To what extent is the USA the Current Space Hegemon? Biswasdip TIGELA


The United States has had a significant contribution to discovering space for human life and continues developing further technology to explore other planets, especially on Mars. Both terrestrial and Jovian planets are key research objects in the solar system for the US International Space Station National Laboratory. The sub-planet Moon race looks competitive, and the Earth orbital satellite race is almost out of control. Space is essential for human life; many technologies depend on the satellite, so human beings rely on technology. A congressman, Mr. Cooper, states that “satellites are the infrastructure of infrastructure.” (Cooper, 2019). It has been more than six decades since the space race began worldwide, and so far, there are two space stations in Orbit at this moment, thousands of satellites, and several rocket launching stations. Fortunately, there are six rovers on Mars but only one in operation. The International Space Station (ISS) is a pivot of the space race. Of those who have visited the ISS, 152 are US astronauts, 49 are Russian astronauts, and one from the UK (Visitors to the Station by Country, 2020). According to the record, there are just 11 Chinese astronauts who have visited space, but China has its own Tiangong 2 space station to increase this visitation number. More than 1425 satellites belong to the USA, while China has 382 (UCS Satellite Database, 2020). It looks like China is far behind. However, due to the space race, there is a worry about the weaponization of space. This has been triggered by the destruction of a satellite in space by China using a ground missile in 2007 and 2013.

This essay will compare and analyze to what extent the USA is the Current Space Hegemony. Mearsheimer, Gilpin, and Strange’s idea on hegemony will be discussed. How is progress and continuity among the space race countries, such as the US, China, Russia, European Union, India, France, Germany, Japanand their missions? What are Space and the Earth’s Orbit? Why is the space race essential? What will impact human society? What are the treaties? What are Anti-satellite Weapons, Deterrence? What type of new tech weapons are available? Is that Orbit being weaponized? What things play a role in the hegemony is the annual space budget, commercial space business, and the nation’s future missions to rectify the challenges of the US Space hegemony. Also, this essay will examine the space role in World War three if it occurs. In this essay, there will be textbooks, Journals, related organizations, websites, and available Internet sources used.


What is hegemony?

Hegemony is the dominations or influential role over the other states. The ideas of hegemon and “potential hegemon” are conspicuous in Mearsheimer’s hypothesis. Worldwide authority is essentially incomprehensible, but for a state that has obtained “clear-cut atomic prevalence,” characterized as “a capability to obliterate its rivals without fear of countering. (Snyder, 2002). Without nuclear power, with the right strategy, it is not possible to be a hegemon. Many countries are capable of a nuclear weapon at this stage, including nuclear weapons in space, which can be delivered through Orbit.

The fundamental thought epitomized in Thucydides’ hypothesis of hegemonic war is that crucial changes within the international framework are the essential determinants of such wars. The structure of the system or dispersion of control among the states within the framework can be steady or unsteady. A stable framework is one in which changes can be put in the event that they don’t debilitate the imperative interface of the prevailing states and in this manner cause a war among them. Such a steady framework has an unequivocal pecking order of control and an unchallenged overall or hegemonic control. An unsteady framework is one in which financial, innovative, and other changes are dissolving the universal chain of command and undermining the position of the hegemonic state. In this latter circumstance, untoward occasions and conciliatory emergencies can precipitate a hegemonic war among the states within the framework. The result of such an action could be a new worldwide structure. The basic idea is that the uneven development of control among states is the driving constrain of universal relations and can be recognized as the hypothesis of hegemonic war (Gilpin, 1988). It has main relations with wealth.

The USA is the first country to launch more than 1,327 satellites in space, including International Space Station (ISS). The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the most successful science and technology center. There are also many private Space agencies in the USA. Therefore, the USA has always dominated the world since the race started in the late 1950s. NASA’s capability is not only for orbital space and moon but is also working for Mars and beyond as well. Four out of the six rovers sent to Mars belongs to NASA. Only one of the rover is in operation, and that also belongs to NASA. This means only the USA has connectivity on Mars at this moment. Projects and progress are depending on the budget. According to a record, 2018’s NASA budget had $19.5 billion, China $11 billion, India $1.5 billion (Kumar, 2020). The budget is a mirror of a state’s effort for space.

