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Security at the New Frontier

STARGAZERS, MOVE OVER. Both nations and the private sector are increasingly looking at space as a source of protection of terrestrial assets as well as an environment that itself must be secured.

It may or may not be man’s final frontier, but space is one of today’s security hotspots. That’s true for the traditional space-savvy nations, the United States and Russia, but also for the likes of India and Israel, according to the 2006 Space Security Index, the product of a consortium of groups and associations. For example, the Indian Air Force is trying to develop the ability to attack or counter space-based weapons that might appear in the future. And the Israeli Air Force has announced plans to launch “micro-satellites that could provide information on combat zones,” according to the index.

At the same time, communications satellites orbiting Earth are being better protected against attacks that could wipe out everything from television signals to GPS tracking. Some steps have already been taken to protect satellites from nuclear weapons by using radiation-tolerant components and sensors designed to switch off certain circuits upon nuclear detonation. They have also been placed into higher orbits to make them harder to attack.