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EDITORIAL: Coming soon to an orbit near you

Coming soon to an orbit near you November 23, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

By the end of the decade, Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) could begin to resemble morning rush.

As more aspects of our daily lives become dependent on LEO satellites and this congestion intensifies, anti-Western belligerents will become tempted to wreak havoc in space. And there is much of it to wreak there.

Russia already has attempted to do so. It carried out cyber attacks on Ukraine's satellite communications systems in the early stages of the war, launched anti-satellite test rockets in LEO, and recently told the UN that commercial satellites from the U.S. and its allies could be considered "legitimate targets for retaliatory strikes."

From about 2,000 satellites in 2018, LEO is on pace to host 100,000 by the end of the decade, writes Anders Fogh Rasmussen for the Financial Times. Mr. Rasmussen is a former NATO secretary-general and member of the European Space Agency's advisory group on human and robotic space exploration. And he notes that war in Ukraine represents the first time both sides of a conflict have been heavily reliant on space.

In this case, those sides--Comrade Putin and his Russian conscripts on the one, and Western-backed Ukraine on the other--have been reliant on satellite links to keep connected to the front line, see where enemy troops are amassing, and in the case of Ukraine, guide those lethal, precise, effective and made-in-Camden HIMARS rocket launchers.

Mr. Sec-Gen's point is three-fold: If you're not using Low-Earth Orbit to your benefit, you risk falling further behind; use of Low-Earth Orbit must be kept safe and sustainable; and future wars will be played out to a much larger degree in space.

"The importance of space during the war in Ukraine reflects how central activity in Earth's orbits has become to all our lives," Mr. Rasmussen writes. "In recent years, the U.S., Russia, China and India have significantly strengthened their space capabilities. In a time of heightened geopolitical tension, Europe must not be left behind."

As technology expands our dependence on space, Low-Earth Orbit is emerging as the obvious next frontier for human endeavor, beyond which mankind thus far has rarely tread. And that frontier will seethe with potential military conflict.

Once a permanent presence is established on the moon, well, then, the fun really begins. As the great Robert Heinlein once wrote, the moon is a harsh mistress.

Speaking of which, it might be wise to bone up on the works of authors like Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke and others. As science begins to resemble science fiction, human endeavor finally is catching up to the warnings of visionaries such as these.

Print Headline: The next frontier

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