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US, China have a 'space hotline' to avoid satellite warfare

Washington and Beijing are making efforts to avoid a crisis in space before it happens. The US and China have set up a direct link — or "hotline" — allowing both nations to easily share information about activities in space.

Specifically, the so-called space hotline is designed to help the space and military agencies of both countries to discuss "potential collisions, approaches, or tests," according to The Financial Times.

Like the well-known "red telephone," set up between Moscow and Washington in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the idea is to keep a misunderstanding or other miscommunication from escalating to a dangerous situation in space and here on Earth.

According to a US assistant secretary of state, before the hotline, "we had to send notifications to the Chinese via their ministry of foreign affairs. The chain would go from JSpOC [Joint Space Operations Center] to the Pentagon, to the State Department, to the US Embassy in Beijing, and then on to a contact there."

A similar, dedicated space hotline has existed between Russia and the US since the Cold War, but such a system is just now being set up with China, a growing power in space. There have been growing fears of warfare in space since China blew up a satellite during a test of an antisatellite weapons system in 2007. In a time of warfare, destroying orbiting satellites could provide a significant advantage by disabling coordination abilities and intelligence efforts.

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