The prospect of Star Wars–esque battles in space has become much more likely with the rollout of fifth generation (5G) wireless technology, powered by tens of thousands of satellites approved by the Federal Communications Commission and on track to be launched into space without significant public oversight.
Despite demands from the public, including anti-war activists in particular, for a 5G moratorium, the media push for 5G has been enormous—with constant advertising by Verizon and other telecommunications giants, a news blackout on critical discussions of the technology’s possible health and environmental impacts, and censorship on social media platforms of those questioning 5G tech.
5G wireless technology is a major factor in the weaponization of space. On October 8, 2020 the Department of Defense (DOD) announced $600 million in awards to advance its 5G capabilities, claiming that 5G technology has the potential to transform the military, because 5G’s high-speed connectivity would significantly enhance the ease and speed of sharing data from video, voice, sensors, targeting, reconnaissance, and even the sights on infantry weapons. Experimentation will take place at five US military sites, representing the largest 5G tests for dual-use applications—applications employed for both military and civilian purposes—in the world.
As John Keller explained in a December 2020 article for Military & Aerospace Electronics, the “ubiquitous high-speed data connectivity” promised by 5G will enable the US military to make use of “swarming unmanned vehicles,” “smart hypersonic weapons with re-targeting on-the-fly,” and “unmanned aircraft that can fly alongside passenger aircraft in commercial airspace.” It will also give the Pentagon “instant situational awareness anywhere on Earth.”
In March 2021, Kit Klarenberg reported for RT that the UK government is also planning for the eventuality of space warfare. In order to position the British military for “dominance” in space, the UK government intends to “launch a National Space Operations Centre, develop an ‘intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance satellite constellation’ and create a ‘Space Academy’ to train the country’s new army of ‘space specialists.’”
Many critics have voiced concerns about the consequences of the militarization of space. A March 2021 CounterPunch piece by Karl Grossman quoted Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, who warned that the “[l]aunches of tens of thousands of 5G satellites will ensure that every person on Earth will have a satellite over their head 24/7. Imagine the surveillance and targeting capabilities that would become available.” According to Gagnon, “The DOD and NASA are awarding hundreds of billions of dollars to the likes of Elon Musk of SpaceX and other private launch corporations to hoist the 5G satellites into the heavens.”
Other corporations—including OneWeb, Telesat, Omnispace, Lynk, Facebook, and Amazon—also plan to launch and operate large constellations of satellites in low orbit around the Earth. Gagnon predicts that congestion in the orbital paths of all these satellites “will become a point of conflict in the near future as other nations become agitated that the U.S. is grabbing most of the parking spaces in the increasingly contested orbits.”
Nor are these the only complaints critics of the drive to militarize space have raised. Other issues include worries about the effect of burning rocket fuel on climate change, satellite collisions generating space debris, increased surveillance and data mining, and the use of child labor in the mining of the rare minerals needed to make satellite and 5G infrastructure.
Heedless of these dangers and concerns, governments and the telecommunications industry continue to propagate wireless technologies and infrastructure, helped along by captive regulatory agencies and legislative efforts to silence public debate. At the same time, media campaigns and apps designed to addict the public—and especially children—have been effective in generating consumer enthusiasm for the new technology.
Gagnon told CounterPunch that “[t]here is presently no national or international regulation over the use of space. [. . .] It is up to all of us to speak out and demand that NASA, the Federal Communications Commission, the United Nations and the Pentagon quickly undertake a process of fair regulation of space operations.” Short of such immediate action, Gagnon warns that we will soon face a cascade of companies competing over space traffic, military confrontations, “deadly collisions”—“and even war in space.”
5G technology and its connection to the militarization of space has not been covered in any meaningful way by the corporate media. Foreign Policy ran a May 2021 editorial by an astrophysicist and an expert in diplomacy about space junk and other problems caused by the unregulated use of space. A July 2020 New York Times article noted that the “new Cold War” between the United States and China includes rivalry in outer space. Although the militarization of space—and especially the efforts being made by US adversaries like Russia and China to project military power into space—has been discussed by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other corporate news outlets, the important role of 5G in this militarization has only been reported by independent publications like CounterPunch or military-focused news outlets such as Military & Aerospace Electronics and Defense One.
Project Censored has previously covered growing health concerns regarding 5G technology.
John Keller, “What 5G Means to the Military,” Military & Aerospace Electronics, December 2, 2020.
Karl Grossman, “The Perils of Military 5G,” CounterPunch, March 15, 2021.
Kit Klarenberg, “Battle for the Galaxy: New Paper Reveals How UK is Making Extensive Plans for War in Space,” RT, March 25, 2021.
Student Researcher: Amber Yang (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)
Illustration by Anson Stevens-Bollen.