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Geostrategy in space (also referred to as
astrostrategy) deals with the strategic considerations of location and
resources in outer space territory. In essence, it is the study of
the strategic application of resources to the geography of space.
Initial geostrategic concerns, as humans reach further outside of
Earth, will be focused on how
strategic locations and resources relate to the Earth itself.
Following further development of human presence in space,
geostrategic concerns will place greater focus on the relation of
geostrategic locations and resources in space with one another.
- See also: Solar system, Geological features of the Solar System, Magnetosphere
Building upon Halford J.
Mackinder's divisions of Earth's geography into strategic
regions, astrostrategists divide space into distinct areas with
unique strategic characteristics. The key to each country's
strategic relationship with the various regions is transportation
technology, especially as it concerns military mobility. If a state
could not physically control a strategic area, then it must at
least endeavor to deny control of the area to other powers. Because
of the vast resources available to those who can control territory
and locations in space, any state that could command space would
exercise tremendous influence over all others.
- This area encompasses the physical Earth stopping just before
the altitude at which unpowered orbit is possible. Just as a coast
is to the ocean, the atmosphere here is to space—Earth is the
transition region between astrostrategy and geostrategy. It is the
crucial territory for transport, take-offs, landings,
communication, production, and maintenance.
- Earth Space
- Between the lowest possible orbit, and the geostationary orbit,
this area is the operating region for all military and
communications satellites and networks, including reconnaissance,
navigation, and space-based weaponry. It also includes the zone
through which medium and long-range ICBMs make their highest
altitude stage of transit.
- Moon Space
- This region encompasses the band of space beyond geostationary
orbits to just beyond the Moon's orbit. Within this space lies the
Moon itself, as well as the strategic lagrange points.
- Solar Space
- This region is simply everything within the Sun's gravitational
field, outside the orbit of the Moon. Current ability to exploit
this region is quite limited, but its resources are vast, including
the possibilities of colonization, terraforming, and planetary mining of the
other planets in the solar system, as well as their moons, and
asteroids. This area is the future potential "lebensraum" for an extraterrestrial
- Main article: Planetary orbit, Earth
Spacecraft in stable orbits need expend no fuel. As there are
only precise routes that result in stable orbits, there is already
a scarcity of resources in space's space. The useful life of a
spacecraft is in many ways determined by the stability of its orbit
(which can be disrupted by orbital
perturbations) and its fuel reserves. Perturbations are caused
by the interaction of gravitational fields other than the
Earth's—the Moon, Venus, Mars, the Sun, Jupiter, etc.—as well as
defects in the Earth's own gravitational field caused by its
imperfectly spherical shape.
The distance of an orbiting craft or satellite to the Earth also
affects its utility: the lower the craft, the better its
observational capacity in monitoring events on the Earth's surface;
the further away the craft's orbit, the more easily a stable orbit
There are generally four categories of orbits around Earth,
defined by the distance and angle of their orbit:
- Low altitude orbits:
- Generally ranging between 150-800 km above the Earth's surface,
these orbits are used primarily for Earth reconnaissance and manned
flight missions. Because of the low altitude, up to 14-16 orbits
can be completed per day. Satellites can be placed in low altitude
orbits by cheap two-staged rockets. (See also: Low Earth
- Medium altitude orbits:
- Ranging from 800 km to 35,000 km above the Earth, these orbits
are used for linked satellite networks. Global positioning system
satellites occupy medium altitude orbits, triangulating positions
on Earth. Telecommunication networks may also soon inhabit this
orbital strata. They can achieve anywhere from 2-14 orbits per day.
(See also: Intermediate circular orbit)
- High altitude orbits:
- From 35,000 km and beyond, these orbits are useful for
providing the maximum continuous coverage of Earth, with a minimum
of satellites necessary. Orbits or this distance allow for one or
less orbits per day. An orbit exactly equal to one day is called a
"geosynchronous orbit", and a
geosynchronous orbit placed at a 0° inclination from the Earth's
equator (a "geostationary orbit") appears as a
fixed point in the sky when viewed from anywhere on the Earth's
surface. Only three geosynchronous satellites are necessary to gain
coverage of the Earth's entire circumference. As they do not appear
to move, they can also be easily accessed by non-mobile antennae.
Global communications and weather satellites occupy these types of
orbits. Their main drawback is an inability to view the polar
regions, above or below 70° latitude. (See also: High Earth Orbit)
- Highly elliptical orbits:
- To overcome the deficiencies of polar viewing from high
altitude orbits, the highly elliptical orbit was developed. Rather
than being symmetrical, such an orbit can have a perigee as low as
250 km, and apogee of up to 700,000 km. When placed highly inclined
with an apogee of 36,000-40,000 km, the satellite can dwell over
the polar region for several hours before racing around the Earth
at very high speeds. When three satellites are placed in the same
orbit and networked, they can provide continuous surveillance and
ground access. (See also: Molniya orbit, Polar orbit)
This diagram shows the five Lagrangian points that occur in a
two-body system (e.g. the Earth and the Moon).
