As the Russia-Ukraine conflict grinds on, the future of space collaboration is unclear

The continuous conflict between Russia and Ukraine has everyone on pins and needles. Supply networks are under severe strain all across the world, consumer confidence has plummeted, and global economic development is still cloaked in uncertainty. Even the technology sector, which had been booming over the previous two years, has been hit hard. What about Space, humanity’s last frontier?

Space ties between the countries are also on a knife’s edge as of May 2022. Even the ISS (International Space Station), which is 400 kilometers above the earth’s surface, is affected by the war and its aftermath. While the United States has committed to participating in ISS-related missions through 2030, Russia has shown little interest in doing so.

Meanwhile, China plans to finish the Tiangong Space Station, which will compete with the ISS, by the end of this year, reducing the world’s dependency on the latter for the purposes of space exploration and missions. If Russia decides to abandon the ISS, it may soon be able to join China in its efforts.

Furthermore, ROSCOMOS chief Dmitry Rogozin’s recent series of tweets highlighting Western sanctions have done nothing to alleviate tensions. Although the International Space Station (ISS) is still in orbit, the present situation on international space cooperation may soon change.

 

Satellite cyberattacks

The UK’s NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre), the US, and, the EU declared on May 10 that the cyberattack on Viasat, a satellite-based international communications provider in Ukraine, was carried out by Russian military intelligence. On February 24, 2022, just an hour before Russia attacked Ukraine, the attack took place.

The military of Ukraine was the top focus, but other Viasat clients linked to the KA-SAT network, including business and internet users, were also affected, according to the government cybersecurity organization based in the UK.

Thousands of terminals were destroyed and rendered dysfunctional beyond repair in the attack, which has yet to be resolved. Wind farms throughout Central Europe were hit by this attack, which had far-reaching implications.

“This is clear and disturbing evidence of Russia’s purposeful and malicious attack on Ukraine, which has enormous ramifications for regular individuals and companies in Ukraine and throughout Europe,” UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said. Cyberattacks on satellite equipment are clearly risky since they can result in a big spill and security breaches across Europe.

While Russia first developed ASAT (anti-satellite weapon) capabilities in the 1960s, the United States quickly followed suit. In 2007, China successfully conducted an ASAT test to demolish an outdated meteorological satellite, marking its entry into the anti-satellite arena. Mission Shakti was launched in India in 2019 to follow suit.

Satellites are going to become an invaluable asset throughout the globe as more governments acquire privy to satellite data and use it for commercial and military applications. However, as satellites become more important in terms of military superiority, additional countries, such as North Korea and Iran, may contemplate entering the battle for ASAT systems to safeguard themselves.

However, ASAT weapons carry with them the issue of space debris, which has been repeatedly identified as a major concern by US national security experts. Russia recently shot down one of its satellites, bringing the problem to the forefront. More than 1,500 trackable space debris pieces were created as a result of the ASAT test. Despite the fact that the ISS has been cleared of trash, the situation remains hazardous because any debris poses a risk of colliding with active satellites which power essential equipment.

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