The US is a country where they formed the US space force (USSF) in 2019 (About Space Force, 2020). This USSF supports evidence for domination globally, and there are many predictions, including the USA potentially storing nuclear weapons in space. There should be a question why the USA have hegemony on space? Because the USA has most and only one access to space, moon, and Mars, many satellite launching stations and human spaceflights among them 11 are the bonafide spaceports that will give more power than any other countries (Greshk, 2018). The government’s plan projection, commercially transportation business to the space station is a big income source for the US, because thousands of satellites transporting from the Earth to Space station, the Earth to orbit. According to the Federal Aviation Administration report in 2018, there was a $344.4 billion global space economy (FAA Office, 2018), which means it is a big business. Most of that businesses are centralized in the US, which is proof of the hegemony on the space.

Back in 1926, Robert H. Goddard launched a liquid-fuelled rocket and became the father of modern rocketry (News, 2012). And in 1929, Goddard launches a rocket with a barometer and a camera in his 4th experiment. The second generation began in 1942; Germany launched its first-ever ballistic missile, V-2, which was used at the end of the European Combat War during World war II. Later, the US took to Mr. Wernher von Braun, a German engineer in the US, to develop the space rocket. The third generation began in 1957, which was the launch of a satellite by the Soviet Union from Tyuratam. The satellite was called Sputnik 1, and it was launched during the space race between the USA and the Soviet Union. The United States launched the first satellite an onboard telemetry system, on the 31st of June 1958. After a few months, the NASA administrator announced a NASA manned spaceflight program with a task force group on the 7th of October 1958. That announcement was just after six days of NASA being established. From then on, they have been leading the way towards the space race in the last six decades.

During the Cold War, President John Kennedy announced on the 25th of May 1961 that an American will go to the moon and will come back safely in this decade. The following year, NASA launched Telstar 1 and was successful in transmitting television signals. In the same year, they also launched a spy satellite as well. As President Kennedy had promised, about to end of decades on the 20th of July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Aldrin landed successfully on the moon on Apollo 11. They walked around for three hours and returned to Earth safely (News, 2012).

The Mars Programme is much higher than the Moon ambitions. The Soviet’s Mars 3 and Europe’s Beagle 2 mission have failed after landing on the Mars surface, and therefore not successful. Yet, so only the US managed to continue to operate a rover on Mars. That rover is called Curiosity, which was launched in 2011 (Amos, 2020).

From the start of the decades, there is competition with the former Soviet Union/Russia, China, and others; however, the US is always in the leading role.


What is space power?

What is space power? Susan Strange argues that, nowadays, the information most looked after by those who seek after control or riches, military or corporate authority, in technology and the innovation of modern materials as well as unused forms, modern items, and unused frameworks of collecting, putting away, and recovering data and modern frameworks of communication is the power. (Strange, 1987). Traditional knowledge, weapon, and technology could not retain the power or sustain the hegemony.

Before, knowledge, new technology, population strength, stable politics, Military, and wealth were the power. However, Nuclear with space capability domination is the fundamental requirement of the hegemony because no one has a defence system against space nuclear system yet, so far not named space nuclear, but there is a possibility to store nuclear in space in the future.

To be an influential nation in the world, there are specific requirements. First, you have to invent the foremost new, and powerful technology, global knowledge, strategic weapon set such as data colonized and most important is budget. Russia has just decreased its budget due to the country’s economy, but China is increasing massively in the same proportion as the US. However, the US has more than $21 billion, whereas China has half of that budget. The US has a major role in operating the ISS, and the US already has sufficient assets; therefore, US domination over the space is still long-lasting. The ISS was lunch in Russia, and that was a joint project of five nations: NASA (US), Roscosmos (Russia), ESA (EU), CSA (Canada), and JAXA (Japan). (Howell, 2018). There are many joint missions project, but China is doing its own Space Station, and there might be a big number of satellites.

The space power is not only the Space Race. There are combined with new technology such as unmanned drones, ray gun, Robert soldier, nuclear weapon, and ballistic missiles, but most of them depend on the satellites. There are nine types of satellites: Communications, remote sensing, geocentric orbit type LEO, MEO, HEO, navigations, geostationary (GEOs), Drone, Ground, Polar, Nano CubeSats or small sets, and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite. All type of satellites is important to the securitization of the space (Types of Satellites and Applications, 2020).


What is Space, Orbit, and why are these important?

