The Combined Space Operations or CSpO was announced earlier this week, and is a first step towards a modern-day space defence alliance. It resembles something more like you'd expect from a science-fiction film, but with how fast activity in space is evolving, it is a sign of where space is headed.
Agreed upon by Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, the UK, and the US, these countries already are sharing and co-ordinating in defence aspects, but most of them are also part of the Artemis mission - the US led effort to get humans back to the moon.
Some of the ideas and principles outlined in the statement are not surprising or unique, such as safeguarding and securing the free use of space for everyone. The idea that space is for everyone, is a principle that has guided space for decades, dating back to the first treaties in the late 50s and early 60s.
Other parts of the co-operation are trying to solve major pressing issues that everyone is trying to deal with, like the sustainable use of space. Space junk - anything human-made that is currently not able to be controlled in space, is a growing problem.
Estimates range from hundreds of thousands to millions of pieces in space. Small pieces, even centimetre or smaller, sometimes even the size of a flake of paint, can damage or destroy a satellite.
There is a huge effort under way to solve the space junk problem, from new technologies to minimise the creation of more junk, to new ways to build satellites to be sustainable, like the first wooden satellite which is scheduled to be launched this year. There is also the need to track, catalog, and remove junk in space - an area that Australia is one of the world leaders.
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This principle also has a subtle tone against recent activity by Russia. In November of last year, Russia launched a missile that destroyed one of their satellites. This was a test to show that they have the capability to destroy satellites in a defensive capability. It was met with condemnation from across the world. It also created thousands of pieces of debris, and even posed a serious risk to the International Space Station.
India did one as well in 2019, preceded by China and the US.
This reaches another principle and tone of the co-operation - upholding the law of space. The group will aim to uphold the laws of space like the Outer Space Treaty, which declared space is for peaceful uses. It also notes that they will co-operate in instances of armed conflict.
In the new race to the moon, there are two groups - the US led Artemis mission and one by China and Russia. Both groups are racing to the moon, and the race is on to set-up bases and activity on the moon, as well as grab resources first and the most.
The worry has always been this is headed us for a new conflict in space, different from a mostly civil race to the moon in the 60s, which even until recently, has found a way to create co-operation in space while there was conflict on Earth.
This agreement shows that the real thinking that conflicts in space and on the moon, might be closer to reality than people think. Hopefully we can use the lessons of space during the Cold War to find a way to unite, rather than divide.
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