cover art for Commercial space systems and foreign armed conflicts

Scottish Council on Global Affairs

Commercial space systems and foreign armed conflicts

Season 1, Ep. 6

Dr Adam Bower is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in International Relations, and Director of Impact and Innovation in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews. Adam is also a Fellow of the Outer Space Institute. Here he talks with John Edward of SCGA on the difficult questions concerning the responsibilities - and potential vulnerabilities - of space companies and governments in times of war. Adam and John also look at Scotland's growing role in commercial space activities.

Modern societies are increasingly reliant on satellite-based services that enable critical Earth observation and data transmission services. While states continue to compete - and cooperate - in space exploration, space launch and the operation of Earth-orbiting satellites are now dominated by private space companies. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Western space companies have provided vital Earth observation and telecommunications capabilities to support Ukrainian military operations. This has provided a dramatic illustration of the growing entanglement between commercial and national space systems and the policy dilemmas that emerge when private actors take sides in a war in which their home governments are not formally fighting.

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