World powers are getting really creative.

Space Lasers

Human society has become increasingly reliant on satellites, from tracking agriculture and the weather to high-speed broadband access and GPS.

In wartime, disrupting an adversary's access to these technologies could give a country a massive tactical advantage, plunging the enemy into economic uncertainty and social instability.

And nations are becoming increasingly creative in devising new ways to knock out enemy constellations. As US Space Force chief master sergeant Ron Lerch told the New York Times, the military branch is concerned over the sheer number of different "kinetic kill vehicles" that could soon be roaming around in space, including Russian "nesting doll" satellites that could damage other spacecraft like a violent, orbital jack-in-a-box. Other spacecraft, he said, might be able to cast nets or grab onto targets with grappling hooks.

Then there are China's uncrewed space planes that could soon learn to communicate with the ground using quantum tech, or AI-powered satellites.

In short, concerns over conflict in space have led to a burgeoning space arms race in Earth's orbit, with different militaries rushing to gain the upper hand.

Blowing Up

In the meantime, Lerch told the NYT that within the next ten years, we'll see satellites that can spray chemicals or use lasers to blind other satellites.

In late 2020, the US Space Command warned that Russia had just launched a test direct-ascent anti-satellite missile, designed to destroy a satellite in low Earth orbit.

The missile blew up a retired Soviet-era missile, creating a massive "debris cloud" and even forcing astronauts on board the International Space Station to shelter in their escape vehicles.

There have also been instances of adversarial satellites coming suspiciously close to US assets in orbit.

But it's not just a variety of new types of spacecraft threatening to blow up satellites in space. The Space Force already has to contend with a digital battle being waged back on the ground.

"It’s not the kinetic threat that keeps me up at night," Space Force Operations Command official Chandler Atwood told the NYT. "It’s the cyberdefense aspect. We have significant vulnerabilities we have to harden up."

More on space weapons: Space Force Proudly Shows Off a Painting It Made of Kidnapping a Satellite

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