Growing Risk Tolerance of One Nation Dangers All

The RAND Corporation recently released a study outlining how China sees themselves as a direct competitor to the United States in terms of the space environment. More specifically, they see a race between the United States and themselves to solidify the top military power in space.

China has a long standing policy of not interacting or cooperating with the United States relating to space activities. According to the report, China has become more “assertive” and “risk tolerant” in their effort to become the top space superpower. Unfortunately, this assertiveness and risk tolerance, coupled with the lack of communication, puts everyone in the space environment at risk.

On June 30th, it was widely reported that a Chinese rocket test went wrong and a the rocket itself crashed near a populated city. Just one week prior on June 22nd, a Chinese rocket booster flew over another city and crashed just outside the populated areas. These two events, along with a willingness to use Anti-Satellite Missiles (notably in 2007), exemplify the nations recklessness within the industry.

The risk tolerant nature of their actions within the industry signal to US Operators, and Operators around the world, that the threat avenues conceptualized are becoming more likely to occur. Threats such as proximity surveillance, signal jamming, and snooping, attacks on Ground stations and operations centers, and anti-satellite missile usage have increased in likelihood relative to the recent past.

The RAND Corporation’s report did not recommend action on the part of US Operators in response to China’s stance. Since the communication policy of the Chinese government has long been an uncooperative one, RAND believes that efforts to create communication channels for crisis moments would be wasted and possibly negotiated in bad-faith. For the future, the US must account for this shift in mentality and understand what the end goal is for nations like China.