China begins second human spaceflight aboard Tiangong space station

On Oct. 15, China’s second manned mission to its new low-earth orbiting space station, Tiangong, was launched. The Shenzhou 13 spacecraft launched with three passengers aboard – Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu. Wang Yaping is the first female astronaut to live aboard the new space station. The three astronauts will conduct a variety of experiments onboard on topics such as space medicine and the effects of zero gravity. With this launch, China stated its commitment to international cooperation and peace in space, stating that sending humans into space was “a common cause of mankind.” A total of 11 launches will be needed to complete the entirety of the Tiangong space station, which will be about one-fifth the size of the International Space Station.

It is interesting to note that the US excluded China from the International Space Station, citing the secretive nature of China’s space program and close military ties. Due to that, China was forced to launch their own space station program, looping in experts from other countries such as France and Russia. The conflict between the US and China is well known and ongoing, with a lot of that conflict taking place in the cyber area. China and the US are constantly targeting each other’s classified systems with various hacking techniques in an effort to gain the intel advantage. The US likely considered the possibility that China could learn about or gain a way into classified systems if they were allowed to participate in the International Space Station program. With the launch of China’s new space station program, the US will also certainly be looking for ways to gain access through cybersecurity attacks to insider information regarding this program, considering its close ties to the military and government.

With this type of cybersecurity struggle between nation states critical data is what is being contested. Each side is attempting to find critical intel about the other side that could give them the leg up in a potential conflict. With tensions currently so high between China and the US, there are certainly a great deal of cyber attacks happening between the two countries every day.