Space Defence And Europe: Is It Possible?
While Europe was developing civilian systems in space, other countries were focusing on the military component. Now the EU is thinking about defense in space.
Military objectives have always played an important role in space exploration. Until now, however, airless space has remained primarily an arena of peaceful competition and cooperation. Now Europe is confident that this era is a thing of the past. The danger of the militarization of outer space became the leitmotif of the 12th European Space Conference, which brought together more than a thousand politicians, officials, business and science representatives in Brussels on January 21-22.
In 2019, Washington created space troops. The United States, Russia, and China have long possessed weapons capable of shooting down space satellites. Last year, India joined them.
Europe doesn’t have such opportunities; all the main space programs here are civilian. These include the Galileo satellite positioning system and the EGNOS geostationary navigation coverage service, as well as the Copernicus Earth Observation System.
The way the space industry is organized in Europe is not contributing to the development of space defense. In the USA, there are two organizations in charge of everything, NASA and the Pentagon. In Europe, however, there are much more players. EU space programs are managed by the European Commission and the European Agency for Global Satellite Navigation Systems. Separately, there is the European Space Agency ESA, the composition of the member countries of which does not entirely coincide with that of the EU. Moreover, defense issues are in the competence of nation-states.
At least some countries try to show some results. So, last year, France adopted a space defense strategy and created a space command led by General Michel Friedling. The reason for this step was the « act of espionage » for the French-Italian satellite Athena-Fidus, in which Paris accused Russia. In July 2019, Rome also adopted a space security strategy.
Italian Deputy Minister of Defense Angelo Tofalo listed various options for attacks on satellites at a conference in Brussels: ballistic missiles, electronic suppression, « blinding » of sensors using lasers. “We must consider space as a real space of military confrontation … But who will dominate this space?” – Tofalo wondered.
Many other politicians spoke about the dangers of space militarization, for example, the Vice Presidents of the European Commission, Josep Borrell and Margrethe Westager. However, there were no concrete proposals from politicians and officials. Also, they did not name specific countries from which danger in space could come.
In addition to intentional harm, there is another threat in space. It’s about space junk. According to ESA, about 4.5 thousand satellites are now in Earth orbit, of which 1.5 thousand are workers. The rest have worked out their resource. In addition, more than 70 thousand objects larger than one centimeter fly around the Earth. Based on the fact that more and more satellites are launched into space, the threat of collisions will only increase.