output and innovation that will fundamentally change the international economic system not seen since the beginning of the industrial revolution. It will eventually lead to great exploration and colonization and will be the launchpad to a permanent human presence in this arena and beyond.

One of the concrete examples of the Triplanetary economy is President Trump’s Moon-Mars Development project, which will establish a base on the moon and develop technologies to take astronauts to Mars and beyond.

This development should be taking place within five years with a proposed moon landing in 2024, where the first of many replacement teams stay for three-week rotations as the base is built with routine travel established by 2028 and on to Mars by 2030.

America has the opportunity to reinvigorate its space strategy; it must go light years beyond a space program. It must lead a new military, economic, and scientific revolution that will determine mankind’s destiny.

If we surrender to the status quo thinking of the mid-20th century, we will be surrendering more than our imagination and innovation:

We will be surrendering our nation.

This piece originally ran on Newsmax.com on 31 January 2020.