The Orbit is a path in space that is curved. In the solar system, there are eight planets, and they going around to the sun. These planets have their own moons, and the Earth has just one moon; some other planets have up to 150 moons. The Earth has a gravitation of 9.81, and the Earth’s Moon has 1.6 gravitational acceleration. When we focally push an object towards the moon, then at the middle of the way will start to present the moon’s gravity, where both gravities appear then that place is almost neutral which is called the Orbit. There are three positions of Orbit: low, medium, and high. However, overall, there are six types of orbits as follow: Geostationary Orbit (GEO), Polar Orbit and Sun-synchronous Orbit (SSO), Lagrange points (L-points), Transfer orbits, and geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), Medium Earth orbit (MEO) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) (Types of orbits, 2020). The Orbital characteristics are important to know because the positioning of the satellite is essential at this moment. The ISS station is a big satellite that is just 400 km above the Earth, and it has the speed to circle the Earth 248 miles per hour and every 90 minutes. To complete the Earth circle means satellites are traveling at high speeds. If we talk about Space, Orbit is essential to know because Orbit is where the infrastructure of infrastructure is.

Could a capable country store the nuclear weapon in Orbit, roughly 400 km above our head. It could be quicker, accurate, and most dangerous. There are thousands of active satellites flying around, and more than 3,000 dead satellites are flying around. The ISS weight is 419,700 kg already in space, and six people can stay there for six months (Garcia, 2020). That means easily they can store the Nuclear weapons in Orbit. This is substantial alarming to human civilization at this moment. However, there are few agreements about space even though there is still debate about who the moon belongs to? (Chela, 2019).

There is an Outer Space Treaty signed on the 10th of October 1967. It is all about the Arrangement on Standards Overseeing the Exercises of States within the Investigation and Utilize of Outer Space, counting the Moon and other Celestial Bodies. It could be a treaty that shapes the premise of international space law. This Treaty was signed by the US, the UK, and the Soviet Union on the 27th of January 1967. And until 2020, 110 countries have been rectified.

This Treaty gives the primary principle and idea of international space law. Treaty points are as below. 1. The investigation and utilization of external space should be carried out for the advantage and within the interface of all nations and should be the territory of all mankind; 2. external space might be free for investigation and utilize by all States. 3. outer space isn’t subject to national apportionment by the claim of sway, by implies of utilizing or occupation, or by any other implies. 4. States should not put atomic weapons or other weapons of mass pulverization in a circle or on celestial bodies or station them in external space in any other way. 5. the moon and other ethereal bodies might be utilized solely for peaceful purposes. 6. Space explorers should be respected as the emissaries of mankind. 7. States might be dependable for national space exercises, whether carried out by legislative or non-governmental substances. 8. States should be at risk for harm caused by their space objects. 9. States should maintain a strategic distance from destructive defilement of space and firmament bodies. (The Outer Space Treaty, 2020). As for this Treaty no 4, no one will store nuclear weapons and mass destruction; however, Treaty no 2, free for exploration, could lead to uncontrol. The Treaty should include the penalty, punishment, and inspection body may be paramount because all states cannot access up to space and only hegemon states are in operation, so there is no transparent either they weaponizing the Orbit or not in this Space race. If there was not this treaty situation may worse than this; who knows power race is blended, one day may worse, and we will regrate.

The US, China, Russia, India, EU, France, German, and Japan are the major player in space. However, the US’s space race is unchallenged yet because NASA has done so many explorations over the planets, not only on the moon. NASA launched Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1977, and that spacecraft visited Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980. And Voyager 2 spacecraft was lunch to Neptune and 12 years after leaving earth spacecraft was close to Neptune for observation in 1989. Also, Voyager 2 was the closest approach to Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. This Voyager 2 will continue to travel further 20 years until radioactive power source will stop to supply electrical energy to critical power subsystem. (Voyager – Neptune Approach, 2021).

It was the same as observing and exploring one of the far distances the dwarf planets Pluto Flyby, Kuiper Belt Object Flyby NASA launched New Horizons spacecraft in 2006 and reached the location after 14 years in 2015. This New Horizons’ mission is still ongoing and extended 14 years more. (New Horizons, 2019). Pluto is located very far and last horizons of the planet’s line. NASA sent humans to the moon in 1969, and six missions successfully landed men on the moon. Thousands of satellites in Orbit, there are many tec weaponization and huge amounts of space and weapon business with the world. Therefore, the US space hegemon is unbeatable for a further decade.

