If you've been following space stories the past few years, you'll know there has been a growing concern about the weaponization of space. Most regular readers here will be aware that this phenomenon is, in my opinion, inevitable, and for a variety of reasons. In spite of the fact that many space powers - China and Russia chiefly - are opposed to the weaponization of space, America's determination toward "full spectrum dominance" and its clear determination to weaponize space in order to dominate there, and maintain its empire down here, make a space arms race all but inevitable. Add to this the growing commercialization of space, and the need will inevitably follow to protect those assets.
All of that puts this strange story into an interesting perspective from which to entertain some high - in this case, orbital - speculation (this article was shared by B.H., to whom a thank you for spotting it and passing it along):
The essence of the short article can be captured in a few short paragraphs:
Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of military and aerospace contractor Raytheon Technologies, is working on environmental control and life support technologies for a “privately owned and operated low Earth orbit outpost,” according to SpaceNews.
There is a non-zero chance that the unnamed contractor is Axiom Space, according to SpaceNews‘ analysis. The Houston-based, privately funded space company is planning to construct its own commercial space station.
The company also announced the crew for the world’s first entirely-private mission into orbit back in January, on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
But whether Axiom Space is behind the Collins contract remains unclear. The company declined SpaceNews‘ request for comment.
And that is it.
What's interesting to contemplate here is the high octane speculation - the orbital speculation - that an unknown private company is doing this. I'm reminded of the James Bond movie Moonraker, with Robert Moore in the starring role as James Bond, and a perfectly cast Michael Lonsdale as the villain Drax, heading a company to build his own private space station, which, in true James Bond villain style, he also intends to weaponize and turn into a kind of Noah's ark while he destroys the planet.
Now I have no doubt that the current effort is just what it says it is: a space station. A private space station.
But I have to wonder how long it will be - in the scramble to commercialize space - before some corporation concludes that it will need to protect its space assets by putting up its own space-based weapons platforms? Given the current geopolitical circumstances, if you were, say, a Japanese or French firm with heavy space commitments, would you be willing to rely on the USA for protection of those assets? Probably not. And would you wait for your governments to pull out of their treaty obligations not to weaponize space? Again, probably not.
What I'm getting at here is that nation states are not the only space players, and I am even going to far as to suggest that they may actually lag behind corporations in the weaponization of space. The danger here is that any such decisions are likely to be taken in secret, and any such deployments made in secret.
Indeed, who's to say it hasn't already happened?
In that respect, there's an interesting line that Lonsdale's character Drax says to one of his assistants when he - Drax - understands that Bond is on to his scheme: "See that some harm comes to Mr. Bond..." In other words, it's a secret that those involved would want to keep secret... by any means.
To put it all country simple: I'm suggesting we need to expand our thinking; the nuclear powers are not simply nations, but the corporations that can (or do) manufacture nuclear weapons, and similarly, that the space powers are not simply the nations with space programs. Indeed, by those lights, America has not been a real space power for some time. But if one includes corporations capable of manufacturing space platforms and vehicles, the picture changes, and changes completely.
And Moonraker becomes a very real possibility.
See you on the flip side...