Artist’s conception of Galileo satellite in orbit in 2021. Image courtesy of European Space Agency

Avoiding an unintentional space war: Lessons from Cold War nuclear diplomacy

By Maxwell Simon, Sam Wilson, May 13, 2021

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Artist’s conception of Galileo satellite in orbit in 2021. Image courtesy of European Space Agency

In July of 2020, senior US and Russian officials held talks about space security and strategic stability, the first such talks between the two countries dedicated to these issues in seven years. The meetings came at a time when the domain of space has been becoming increasingly tense: Just a few weeks earlier, the US Space Command reported that Russia had tested a space-based weapon (US Space Command Public Affairs 2020a); almost a year earlier, the US Director of National Intelligence had reported that Russia and China were fielding new weapons that could put US space capabilities at risk (Coats 2019).s

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Tensions have not eased since then, and in December 2020, the US Space Command reported that Russia had tested as direct ascent anti-satellite weapon, its second such test of 2020 (US Space Commands Public Affairs 2020b). Meanwhile, both countries are blaming the other for weaponizing space.

Disclosure Statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

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