After the disbanding of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991, due to political change having a problem or freeze the missions however they are already getting better and better, Soviet Union is the first nation to lunch successfully satellite over the Orbit but during the Cold War the US taking over to rest of the world. Newly named Russia have tried many missions, results were mixed some successful and some unsuccessful. Russia has powerful vanguard hypersonic missile and high techno missile defence systems such as S-400, S-500, which is 27 x time faster than voice. (Dalton, 2019). Russia is always competing with the US defence weapons system. Actually, these two countries are the big number of weapons sellers, but Russa has budgeted for the Space program is just $1.77 billion due to the states’ economy. (Kramer and Snyder, 2021). How is the Russian space agency situation? Here is a statement, “It is a nightmare scenario to space agency of Russia.” We are refurbishing every single rockets and spacecraft that they provided. (Kramer and Snyder, 2021). The Ruscosmos’s budget is a mirror of the Russian financial state; the Russian space budget is almost 7 x smaller than China’s. It is clear that Russia is not in Space Race; they just maintain the normal routine.

European Union’s European Space Agency (ESA) has a remarkable effort to exploration to space. The ESA has $7.43 billion for 2020. This is the third biggest national budget after the US and China. So on within an EU country, the French government has owned the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) since 1961, and it has an EU $2.780 billion budget for 2020 and remains the most significant contributor to space program within the EU. Also, France is a major contributor to ESA. (Matignon, 2019). France has a spaceport in Kourou – French Guyana because this place is closer to the Equator. Most of the lunching stations are best possible to closer to Equator or North Pole, which could help balance the earth gravity during lunching. CNES is investing in space transportation and exploration. (Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), 2020).

German aerospace center (DLR) also spends a big budget on exploration, and it works close to ESA. The United Kingdom Space Agency (UK Space Agency) it was newly rebranded in 2010. This agency carries out space base strategic capability, technologies, and science applications. And managing the UK-ESA relationship, but after the divorce with the EU, it may change. There was a budget of £371 million for 2016/17. Which is a very small budget compared with the Space run countries. (UK Space Agency, 2020). Before this space agency, there was a British National Space Centre in 1985, even before that British Space Programme began in 1952. So far, it successfully launched Arial 1 in 1962 and Black Arrow in 1971. British’s first astronaut Helen Sharman blasted into Orbit in 1991. (key missions from fifty years, 2021). There were many efforts and achievements in previous decades. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is an active agency at this moment. Recently, on the 17th of December 2020, they launched communication satellite CMS-01 into Orbit. They got a series of a mission to lunch including ten satellites within a few years. The first crewed mission of Gaganyaan will be expected to fly in 2022. I (Howell, 2020). ISRO had a robotic mission in the solar system; they sent Chandrayaan -1 into the moon in 2008 and launched Mars orbital Mission call Mangalyaan, which one successfully reached in 2014. So, India became the fourth nation to spacecraft in Martian orbit. (Mann, 2020). ISRO was established in 1962, and it has a budget of $1.9 billion for this year. In the space race, India has pressure to compete with China. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was formed in 2013, and it is a new version of The National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), established in 1969. JAXA’s aim is to research, lunch of Satellite on Orbit, research the moon and monitoring carbon dioxide, and observing the rainfall. (JAXA | NASDA History, 2003). JAXA has a budget of $1.7 billion for 2020; it is lower than the 2011 budget. It is clear Japan is not aggressive in the space race.

Some people said China is a rival of the US in the Space race. China has its own Space Station call Tiangong 2, which was lunch in 2016, which is in low Orbit just 295 km above our head. The space station is a spacecraft, whereas the human crew can stay for a long time. There are just two space stations first one is the International Space Station (ISS), which was lunch in 1998, and there were combine efforts, and the second one is Tiangong 2. (Goyal, 2020).

China has more than 363 satellites, and the remarkable Chinese achievement is that he destroyed a weather satellite with ground-based ballistic missiles in 2007. (China confirms satellite downed, 2007). China is the first country who develop an anti-satellite system in this decade; the US and the Soviet Union has tested it in the 1980s. Again, China tested the anti-satellite (ASAT) missile Dong Ning – 2 in May 2013. (Keck, 2019). A Chinese spacecraft, Chang’e-5, just returned from the moon and brought a pristine piece of the moon. It has not been done since the 1970s. (Jones, 2020).

For most ongoing Chinese activity is Mars rover rocket Tianwen -1 on the way to Mars. It was lunch on the 23rd of July 2020, and it will reach Mars in February 2021, which is next month. It is a piece of exciting news for the space race. There is just a US rover on Mars at this moment. If we look back on Europe’s Beagle -2 and Soviet’s Mars-3 missions, it failed, so Tianwen -1 result is in waiting. (Amos, 2020). If this mission is successful, what is the next mission of the China National Space Administration (CNSA)? If the mission fails, what is the contingent plan?

