India, China... The New Faces of International Space Politics

Emerging nations' space policies, for the last “Mardi de l'espace” of the season

It’s already the last Mardi de l’espace (Space Tuesday) of the season! On June 18th, come and meet with two specialists in space policy to hear about the emerging spacefaring nations. What’s going on with China and India? Is a new space race awaiting us? What do these new powers want?

It’s already the last Mardi de l’espace (Space Tuesday) of the season! On June 18th, come and meet with two specialists in space policy to hear about the emerging spacefaring nations. What’s going on with China and India? Is a new space race awaiting us? What do these new powers want?

 

After this hectic year, the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES) has chosen to address the topic of space policy for the last Mardi de l’espace of the season. On June 18th at the Café du Pont-Neuf in Paris, Isabelle Sourbès-Verger, Assistant Director of the Alexandre Koyré Center, and Richard Bonneville, Assistant Director of Forecasting, Strategy and Programs of the CNES, will share their views with you on the space sector development achieved by emerging nations such as China and India. These countries are viewed by the media as the future technological competitors of the American and European powers, but the speakers will explain what we can really say about all this.

A different vision of space

Far from the Cold War and the space race, emerging nations are developing their own space priorities. For a few years now, China has been taking huge leaps forward, putting in place ambitious projects. With programs such as TianGong, it plans to launch its first space station by 2020. India still has a long way to go before carrying out manned missions, but it possesses satellite launch vehicles that have already proved their worth. These two powers have successfully launched lunar probes.

India has developed, in particular, a whole series of telecommunication satellites,

under the name of the Indian National Satellite System. (Sources: Insat-1B/NASA)

“We don’t address space the same way,” states Isabelle Sourbès-Verger. Emerging nations, like India and China need the space sector to develop. It helps them to cover a large territory, including some regions that are totally isolated and hard to reach. “The issue wasn’t the same for European countries, for instance, that already possessed the infrastructure before the boom in telecommunication and e-learning,” explains Isabelle Sourbès-Verger. In their case, the cost of a satellite quickly pays for itself. “The emerging nations can bring us different approaches,” underlines Isabelle Sourbès-Verger. They do not deal with the same concerns or the same stakes as the West. They also have a different way of looking at cost-effectiveness.

Heading for space collaboration with emerging nations?

The rivalry between the United States and China has repercussions in space, too. The Americans consider China an economic and political threat. “It is hard for the Europeans to work together with the Chinese, because America has vetoed the exportation of numerous American space components to China,” explains Richard Bonneville. “By doing so, they take the risk of pushing the Europeans and the Chinese to develop their own components to free themselves from this technological dependence.”

China launched its longest manned mission on June 11, 2013:

more than 15 days around the Earth. (Sources: Tianlian I-01 Launch/AAxanderr)

In imagining China’s participation in the space field just like their own experience with Russia during the Cold War, the Americans and Europeans might end up overestimating Chinese technological advances. “Of course we should not overlook the fact that the space sector is a political demonstration tool, at the domestic or international level. But we have to take it very carefully, at the risk of causing an epiphenomenon that simply should not be,” argues Isabelle Sourbès-Verger. Richard Bonneville is rather optimistic: “Today, the world is different. The economy is globalized and interconnected. Even if they are rivals, the economies of China and the United States are strongly linked. These two nations can’t help but get along.”

What about the other nations of the new international space scene? Where is Russia in all this? How can these countries be integrated into international collaborations? What can they teach us? Find out more about the future political space landscape at the next Mardi de l’espace at the Café du Pont-Neuf in Paris, or follow the session on Twitter via the hashtag #CNESTweetup.

 

Find out more:

Europe's Space Agency says NASA's going back to the moon after all, Blastr

http://www.blastr.com/2012/11/europes_space_agency_says.php

A collection from the NY Times: China's Space Program

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/china/space_program/index.html