- Main article: Lagrange points
Lagrange libration points are theoretical points of
gravitational anomaly, wherein the gravitational effects of two
orbiting bodies would cancel each other out. French mathematician
Joseph Louis Lagrange calculated
that there were five points where the gravity of the Earth and the
Moon would cancel. An object orbiting around any one of these five
points would remain permanently stable, without the fuel
expenditure usually associated with maintaining such a position.
These points remain fixed relative to the Earth and the Moon in
theory, although orbital perturbations render only two of the five
Lagrange postulated practically stable. L1, L2, and L3 are subject
to unstable environments, and thus are not practically usable as
theorized. The so-called Trojan points, L4 and
L5, are theoretically stable, although this, of course, remains
speculative. The military and commercial value of such stable
points would be immense. A U.S. group called the L-5 Society was
created to advocate control of these points.
The Van Allen radiation belts. The Outer Van Allen Belt holds
trapped electrons, while the Inner Van Allen Belt holds trapped
- Main articles: Magnetosphere, Earth's magnetic field, Van Allen radiation belt
The location of Earth's Van Allen belts is of strategic
importance, because these areas contain highly charged particles
which can damage spacecraft travelling through them.
The Inner Belt ranges from 400-1,200 km, depending on
latitude, and extends outward 10,000 km, with its most lethal
area 3,500 km out. The South Atlantic Anomaly can
potentially disrupt satellites in polar orbits, but usually does
not pose a problem for manned spaceflights.
The Outer Belt ranges from 10,000-84,000 km, with its most
lethal area 16,000 km out. The Outer Belt is affected by solar
winds, and is thus flattened to 59,500 km in the area directly
between the Earth and the Sun, and extends to its maximum distance
in the shadow of the Earth.
A safe channel exists between the belts from
9,000-11,000 km, as the edges of the two belts are relatively
- See also: The Moon,
The Outer Space Treaty forbids any
military activity on the Moon. Currently, the resources available
on the Moon and the cost they require to be extracted do not make
it a crucial target. It has been argued, however, that the Moon
could present other advantages of strategic importance.
- As a shipyard: Lying at the bottom of a small gravity well, a
shipyard available to construct space ships only with lunar
materials would require less energy to launch than one built inside
Earth's atmosphere and would require less complex operation and
supply chain than one constructed in Earth's orbit.
- As an observatory: The Moon always presents the same face to
the Earth. Therefore it is a natural shield against artificial
radiations from earth that could be used for space observation in
the radio spectrum. Today most of the artificial objects are easily
observable from earth's orbit, but in a world where some of these
objects would have military applications and therefore would
probably have some stealth abilities, such an observatory could be
a valuable military asset. Additionally, the Moon lacks an
atmosphere and an ionosphere that perturb many wavelength in
- As a bombing base. This idea has been first described in The Moon Is a Harsh
Mistress, from Robert.A Heinlein. Considering that the Moon has
a very low escape velocity when compared to
Earth's, it should be possible to build a canon (or a mass driver, or even a
trebuchet) that would simply throw rocks in Earth's direction. It
is a non-orbital version of Kinetic bombardment.
- Main articles: Space colonization, Colonization of the Moon, Colonization of the outer solar system
Militarization of space
- Main articles: Militarization
of space, Strategic Defense
Initiative, Air Force Space Command
- See also: Astrogeology
The other planets, moons, and asteroids of the solar system have
a tremendous set of untapped resources.
The Moon has large deposits of aluminum, new ores of titanium,
pure iron, calcium, and silicon (usable for photovoltaic solar
energy production). Oxygen can be extracted from lunar soil simply
by heating it. Even water from impacting comets remains around the
edges of craters. The Moon's resources can potentially be accessed
and utilized in the near-future.
History of space
- Main article: Space Race
The Space Race was a competition of space exploration between
the United States and Soviet Union, which lasted roughly from 1957
to 1975. It involved the efforts to explore outer space with
artificial satellites, to send humans into space, and to land
people on the Moon.
Though its roots lie in early German rocket technology and in
the international tensions following World War II, the Space Race
effectively began after the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 on 4 October
1957. The term originated as an analogy to the arms race. The Space
Race became an important part of the cultural, technological, and
ideological rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union
during the Cold War. Space technology became a particularly
important arena in this conflict, because[specify] of both its
potential military applications and the morale-boosting social
- Dolman, Everett C. Ed. Colin S. Gray and Geoffrey Sloan.
"Geostrategy in the Space Age." Geopolitics, Geography and
Strategy. Frank Cass: Portland, Oregon, 2003. pp. 83-106.