Sublime Satellites: from Cold War to Gulf War

Document Type

Journal Article


University of Queensland


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of Communications and Multimedia




Giblett, R. J. (2001). Sublime satellites: from Cold War to Gulf War. Australian Journal of Communication, 28(1), 137-150. Available here


Satellites are a sublime communication technology in the sense that they pursue a desire to escape the solidity, or even prison, of the Earth and to circulate in the realm of heavenly bodies stripped of terrestrial space-time coordinates. Satellites conquered orbital extraterrestrial space, colonized it for wealthy nation-states, enclosed it for private corporations, and exploited it for commercial and military purposes. First launched in 1957 during the Cold War, they were used with deadly effect in the Gulf War of 1991. They bear the traces of this military genesis and usage. The author argues that orbital extraterrestrial space is a global commons to which all should have equal access. It is necessary to decolonize and republicize the enclosed and privatized global commons of the electromagnetosphere and orbital extraterrestrial space in order to create equitable access to communication and their technologies in the Earthly household sphere, the ecosphere. To this end, a kind of postmodern eco-regionalism is needed that would extend the boundaries of the bioregion, the life-support system in which we live, into the electromagnetosphere and orbital extraterrestrial space.