On the Definition of a Space Weapon

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					                                     On the Definition of a Space Weapon
                                 (When is a Space Weapon Not a Space Weapon?)
                                                  David Webb
                                               The Praxis Centre,
                                          Leeds Metropolitan University


As the distinction between the military and the commercial use of space becomes less well defined through dual-use
programmes, and military systems continue to be extended and coordinated through an increasing range and number of
space-based components, discussions on how to define space, space weapons and peaceful uses have increased in
importance and urgency. Rapid advances in and increased miniaturisation of space technologies mean that the use of
space is becoming more wide-spread and space based activities are possibly becoming more difficult to monitor. The
dominant force in space technology is undoubtedly the US, who has openly stated its wish to remain in that position –
even by denying the use of space to others. Other countries however, have no intention of being denied the use of this
“common heritage”. There general international agreement that an arms race in space should be prevented but there is no
agreement on how to make progress. Some of the issues surrounding this failure to negotiate a space weapons treaty are

1. Introduction - Why is Space Important for the Military?

The use of space by the world’s military is now well established and has become indispensable for the US who has built
on a range of experiences over a number of years in:

           Operation Desert Storm, Kuwait, Iraq 1991
           Operation Allied Force, Kosovo 1999
           Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan 2002
           Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq 2003

During Operation Iraqi Freedom US satellite information allowed a military response in minutes rather than the hours or
days it had taken previously. This shortening of the so-called “kill chain” means that space has now become “the ultimate
military high ground”.

In April 2003 the Los Angeles Times reported 1 that

           “data streaming from satellites proved pivotal in Iraq, letting U.S. troops beat Hussein's forces to the punch on the
           battlefield” and "the quick, quiet, almost mundane flow of electronic information - whether from polar orbiting
           weather satellites 23,000 miles above Earth or school bus-sized KH or 'keyhole class' spy satellites keen enough
           to read large newspaper headlines from space - proved one of the U.S. military's most powerful weapons (in Gulf
           War II)."

John Pike, director of, was quoted as saying that “the big difference between Iraq's army and
America's army … was satellites” and Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst with the Federation of American
Scientists stated that "our side knew where all of our forces were at any given moment and the other side did not …it
sounds simple, but it's actually a significant technological achievement."

Although currently there may be no weapons as such stationed in space, there are numerous components of weapons
systems each of which forms a vital element in modern war fighting, For example, in a typical battle situation the US
military now relies on space-based weather prediction systems (the Defence Meteorological Support Program), military
communications satellites (MILSTAR - to communicate from command centres and between troops), espionage and
surveillance satellites (to intercept communications by an adversary and collect images of troop movements and weapon
placements), early warning satellites (to provide information on missile launches) and military Global Positioning System
(GPS) satellites to allow troops and vehicles to navigate and to quickly and accurately specify targets and guide "smart"
bombs and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

    “The Eyes and Ears of War” by Usha Lee McFarling, Los Angeles Times, 24 April 2003 -
The US deployed 6,600 GPS guided munitions and over 100,000 Precision Lightweight GPS Receivers in Iraq2 and used
10 times the satellite capacity employed in the Gulf War of 1991. Nine days before the start of the war a new Defense
Satellite Communications System was installed to interconnect US military forces on land, sea and air with the Pentagon,
the White House, the State Department and the US Space Command. Over 100 military satellites supported the US and
UK war effort. 27 Global Positioning System satellites were available to help determine the exact location of special
operations teams and of targets and around 24 communications satellites for command and control and to give warning of
missile attack. There were also weather forecasting, TV and other systems in operation. A February 2000 flight of the
space shuttle Endeavor was used to produce a 3-D radar map of targets in Iraq 3. The human resources available are
also extensive - Director of Space Operations Maj. Gen. Judd Blaisdel estimated that at that time 33,600 people at 36
sites around the world were involved in space-war activities.4

