The Physics of War in Space: How Orbital Dynamics Constrain Space-To-Space Engagements

What might a war in space look like? As the United States and the world discuss the possibility of conflict extending into space, it is important to have a general understanding of what is physically possible and practical.

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While there has never been a battle in space, we can still gauge what a war in space might look like. It would not be like the movies with intense dogfights. Instead space-based threats would be un-crewed and require slow and deliberate planning to get into position. Compared with the timing and flexibility limitations of on-orbit weapons, ground-based threats afford substantially shorter engagement execution timelines and the prospect of more numerous shots. The more we can internalize these insights, the better we can understand the stakes of a geopolitical fight in space.

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