The United States and Russia have a long and illustrious history of competition that is best summed up as “war-adjacent.” For decades, we competed with one another in battles of influence, economics, and even other nations’ armies, but when we think back to the Cold War, it’s hard not to think of the space race. Our two nations strapped our best and brightest to the tops of nuclear-capable ballistic space missiles and hurled them toward the horizons of our own understanding, keen to demonstrate our military and technological superiority on the global stage. In many ways, the space race defined the cold war, and the United States’ arrival on the moon, while years before the Cold War era would come to an end, served as a prominent example of American, and capitalist, superiority over their communist competitors.
Now another Cold War is brewing, but it’s not one that you might expect. Though the United States and Russia are once again staring side-eyed at one another from across the bar, a handful of nations in Asia are already amidst an arms race of Cold War proportions, and as India, China, and Japan compete with one another over influence in the world’s theater, their Cold War even has its own space race.
One India may be taking the lead in.
On Wednesday, India is launching a rocket intended to deploy a record-setting 104 satellites, crushing the previous record of 37 set by Russia only three years ago. This record-setting flight will not only bolster India’s economic interests in orbit, but, if successful, it will serve as a demonstration of the nation’s highly capable space program. Much like the Cold War, effectively placing objects in orbit requires a level of ballistic missile science not seen in all nations, providing for an effective measure of strength, but complex orbital mission objectives like the large-scale deployment of satellites demonstrates another, new type of military capability of increasing importance in today’s day in age: the ability to manipulate assets atop the world’s ultimate high ground.