Espacio exterior

The full moon appears near the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Colombia on April 7. Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP via Getty Images

Once upon a time, outer space, like the air and seas, was one of the global commons, held jointly for all of humanity. But great power competition, a deficit of rules, and a booming private space economy are eroding that status. The new cold war between the United States and nations such as Russia and China is extending to the cosmos: NATO has declared space an “operational domain”. And like the old Cold War, the new one poses a threat to life on Earth itself, from the dangers of space debris to the possibility of targeting satellites in an already-crowded Low Earth Orbit (an orbit around the Earth at 1,200 miles or less) that so much of modern life is dependent upon.…  Seguir leyendo »

Estamos en 1967, en plena Guerra Fría. Franco ha ilegalizado Comisiones Obreras, el Che es fusilado en Bolivia, muere Azorín, nace Julia Roberts y Elvis se casa con Priscilla. En enero de ese mismo año, en la sede de Naciones Unidas, se firma el Tratado sobre los principios que regirán las actividades de los Estados en la exploración y utilización del espacio exterior, incluyendo la Luna y otros cuerpos celestes (OST, por sus siglas en inglés).

132 países del mundo, incluidos enemigos irreconciliables como China, Reino Unido, la Unión Soviética, Estados Unidos, Corea del Norte o Cuba, se comprometen a garantizar que la futura exploración y explotación espacial sea siempre en pos del bien de la humanidad y los intereses de "todos los países".…  Seguir leyendo »

A Chinese state media broadcast reports on the country's successful landing of a probe on Mars, with footage shown on a large video screen at a shopping mall in Beijing on May 15. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

On Jan. 28, China released its first white paper on space-related activities in five years. China is an increasingly important space power and a potential challenger to U.S. interests. This new document provides insights into China’s space ambitions and priorities — both in what is stated explicitly and in what is missing.

The document underscores China’s larger ambition to shape international rules governing outer space and offers insights on Beijing’s plans to overcome significant obstacles facing its commercial space sector. And the paper suggests Beijing may be in no hurry to formally commit to crewed lunar missions.

China plans to shape the rules governing outer space

Notably, this document devotes an entire section to the global governance of space.…  Seguir leyendo »

Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket after the ringing of the Nasdaq opening bell in New York on Jan. 7. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

2021 was a big year for private companies and space travel, and 2022 will probably be just as busy. Last year, three companies — SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic — achieved key feats in space travel previously reserved to countries. They transported astronauts to the International Space Station, flew space enthusiasts into space, delivered cargo to low Earth orbit and developed reusable booster rockets.

In November, Elon Musk announced that his company’s Starship project may launch as early as this month. Developed by SpaceX, the Starship system is seen by many as a game-changer for space travel and exploration. When operational, the fully reusable transport system will be capable of carrying up to 100 people to Mars, marking the next step in the commercialization of outer space.…  Seguir leyendo »

The International Space Station on April 24. (Photo by NASA / AFP) (-/AFP/Getty Images)

When Russia blows up a satellite in space with a missile (as it did this month), or when China tests a new hypersonic missile (as it did last month), the ongoing arms race in space leaps into the news. But in between these “Sputnik”-like moments, outside the public’s view, the United States and its adversaries are battling in space every day.

While Washington officials and experts warn of the risks of an arms race in space, the United States’ adversaries are constantly conducting operations against U.S. satellites that skirt the line between intelligence operations and acts of war. The pace of conflict is intensifying, according to a top Space Force general, who told me that China could overtake the United States to become the number one power in space by the end of the decade.…  Seguir leyendo »

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaches the International Space Station for docking. NASA says the International Space Station was at increased risk from orbiting debris following last week's Russian weapons test. On Monday, Nov. 15, Russia used a missile to destroy a satellite in an orbit just above the space station. (NASA/AP)

Russia tested a ground-based missile last week, destroying a defunct but still-orbiting Soviet satellite, Kosmos-1408. China, the United States and India have conducted similar operations in the past, but this was the first time that Russia undertook a live intercept of this kind.

The Nov. 15 test took the world by surprise. What do we know about it — and what does it mean?

What, exactly, did Russia test?

The Russian military used an existing system, the PL-19 Nudol, to destroy the satellite. While information is sparse and contradictory, experts say Nudol has two alleged roles: as an antisatellite weapon and, more speculatively, as part of a new generation of the established antimissile system defending Moscow.…  Seguir leyendo »

The SpaceX Dragon in an image taken from the International Space Station. Photo by Tim Peake/ESA/NASA via Getty Images.

Mega-constellations are composed of several hundreds of highly networked satellites in low Earth orbit, and they are fundamental in providing uninterrupted communication through networks across the globe, enabling internet access even in remote areas.

The space industry has shown great interest in mega-constellations due to their expected high return on capital invested. SpaceX, via its Starlink satellite internet constellations, has already launched 60 satellites into low-earth orbit (LEO) in May 2021. It plans to launch thousands more in the coming years as part of its mega-constellation project. OneWeb, Amazon, and several other private space companies have similar ambitions.

Unregulated launches of mega-constellations, however, make low Earth orbit too crowded to function safely and securely.…  Seguir leyendo »

The hand-painted matryoshka doll that separates into ever smaller components is more than a tourist cliché for visitors to Moscow. It is also the design principle of a daunting weapon in the new battle zone of outer space.

The Russian satellite Kosmos 2542, launched last November, gave birth to a sub-satellite, Kosmos 2543. Baby Kosmos started to stalk an American spy satellite. Then, last month, 2543 released a high-speed projectile in what appeared to the United States and Britain to be something like a weapons test.

The Kremlin says that these manoeuvres are all about inspecting damage to Russia’s space fleet.…  Seguir leyendo »

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST) is the mainframe for space law. It recognizes the importance of the use and scientific exploration of outer space for the benefit and in the interests of all countries. It also prohibits national sovereignty in space, including of the Moon and other celestial bodies.

The OST prohibits all weapons of mass destruction in space – in orbit or on other planets and moons – and does not allow the establishment of military infrastructure, manoeuvres or the testing of any type of weapon on planets or moons. As the treaty makes clear, outer space is for peaceful purposes only.…  Seguir leyendo »