Space exploration was always linked to military and strategic interests and was long ruled by the rivalry between the two super power blocs led by the USA and the Soviet Union. During the period of international relaxation, scientific and civilian goals temporarily came to the fore. For example, the International Space Station (ISS), which was initially planned as a military station by the USA, is operated and further developed in international cooperation by 16 states or five space agencies.
Recently, however, the battle for space supremacy has gained momentum again. The USA established a national space army, Space Force, in 2019. A first space manoeuvre was conducted by France together with Space Force and European partners in early 2021. Russia signalled its ability to use space as a combat zone with a satellite firing in 2021. China, which remained excluded from using the ISS at the instigation of the Americans, has been operating its own space station since June 2022 and has established itself as a new player in the ranks of the major powers in space. In addition, with SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, a number of private space companies are entering the market and driving forward the commercial use of space.
The background to this current development is the recent major technological advances in space and cyberspace. Space-bound technological infrastructure has become a critical factor in our increasingly digitally controlled everyday lives and makes us vulnerable to attacks. The development of important resources through moon or astroid mining, is coming within reach and is fuelling the commercial interest of private investors. In view of this rapid development, international agreements are proving less and less suitable for regulating the associated problems such as the dangerous littering of outer space.
With growing geostrategic and economic importance, space has long since become the fifth domain of international politics, alongside land, sea, air and cyberspace. A dangerous arms race is underway in both the military and civilian spheres. At the Summer Academy, we want to discuss current developments and future scenarios of planetary geopolitics with experts from politics, space and science. The focus will be on possibilities of international space governance oriented towards sustainability and cooperation
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