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Is Space Becoming the Next Battlefield?

With Russia allegedly planning to position nuclear weapons in space, Sky News consulted three experts to understand the implications of military activities there.
There's been chatter about Russia potentially creating space-based nuclear arms, raising questions about the future of military activities in space.

Military use of space isn't new, however. Earth's orbit is filled with thousands of satellites critical to missile guidance, combat aircraft navigation, and nuclear arms management.

Sky News delved into this with three space authorities.

Over 8,000 satellites circle our planet, with numbers rising. "Our reliance on satellites for daily tasks like communication and GPS makes them a strategic asset," Sky News' Thomas Moore expounds.

31 GPS satellites are active, 24 of which are essential for precise global positioning.

Despite their civilian use, satellites have been part of military operations for a long time. "From the dawn of the space age, military objectives have dominated," Dr. Bleddyn Bowen from the University of Leicester observes.

Satellites can be destroyed—a capability demonstrated by the US, Russia, China, and India.

According to Dr. Bowen, satellites often undertake "close inspections," hinting at the potential for satellite collisions as an offensive tactic.

However, destroying a satellite could generate widespread debris, causing uncontrollable damage to other satellites.

As for other space weapons, the UN's Outer Space Treaty, signed by major powers including the US and Russia, bans the deployment of nuclear arms in space and limits extraterrestrial domains to peaceful purposes, explains Dr. Sarah Jane Fox of Space Park Leicester. Yet, new challenges may arise as warfare evolves.

If one were to sidestep the treaty, Dr. Bowen suggests that Earth-based nuclear weapons could be modified for space use without physically placing them in orbit.

Exploding a nuclear device in space would cause a devastating electromagnetic pulse and severe radiation, wreaking havoc on satellite electronics and potentially Earth's power grids.

Moore questions the tactical benefit of launching nuclear attacks from space over terrestrial launches, considering the potential downsides of such actions.

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