According to the record, since 1971, there were 11 space stations: Salyut1, Skylab, Salyut’s third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, ISS, and Tiangong but all are retired apart from ISS and Chinese Tiangong. (Harland, n.d.). Almost three dozen space stations were launched as a record, but only used so far 11 only, and Tiangong is the latest one. As the Chinese contributions towards the space race, CNSA is a looks rival of NASA but still takes a long time to catch NASA level. CNSA has an $11 billion budget for 2018, which is half of NASA’s annual budget. However, China is an uprising superpower globally. The Chinese government is the richest, and it has the most advanced technology, military weapons; therefore, China May the first country soon in the space race.


Possibilities of use Space in World War III.

The possibilities of the ruination of Orbit is very high. (Dorminey, 2014). There are three levels of Orbit. High-level Orbit is 35,780 km above; Medium orbit is 2000 to 35,780 km, and Low Earth orbit is 180 to 2000 km away from Earth. As we know, the International Space Station is just 408 km above our head, and it is 419,700 kg heavy means roughly a small size of a supermarket house. Therefore, if space power countries wish, they can store nuclear weapons secretly in Orbit. It is a shorter distance than London to Edenborough. Active satellites are 2,787 on the orbits with different propose some of the communication and some of Military propose. (UCS Satellite Database, 2020). Almost every military activity depends on the satellite. Not only the Military but human life also depends on satellite; that is why to win the war, they have to attack satellite first. If the satellite is destroyed, then rely on that satellite army will disable. The US and Russia already tested anti-satellite missile fire to destroy a satellite in the 1970s and 1980s, but China just tested from 2007 to 2014. (Krepon and Ompson, 2013). Also, space power countries are developing kinetic weapons, which is distractive or disable the satellite, but anti-satellite missiles could completely destroy the satellite. So an ultra-power leaser gun could harm the sensor or cause the fuel tank to explode. (Dorminey, 2014). Sometimes collision happens, in 2009 an Iridium satellite collided with a dead Russian spacecraft Cosmos, and the more dangerous incident could happen between the US, Russian, and Chinese military satellites in a future crisis. (Dorminey, 2014). That incident could be the Third World War.

When the cold war is over, and the International Space Station (ISS) started to run commonly as sharing with interested nations. At that point, the space race is almost over. The US is the only one in the domination role for a long time. But later, China is emerging with the market capitalist economy policy in the communist system, and China became an uprising superpower in the world. And started to enormous contributions towards the space race; therefore, China is looking for a space race rival. Also, China owns more than $1.1 trillion in the US debt. On top of that, China developed a more powerful fighter jet, missiles, and new weapons that could challenge US hegemony because the weapon business could shift the US to China. (How Much US Debt Does China Own?, 2020).

In conclusion, 

The USA Space Hegemon is existing, and it is much stronger than any other country, including China. However, the space race is not only about satellites. The space agency’s infrastructure, continuity, achievement, research property, missions, and budget are paramount. In this ultra-high technology era, space plays a vital role not only for military purposes but also in our everyday lives as most of our activities depend on space and technology. Space technology is the infrastructure of infrastructure. As for comparison and analysis, to an extent, the USA is the Current Space Hegemon, and it has continuity and advance in science. NASA is far advanced than any country; they have already sent spacecraft to the Jovian planets’ on the far side, including the most far and coolest dwarf planet Pluto and the planet Neptune. They also tested anti-satellite missiles in the 1980s; they have the International Space Station and do have a big commercial space business. The Mars mission is common for them because NASA is engaging for a long time with a rover on Mars; they were already exploring other planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Venus, and Mercury. Therefore, the US is much forward than China and any other country. NASA is maintaining the outer space treaty of 1976 as well, which is supported to stop weaponization. If we protect space from weaponization, any future war or third World War’s damage could be mitigated. There are many human-crewed missions on Mars and the Moon, which has made us proud of our science and technology. However, there are more than 3000 dead satellites on the Orbit that are harmful to the Orbit; therefore, let’s make voice to clean the Orbit and to not weaponize the Orbit. Susan Strange argues that the foremost new and unused weapons are power. But let’s stop dangerous weapons and stick to the healthy space race only.




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