Old Wine In New Bottle: Astropolitik savunmaanaliz - Everett C.Dolman Uzay

Old Wine In New Bottle: Astropolitik

In 1960, presidential candidate Senator Kennedy said, “If the Soviets control space, they can control the world, just as nations that controlled the seas in past centuries dominated continents[1]. With his election as president, the well-known space race story that turned into the prestige race of the cold war began. Actually, this interest in space was not new. Man’s curiosity about the unknown dates back to ancient times. The sun during the day, the moon and stars at night sometimes frightened people, and sometimes made them loved enough to ascribe holiness. As the planets, stars and galaxies became known, we became aware of how small our beautiful world in the universe. After the discovery of the continents, oceans and sky, space has come.

Space Technologies

It was thanks to the fundamental sciences like physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics that enable to go to space, to create a research and habitat in space such as the International Space Station (ISS), and to send explorer spacecraft farther such as Mars Perseverance[2]. The faithful and persistent efforts of scientists in universities, laboratories and research centers have led to the production of revolutionary space technologies and a significant increase in scientific knowledge. Most of these space technologies have turned into technologies that make life easier for all of us. Such as: Satellite communication, TV broadcasts, satellite navigation and positioning, meteorological forecasts, modern treatment methods, military applications and environmental practices are the first things that come to our mind. According to the European Space Agency’s 2009 data, 19% of space technologies have transformed into our way of life, 19% into software analysis, 14% into environmental protection and control, and 10% into the health sector. Of course, the countries that provide these services have political, economic and military purposes that make other countries dependent, apart from peaceful use.

Dr.Everett C. Dolman’s Book: Astropolitik


This very expensive and dangerous interest in space cannot be explained solely by human curiosity. Realist, liberal and constructivist theories made different explanations on this subject. But one of the most interesting explanation came from Dr. Everett C. Dolman. Dolman previously theorized “Space Power” similar to Halford Mackinder’s “Heartland Theory”, Alfred Mahan’s “Sea Power Theory” and Douhet’s “Air Superiority Theory”. He named this theory as “Astropolik” and explained it in his book[3]. According to Dolman, space was the potential future bases of the great powers and “Who controls low-earth orbit controls near-Earth space. Who controls near-Earth space dominates Terra. Who dominates Terra determines the destiny of humankind”. I guess, these sentences sound very familiar to you. Dolman defines Terra, which includes the Earth and its atmosphere up until “just below the lowest altitude capable of supporting unpowered orbit”.

Dolman studies orbits, regions of space, and launch points as astropolitically vital assets over which states can be expected competitively and strategically to struggle for control. By the term, astropolitik, Dolman means “the application of the prominent and refined realist vision of state competition into outer space policy, particularly the development and evolution of a legal and political regime for humanity’s entry into the cosmos”. Dolman argues that, at first glance, space appears to be a “featureless void” but “is in fact a rich vista of gravitational mountains and valleys, oceans and rivers of resources and energy alternately dispersed and concentrated, broadly strewn danger zones of deadly radiation, and precisely placed peculiarities of astrodynamics”. For example, not all orbits are the same. There are stable orbits that almost never use fuel, which is the most important factor determining the lifespan of satellites in space, and the first to grab. Being the first and turning it into an opportunity is the most important astropolitical principle in space race.[4] Just like the mercantilist countries in the period of geographical discoveries. A clear example of this can be given from GPS satellites. It was announced by the US National Standards Institute that GPS satellites, originally developed by the US Air Force for their own needs and made available to the whole world, contribute at least 1.4 trillion dollars to the American economy. (Politico) In addition to its economic benefits, GPS satellites (partially the countries with their own positioning satellites) have created a dependency on the USA for very critical military and civilian vehicles and equipment. Countries are trying to reduce these dependencies with alternative systems such as ground-based positioning and mapping. The security and economic dimension of space will constitute the subject of my other articles in the astropolitik category.

In space, completely different physical and legal rules apply from the physical and legal rules that apply in the airspace surrounded by the atmosphere around our world. While there are laws and regulations defined and enforced in the airspace that is part of the country of a nation state, the situation is quite different in the space just above it. Space does not even have a legally defined starting altitude. By general acceptance, the 100 km line above sea level was determined as outer space by the Hungarian scientist Theodore von Kármán. This line is called the “Kármán Line”. The flights over the Kármán line are defined as spaceflights. Space is also monitored by electronic equipments, just like the flight control radars used in airspace control. Especially, the safety of satellites and ISS against space debris is tried to be provided in this way.

