How will war in space look like?

Is space the final frontier of warfare?
Interesting Engineering

Is space the final frontier of warfare? 

We have already witnessed a significant buildup of space warfare capabilities from many of the leading world powers. 

Will satellites and space systems be the path forward in defense? Will terrestrial warfare become a thing of the past?

Anti-satellite weapons, or ASATs, are objects that can temporarily impair or permanently destroy an orbiting satellite. Anti-satellite warfare is made up of technology that many of you are probably already familiar with.

ASATs have been around since the 1960s, and to date, the US, Russia, China, and India have all displayed their abilities to attack orbiting satellites. These satellites are important as they transmit GPS and communications and help us forecast the weather. 

It doesn’t take much to disturb a satellite - they are fragile and easily permanently damaged. Regardless of the ease, there are still few nations with the technology and finance to build these anti-satellite weapons. 

The four countries with this technology are on a quest to show off their biggest and best new weapons. This has, however, created debris that remains in low-Earth orbit, threatening other satellites. 

To address this, the United States became the first country to adopt a voluntary moratorium on direct-ascent anti-satellite missile systems, which are shot from Earth to destroy a satellite passing overhead. However, there is still no international framework that prohibits these tests.

These direct-ascent anti-satellite missile systems aren’t the only way to shoot down a satellite. More advanced and unconventional weapons continue to be developed. 

Hold on, this gets pretty sci-fi! 

The Russians and Chinese have been working on satellites that can attack other satellites, clawing and grabbing with robotic armor! Seen in a simulated space battle, the Chinese have created an anti-satellite AI that learned to trick its target and send smaller satellites to capture a larger one! Now that’s wild!

Microwave devices that can jam satellite communications, generating 100 times more energy than most communications devices, and satellite-mounted solid-state pulse lasers are just two more high-powered weapons the Chinese have engineered. 

Regardless if we are for or against the idea of space warfare, it does seem to be inevitable. 

Space is simply too important to remain a safe haven.