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The future of space: congested and contested

Listen: Space might be a big place but the United Nations regards it as ‘congested, contested and competitive’.

This latest episode of Next Giant Leap, a podcast produced by GZERO Media in partnership with the space company MDA, explores the threats and tensions as space becomes busier and of greater strategic importance for an increasing number of countries.

“We have to avoid, by all means, that it becomes a Wild West,” says Tanja Masson-Zwaan, a space law expert at Leiden University in the Netherlands. She adds, “We have regulations, laws and treaties that have been in place for the last fifty years, but we need more to govern this new frontier of space utilization, because the rules that we have are basic principles and do not go into the details.”

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The satellite revolution in Low Earth Orbit

Transcript

Listen: In the last twenty-five years, the number of active satellites orbiting the Earth has increased from about 500 to 8,000. “In the first quarter of this year, we deployed nearly 1,000”, says space industry analyst Carissa Bryce Christensen. She adds, “Instead of a smaller number of very large satellites mostly far away, we are seeing many, many small satellites very close in.”

The latest episode of Next Giant Leap, a podcast produced in partnership between GZERO and the Canadian space company MDA, explores the exponential increase in satellites that are being launched into Low Earth orbit (LEO). This is the zone of space between about 100 and 1200 miles above the Earth.

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Starlink logo seen on a mobile device with Ukraine on a map in the background.

STR via Reuters Connect

Is Musk hedging his bets on Ukraine?

Elon Musk’s Starlink is the most prominent of a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite networks making a name for themselves this year by providing internet service in conflict zones and other geopolitical hotspots. Instead of using a handful of expensive-to-launch high-altitude satellites, these networks deploy thousands of cheaper low-orbit systems. This type of network may still be more expensive to use than terrestrial cables, but it allows operators to beam the internet into places with limited infrastructure on the ground to support it.

We asked Eurasia Group expert Scott Bade to explain how these networks are being used and what the implications are.

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China sends satellites into space in first sea-based commercial launch

September 16, 2020 12:02 PM

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China has successfully sent nine satellites into orbit in its first commercial launch of a rocket from a platform at sea, state media reported on Wednesday (Sept 16).

BRI partners to get customised weather satellite data

May 20, 2019 5:00 AM

BEIJING • China will offer customised data services for disaster prevention through its Fengyun meteorological satellites for more countries along the Belt and Road, said a senior official of the China Meteorological Administration's National Satellite Meteorological Centre.

China to customise satellite data for countries participating in its Belt and Road Initiative

May 19, 2019 12:35 PM

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - China will offer customised data services for disaster prevention through its Fengyun meteorological satellites for more countries along the Belt and Road, said a senior official of the China Meteorological Administration's National Satellite Meteorological Centre.

Nasa slams India over orbital debris

April 03, 2019 5:00 AM

WASHINGTON • The head of Nasa has branded India's destruction of one of its satellites a "terrible thing" that had created 400 pieces of orbital debris and led to new dangers for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

India tests anti-satellite weapon

March 28, 2019 5:00 AM

India shot down a low-orbiting live satellite in a missile test that has made it only the fourth country with such capabilities, in a major leap forward for its ambitious space programme.

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