Weaponizing Space

Weaponizing Space

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1. There is an ongoing debate on the issue of weaponizing space in order to protect our national space assets and achieve national strategic objectives. This is an issue because of the increase of more space faring nations trying to exploit the benefits of space and other nations also trying to develop capabilities to disrupt other from using it. This background paper will outline the current international laws and policies, our national policies in regard to space, current issues that catalyzed this debate, the benefits and disadvantage of weaponizing space.
2. Space is also governed by rules and laws much like we do on land and sea. “Treaty on Principles Governming the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,” or commonly referred to as the Outer Space Treaty was signed in 1966 by many nations, including the Unites States, and is the basis for most international space laws and policies. Some key points to take away from this treaty in relation to the space weapons debate are the following: “(1) outer space is open to all nations to explore and use; (2) nations cannot own any portion of outer space; (3) outer space will be used for peaceful purposes; (4) nations cannot place, put in orbit, or station any weapons of mass destruction in any form in outer space.” (UNOOSA) These principles and laws are also mostly reflected in our nation’s space policy, and our national security space strategy.
3. Our National Space Policy (NSP) is derived from the President’s vision and directives. NSP incorporates the terms outlined in the Outer Space Treaty, as well as two caveats: (1) to deter, defend our nation’s space assets, and “if deterrence fails, defeat efforts to attack them [enemy
Capt Cho/SOS/Flight C-33/3-6060/DBC/06 May 2011
threats]” (NSP, 3); (2) “to work with international partners to continue to promote peaceful use of space.” (NSP,4). Also, NSP shapes the National Security Space Strategy (NSSS), which the Department of Defense uses to direct the way the military develop and utilize space capabilities.
4. NSSS states a few current trends in space as being “congested and contested” (NSSS, 8), which is shaping our space strategic environment as well as fueling debates for space weapons. “Congested” trend refers to the current “60 nations and government consortia that own and operate satellites and the expectation to have 9000 satellite communication transponders in orbit by 2015.

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” (NSSS, 9) There are over “22,000 man-made objects, of which, 1100 are active satellites,” (NSSS, 9) and the rest are orbital debris from 50+ years of space exploitation. “Contested” trend refers to how certain nations, including us, are aiming to develop counterpace capabilities that may “deny, degrade, deceive, disrupt, or destroy space assets or its supporting infrastructure. For example, in January 2007, China tested their anti-satellite (ASAT) capability by launching a ballistic missile as a “kinetic kill vehicle (no conventional or nuclear warhead)” (Kan, 1) and destroying one of their weather satellite. This test added more than 3,000 pieces of orbital debris and proved a grim fact that other nations are developing counterspace capabilities.
5. Arguments for supporting weaponizing space are the following:
a. Protection of our national space capabilities: A lot of military and commercial systems depend on space capabilities such as reconnaissance, meteorological, and global positioning satellites, to accomplish their missions and objectives. We need to provide the protect it from our adversary counterspace threats.
b. Maintain technology lead over adversaries/competitors: Since other nations are trying to “catch-up” and/or slow our progress down, we need to build capabilities to combat these threats and have the technical edge. We cannot stop development when others are trying to catch up or threaten our national security.
6. Arguments for going against weaponizing space are the following:
a. Another “arms race:” If we continue to develop and advance our capabilities, then this will continue to drive other nations to build their own capabilities as well as counterspace capabilities to use against us. This will led to political and diplomatic instability between space faring nations.
b. United States, as the leader in space capabilities, must led by example: The US needs to be the example for other nations in supporting peaceful usage of space.
7. Weaponizing space has always been an ongoing debate since the start of the space race. International space policies and laws have and continue to allow all nations to use and explore space freely and peacefully. Even our own national policies adhere to these international laws to promote peacefully use of space as long as we maintain our national objectives. However, the current political and military environment brings about arguments which support for or against the idea of space weaponization. We need to conduct a thorough critical analysis of all sides of this debate and choose the best balanced approach.

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