Satellite technology and the new geopolitical frontier

Analysis of national space policies suggests challenges ahead for the management of sovereign data entitlements.


Since the launch of Sputnik I in 1957, state-sponsored space programmes have been a source of national pride and identity for countries with vision and resources enough to venture skyward. Space technoscience, much like nuclear weapons, football teams and airlines, became a blue riband indicator of national power and international prestige. By the end of the Cold War, some 25 states had orbital assets of varying functionality and longevity. The number has since more than trebled. Satellites, especially with the advent of the Internet and the development of a global service economy, have become integral components of civilian and national security infrastructures. The satellite technology sector has also enjoyed robust commercial growth. It is no surprise that states that don’t have them, want them, and states that already have them, want more.  They hoover up, create and broadcast information, and in a global economy increasingly defined and driven by data, they have taken on outsized importance – becoming potent if largely invisible symbols of political and economic clout.

Sovereign Data examines current trends in satellite technology, and explores the political and economic drivers motivating state behaviour in outer space.

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Citation: “Satellite technology and the new geopolitical frontier,” Sovereign Data Vol 2. No. 2 (February 2016).