There is nothing new in space geopolitics. Cold War rivalry spawned the space race, and space has remained a national competition ever since. Governments have a clear and current interest in what goes on in space, from GPS monitoring to helping military decisions, satellite communications or accurate imaging, to aiding humanitarian organizations and refugee flows to high-risk countries. In recent times, space has become the battlefield for global security.
But despite this precedent, the geopolitics of space is increasingly being shaped by niche firms. First, as governments become more and more dependent on private space opportunities, there is an unprecedented level of space companies. Effect On some details and the development of the capabilities of national space operations. For the first time, strategic competition for space is based on both the private and public sectors. And as independents, the new space companies are far more important. presence in space. By launching their personal devices, they have changed how global security in and from space has long been understood. In short, space is no longer just about governments.
This does not mean that new space companies have completely driven governments out of space; Public investment in space continues to outstrip private investment. For example, public funding increased by 44% from 2008 to 2017, while the private sector accounts for a smaller share of space launches. Five years later, the numbers are almost the same.
But the nature of the work of private companies in space is also changing. Aerospace companies continue to support government projects, as do older companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin or Raytheon. However, the new space companies were given a high degree of autonomy and the ability to make government-related decisions.
In the 1980s, access to government projects for the commercial satellite remote sensing market was limited. However, when the intelligence community requires high-resolution images – for example, to track the movement of military forces around the planet – government sanctions oblige specialized private space companies to develop these products, helping to open up new markets.
As new space companies provide a higher level of expertise in their service portfolios, relationships between governments and private companies have become less of a “general contractor” relationship and closer to public-private partnerships. Previously, NASA determined “what” and “how” capabilities should be developed; Now the government defines the goal (“what”) and requirements at the highest level, and the details of how should be left to the industry.
As a result, governments are increasingly relying on aerospace companies not only to provide customized responses to pressing needs, but also to help them become leaders in global strategic competition. Such is the case with the EU’s CASSINI space investment fund of at least $1 billion for start-ups and the Chinese government’s 2014 D60 decision allowing large private investment in space companies. Until that time, the Chinese market was limited to two state-owned companies (CASIC and CASC). But since 2014, the space industry has grown rapidly – see Spacety’s Galactic Energy – by exporting its products to third countries as part of the “Digital Silk Road” under the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. Africa. , or foreign talented employees, as Minospace does.
This cycle has become beneficial for new space companies: in order to remain competitive in space, governments have become dependent on some of their services and products. Interstate politics gave way to big aerospace companies Effect How governments compete with each other.
Space companies are also shaping the geopolitics of space on their own. presenceThis in itself is new. For example, the Chinese government said its space station was forced to activate preventive controls to avoid a collision when it collided with Starlink satellites. In addition, NASA has delayed a spacewalk from the International Space Station due to concerns about space debris, although it is not easy to distinguish between private and government-produced debris.
The emergence of new space firms operating autonomously in space has highlighted some geopolitical vacancies that have not yet been addressed. Let’s think about the risks that might arise for democracies if private space objects were “captured” by terrorist groups, organized crime or other illegal actors. Or any cyberattack on a satellite that manages sensitive data for the safety and well-being of people requires mutual trust between governments and the private sector.
Without uniform rules between public and private stakeholders, policy gaps will remain. Simply put, the unprecedented speed with which these companies have run means that the existing multilateral forums have not yet put in place the necessary mechanisms to deal with these problems. This should be of interest to countries that support democratic principles, because in addition to the traditional space problems, there are new problems in which private companies play a more important role and which need to be addressed from a democratic point of view.
There is no doubt that new space companies are changing the global competition for space. They influence how governments interact and compete with other countries, and have a large autonomous presence in space, creating facts in the air.
With so many actors in space, we can no longer function without understanding and rules. There is now an urgent need for a multi-stakeholder global dialogue to consider the new space age, its implications for global security, and the needs and demands of individual and new players, be they countries or private companies.
Governments will continue to play an important role in deciding on global standards as they are the core of political representation. However, a new era of cooperation in space has already arrived; It is time to create new standards and protocols.