November 20, 2017

Is the U.S. ready for China’s ‘space militias’?

By Adam Routh

Economic interests in space continue to rise. In 2016 the global space economy represented $329 billion, and 76 percent of the total was produced through commercial efforts. With some of the most lucrative endeavors like asteroid mining, space tourism, micro satellites, and space colonies still in the early stages of development and application, it’s no wonder economic projections estimate the space sector will grow by $2.7 billion over the next three decades.

Nations’ militaries will continue to protect vital economic interests, and outer space will be no exception. But how will it happen? Will the United States see peer competitor militaries expand more aggressively into outer space? The answer lies in gray zone tactics and space militias.

The operational complexities of the space environment coupled with poorly defined international norms and laws will likely encourage U.S. adversaries to use gray zone tactics. Chinese maritime militias provide a likely model.

Maritime militias are merchant and commercial vessels that, when called upon, support roles similar to those found in law enforcement, disaster relief, and the military. Maritime militias are rather common around the world and often serve useful missions. There are also maritime militias, however, that do more than serve peacefully.

Read the full commentary in Space News.

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