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India, China, America: Star Wars Rage

India, China, America: Star Wars Rage

India’s G20 summit in New Delhi reaffirms the country’s and its Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s international role despite Vladimir Putin not leaving Russia and China’s Xi Jinping irritated by India’s actions. The planet’s largest democracy wants to assert itself in open competition with China as the eventual second world power. It also shows through its successes in space, a field vital to playing in the big leagues.

Space is a dimension that is rarely mentioned, but it has always been very fundamental in asserting power at a strategic and military level (cyber, surveillance, communications) and economically in the exploitation and establishment of asteroid mineral resources in the future. One day, permanent lunar sites. A week before the start of the G20, the Aditya – L1 probe (Sun in Hindi) was sent for a mission to the center of the solar system.

India, China, America: Mission to the Moon

This is especially true since a month earlier, the Indian lunar lander Vikram (Sanskrit for “hero”) placed a robot on the lunar surface — a feat only the Americans and Chinese had demonstrated until now. The Russians hurriedly tried to defeat the Indian Space Agency, but their probe, Luna 25, which was about to land at the South Pole, crashed miserably.

Already in 2014, India was the first Asian country to place a satellite in Mars orbit and is now one of the leading space powers. However, this is not obvious. For example, Israel failed in 2019 with a private start-up or Japan-built lander. Thirty more or less elaborate lunar expeditions are also in the pipeline, depending on the country.

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The race to the moon is an even more fierce competition between China and the United States, which wants to land two astronauts on its soil by 2025 within the framework of the Artemis program, which is joined by 28 countries, including France. , a woman and a man. China is not yet at the stage of sending Tychonauts (meaning men of the great void) to plant the Chinese flag; But already in 2019, it has achieved the performance of placing a block on its hidden side.

Space: Even conflicts between powers are a site of contestation

If the moon is above all a question of prestige, then space is already an important issue. It is generally considered to begin above 100 km altitude, where dynamical orbital forces become greater than aerodynamic forces. It is a place of rivalry, competition, but also more and more conflict between the powers that approach it. More of them are now able to claim.

“The main criterion for being a space power is to control access to space, the only way for a state to be autonomous. So these are countries that have the ability to satellite an object in their own way,” asserts Florence Gaillard-Sporowski. , Foundation for Strategic Research, in a sharp book – Geopolitics of Space (Blue Rider 2023).

By the mid-1960s, the club was more exclusive: Russia, the United States, but France was the third country to host a satellite in 1961, known as Asterix. Today there are about ten of them, with newcomers in recent years being Israel, Iran, North Korea and South Korea.

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Space concentration

Danger? Excessive density, even concentration. 14,500 satellites have been launched since 1957, half of which are still operational. Today, there are more than 34,000 objects in orbit 10 cm and 900,000 larger than one centimeter. There are always more launches, including constellations of thousands of satellites from space entrepreneurs. There could be about 100,000 of them in low orbit by 2030.

For a long time, space was considered a common good of mankind and it was protected 1967 Outer Space Treaty, recognized by almost all States, states in its Article 2 that it cannot be subject to any national reservation. Same is the case with moon and planets. At the end of the 1990s, the situation changed radically, with the awareness of the importance of the data provided by satellites for daily life, but also for military operations.

While the 1967 treaty prohibits the installation of weapons of mass destruction in outer space, it does not prevent growing militarization. Space today is the “high point” from the military’s point of view, allowing it to dominate the battlefield. It has been an invisible but important front since the first days of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Elon Musk’s access to his Starlink satellite zone for Ukrainian militants actually played a key role in Kyiv’s resistance. Star Wars is already a competition between orbiters, interceptors and jamming maneuvers, but China has already successfully experimented with destroying satellites with missiles or aircraft launched from Earth. 2007, followed by the US, India and Russia in 2021.

Space, an issue absent from the G20

During international summits, the G20 provides an excellent example, where major challenges common to humanity are addressed – the fight against climate change, the protection of forests or the bottom of the oceans. The question of space, with its enormous potential but the dangers arising from its enrichment or its weaponization, is rarely mentioned. Debates over reform of the 1967 treaty have been fractious for years, with those who want to allow more profits in space, such as planets, and those who would slow down the process opposed.

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“Space security is intersectional because it involves national security (increased vulnerability of systems due to increased dependence on applications, space force boosters, etc.) and international security (warfare in space),” Florence Gaillard-Sporowski underlines. . The emergence of this awareness has been very slow, and if the conquest of space continues to make people dream, it has not yet mobilized public opinion and institutions in France.

The Army set up the Air and Space Command five years ago. Diplomacy lags behind. If there are about twenty thematic ambassadors for the poles, oceans, climate, human rights, status of women, rights of LGBT people, digital technology, Indo-Pacific, etc., there is no ambassador. More space. It’s a shame, but it’s not too late.