US Considers Space Hotline with China

Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman
Image: US Air Force photo by Andy Morataya

Hotline bling in space? 

The US is thinking about setting up a hotline with China to be able to quickly get in touch with officials in Beijing during emergencies in orbit, Reuters reported on Monday. 

“What we have talked about on the US side at least is opening up a line of communication to make sure that if there is a crisis, we know who we can contact,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman told Reuters.

The White House would have the final say for the US side on whether to establish a hotline, though China has not yet been consulted on the idea. 

☎️ Silent treatment: Beijing and DC already have a 24-hour hotline for general leadership crisis communications; however, it is frequently politicized and ineffective.  

  • When the US experienced balloon-mania earlier this year—what a time to be alive—China rejected a call from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin via the hotline 
  • China’s Defense Ministry said they sent the US straight to voicemail because DC had  “not created the proper atmosphere.”

The space hotline would be specifically for space-related crisis management. 

As the number of people and assets in space increases, the need for maintaining clear comms channels​​ has also grown. In the case of hazardous space debris, high cost of failure decisions often need to be made in a matter of minutes. 

Consideration for a space hotline also highlights space as a growing national security domain. 

China Cyber Attacks: US intelligence has determined that along with jamming capability, China is building tech capable of hijacking spacecraft, which could impact the Pentagon’s network of surveillance, missile tracking, and military comms. 

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