Public health is on our minds: Here’s how it applies to outer space

April 14, 2020

The number of threats to the security of outer space is growing. Reports on global counter-space capabilities released at the end of March by the Secure World Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies indicate that the range of capabilities that can interfere with and even destroy satellites is increasing, as is covert on-orbit activity. New initiatives such as the U.S. Space Force, Space Commands in the militaries of the United Kingdom and France, and a Defence Space Agency in India signal the extent to which states are preparing for possible warfighting in this domain.

Under these conditions, how can space assets be effectively protected? Right now, it seems that more actors are thinking about developing their own counter-space capabilities under the banner of deterrence. In France, for example, this idea extends to “body guard” or self-defence satellites. Such solutions are less than ideal. Satellites are difficult to protect, and efforts to do so can easily appear offensive, risking both an arms race in space and further contamination of a fragile environment.

Instead, it is imperative that we make the space environment itself safer. To do this, we should think about security from the perspective of public health. My work on the strategies of containment has shown that there are significant links between security and public health. For example, efforts to encourage responsible behaviour can enhance both.

We don’t need more hardware to protect assets in outer space. We need better hygiene—stronger norms of behaviour to enhance our collective safety and security.

Read the full article at Spacewatch.Global.

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