Launch Stations

Astropolitically speaking, not only the orbits, regions and resources in space are important. At the same time, the locations of launch stations around the world that facilitate our access to space are also important. There are obvious economic benefits of deploying launch stations in sparsely populated areas as close to the Equator as possible. Because of the Earth’s rotation on its axis, the ground below us moves faster, like the outer edge of a spinning top, the closer you are to the Equator. This makes it more efficient for launches near the equator, by moving the spacecraft faster. Thus, it allows the fuel load of the launch platform to be reduced and the fuel load of the satellites to be increased. More fuel for satellites means more orbit time. A fixed-orbit satellite moves from west to east on the equator. The fact that it moves in the same direction as the Earth and rotates at the same speed makes it more advantageous to launch such satellites from the equatorial region. The French Guyana launch station used by the European Space Agency is the best example of this. Again, this region is a region with low earthquake and storm risks. In addition, the 102 degree launch angle due to its position is the possibility of launching both east and north[4]. French Guyana is used for EU countries as well as the United States, Japan, Canada, India and Brazil.

Launch stations close to poles, such as Russia’s Plesetsk Launch Station, also have advantages for polar orbits. The closer you are to the poles, the easier it is to send satellites to orbits passing through the poles. Polar orbiting satellites move from pole to pole in a north-south direction. As the Earth rotates under it, these satellites can scan the entire globe, one strip at a time. However, a satellite that will enter polar orbit consumes more fuel to reach its orbit compared to satellites that will be sent from the equatorial region. In this link, National Geographic shows the geographic locations of manned and unmanned launch sites[5]. In the beginning, countries generally wanted to establish their own launch stations to carry out independent studies, but now it is more economical to send satellites for common use or even private companies. This situation creates a new global dependency area. For example, Elon Musk’s Space X company rented the launch station 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and from there it carries the satellites of many countries to space. In this context, TURKSAT 5A was sent to space on January 7, 2021 with the Falcon 9 rocket belonging to SpaceX[6].

The military use of space is an inevitable consequence in terms of astropolitical theory. Reconnaissance, surveillance, and precise positioning provided by space technologies have affected the way armies in the world conduct war, their weapon systems and the operation planning systematics. In the past, dozens of planes and hundreds of bombs were dropped to neutralize a target and caused massive destruction, now an aircraft can attack a large number of targets and cause minimal side-effect damage by the help of precise positioning. For this reason, it has become important for countries to protect their presence in space and to render the enemy country’s critical space capabilities unusable in case of a war. It is showed on January 11, 2007 that China has ASAT (counter-satellite) capability, which the USA and Russia previously had. China shot down a non-operating Chinese meteorological satellite (Fengyun-1C) at an altitude of 863 km, possibly using a different variant of the DF-21 Medium Range Ballistic Missile from the Xichang Space Launch Center[7].

Similarly, on 27 March 2019, India announced that it had successfully conducted ASAT test. A ballistic missile (PDV MK-II) developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization of India (DRDO) hit and destroyed the Indian Microsat-R satellite in a flight that lasted just over half an hour[8].

Efforts to use space for peaceful purposes are also increasing against these developments, but time will show whether the peace that has not been achieved on Earth will be successful in space. Former US Air Force Chief General Michael Moseley considered China’s ASAT weapon test as a strategic development as the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957. The USA reflected these developments on its force structure and established the independent Space Forces in 2019 equivalent to the Army, Navy and Air Forces [9].


As a conclusion, nearly eight billion people live in the world and the population of the world continues to increase. We are all stuck on the world island. Our resources are rapidly running out. There is increasing interest in space and its potential possibilities and capabilities. Private companies are becoming astropolitical actors as well as states. Political, economic and military competition will become more influential in national policies than peaceful and collaborative approaches in the future. I will continue my articles on space, the security and economic dimension of space, and space resources in the astropolitik category of my blog.

[1] https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4225/documentation/competition/competition.htm

[2]  https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

[3] Dr. Everett C. Dolman’dan, Astropolitik: Classical Geopolitics in the Space Age, Routledge, 2001

[4 Raymond Duvall and Jonathan Havercroft “Critical Astropolitics,” with Raymond Duvall. in Natalie Bormann and Michael Sheehan (ed.) Securing Outer Space (Routledge, 2009), pp. 42 – 58.

[4] https://www.space.com/33949-guiana-space-center.html 

[5] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/news-spaceports-cosmodromes-maps-world-space-week 

[6] https://uydu.turksat.com.tr/tr/uydu-filosu/turksat-5a.

[7] https://swfound.org/media/9550/chinese_asat_fact_sheet_updated_2012.pdf

[8] https://carnegieendowment.org/2019/04/15/india-s-asat-test-incomplete-success-pub-78884

[9] https://www.spaceforce.mil/About-Us/About-Space-Force/

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