This massive increase in the use of space technology for war fighting does not come without problems. Modern weapons
systems also require that communications satellites carry enormous amounts of traffic. For example, one Global Hawk
UAV requires about 500 Megabits per second of bandwidth (five times the entire bandwidth required by all of the US
military during Desert Storm) and in 2002 the Wall Street Journal 5 reported that during “Operation Enduring Freedom” the
Pentagon could only deploy 4 (one half) of its available UAVs at any one time because there was not enough bandwidth
available to fly them all. Future requirements are likely to be overwhelming. A U.S. Defense Science Board study has
predicted that by 2010 the Pentagon will require 16 Gigabits per second of bandwidth to support a major war.6

The US is not alone in its use of space for military purposes. Russia has a number of military satellite programmes with
five types of short-lifetime imaging reconnaissance satellite which can be launched to update topographic and mapping
data and two series of electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellites. There are four types of Russian dedicated military
communications satellites, with around 24 being launched since 1997 (although not all are still functioning).7 Russia also
has a number of navigation satellites and a dual-use Global National Satellite System (Glonass) which is similar to GPS. 8
The Russian armed forces were also to be outfitted with Glonass receivers by 2005.9 In addition, there are Russian
ballistic missile early warning and space monitoring systems.

The military use of space is rapidly proliferating. China has launched a number of military satellites, India has imaging and
communication satellites suitable for military use and Israel has military satellites and has plans for new communications,
imaging and radar satellites and is considering a system that would allow launch on demand of small satellites from fighter
aircraft.10 Other countries such as Brazil, Pakistan, Ukraine have military space capability or potential11, Australia has a
dual use military-commercial communications satellite12 and Iran launched its first satellite with Russian help in October
2005 13 and plans further launches in the future. In Europe the UK, France and Italy make extensive use of military
satellites for imaging and communications and the European Space Agency (ESA)14, set up to be an entirely independent
organisation, is slowly becoming politicised (with increasing control from the European Commission)15 and even possibly
militarised through its Galileo GPS system.16

Many of these programmes are dual use – i.e. a mixture of commercial and military projects. This has obvious cost
advantages to both parties and can also help to mask or deflect interest away from some covert military activities and this
increasing grey area can make it more difficult to identify the extent and purpose of military space activity. However, the
military reliance on space for command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and

  “What if Space Were Weaponized” by Jeffrey Lewis, from the Center for Defense Information, Washington DC
  As reported in the Colorado Springs Gazette, 13 April 2003
  “Satellites provide vital reconnaissance, communications to war effort” by Michael Woods, Post-Gazette available at
  “Military Feels Bandwidth Squeeze As the Satellite Industry Splutters” by Greg Jaffe, Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2002.
  As reported in “What if Space Were Weaponized” by Jeffrey Lewis, from the Center for Defense Information, Washington DC
  See: “Current and Future Space Security - Russia: Military Programs” from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute
  of International Studies -
  "Platoon With a Satellite" by Nikolay Poroskov, Vremya Novostey, August 21, 2003; in "Russian General Staff Approves Plan to Equip
  Troops With GLONASS Navigation Receivers," – quoted in
   “Israel Makes Plans for Broad Space Capabilities” by Barbara Opall Rome, Space News, August 25 2003
   “Countries with advanced-launch capabilities” from the Monterey Institute of International Studies – see:
   “France Launches Australian MilSat Half Owned by Singtel”,, June 11 2003 -
   “First Iranian Satellite Launched”, BBC News, October 27 2005 -
   See European Space Agency,, in particular
   See for example, “Europe – the Leading Space Power?” by Regina Hagen, INESAP Bulletin #23, April 2004,
   “An Evaluation of the Military Benefits of the Galileo System” by James Hasik and Michael Rip, GPS World, April 2003 -
reconnaissance (C4ISR) is well established and has the serious disadvantage that satellite systems are extremely
vulnerable to attack from anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.

2. Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Weapons

Shortly before his appointment as Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld chaired the “Commission to Assess United
States National Security Space management and Organization”17 which concluded in January 2001 that the likelihood of
an attack on U.S. space systems needed to be taken seriously to prevent a future "space Pearl Harbor."

Perhaps the first actual attack on a military satellite system was attempted in 2003 when the Iraqi military unsuccessfully
tried to jam the US Global Positioning System.18 US Air Force Secretary James Roche commented that this attempt to
disrupt GPS-guided weapons demonstrated the world's understanding of the importance of space to the U.S. military.
Interestingly, the US Air Force itself deployed a number of reversible jamming, or Counter Communications, systems in
2005.19 However, a more threatening scenario is the possibility of the deployment of actual weapons systems against
satellites. These could be ground-based, air-launched or space-based systems, all of which have been developed to
some extent.

Since the beginning of the space age, Russia and the US have both openly worked on several Anti-Satellite projects.
Initial efforts in the 1950s consisted of well known air-launched missile technology but more sophisticated systems have
been developed over the ensuing years.

2.1 The Soviet Union & Russia

In the 1960s the Soviet Union surrounded Moscow with nuclear-tipped inter-continental ballistic missiles to act as an Anti-
Ballistic Missile (ABM) system. These missiles would also have ASAT capabilities as they would be able to destroy all
space-based systems in the vicinity of their detonation. However, the main ASAT system developed by the Soviet Union
was the "Co-orbital ASAT" - a satellite suicide bomb packed with explosives. Development on the Istrebitel Sputnikov
(fighter satellites) began in the early 1960s and the first test flights were made in 1968. The ASAT was to be placed in an
orbit close to that of the target and would move in to destroy it within one or two orbits. Initial tests made between1963
and 1972 indicated that the system could work from altitudes from 230 to 1,000 kilometres and the system was declared

The Soviets temporarily ceased testing the system after signing the ABM Treaty in 1972, but resumed again in 1976 and
continued until 1982. During this time the effective range of the system was reportedly extended to altitudes between 160
and 1,600 kms.20 In 1983, the Soviet Union declared a moratorium on launching ASATs on the condition that no other
country deployed them and Russia seems to have continued to observe this policy.21 Jane's 2001-2 Space Directory
describes the Russian ASAT program as "inactive."

2.2 United States

The US began tests in 1959 but results were not encouraging and the project was stopped in 1963 although related US
Navy projects did continue into the early 1970s. In the 1960s the destruction of satellites by the use of nuclear explosions
was considered. A 1.4 Megaton high altitude nuclear test explosion detonated 400 km over the Pacific in 1958 did
damage three satellites. However, the potential damage to untargeted areas and systems through radiation and the
electromagnetic pulse (EMP) meant that no actual ASAT tests of this type were carried out although the nuclear carrying
Nike Zeus was adapted for ASAT use from 1962. A single missile ASAT was deployed at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific
until 1966 under Program 505 codenamed “Mudflap.” This in turn was replaced by the USAF Thor ASAT until 1972.22

The resumption of USSR ASAT tests in 1976 could have been the result of reports of a renewed US interest in anti-
satellite technology and the development of the US Space Shuttle programme (which was considered to have an ASAT
capability). The U.S. was itself concerned with exaggerated reports of Soviet laser and particle beam ASAT/ABM
technology and revived its ASAT programme with the Air-launched Miniature Vehicle (ALMV) which was fired from an F-
15 aircraft, carried a heat-seeking homing device and was designed to attack Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. The missile

   Available from:
   “Jamming Incident Underscores Lessons About Space”, -
   “US deploys satellite jamming system” by Jim Wolf, Reuters, October 29, 2004
   “A History of US and Soviet ASAT Programs” by Laura Grego, Union of Concerned Scientists
   "Outer Space and the Military Security of Russia" by Aleksandr Dolinin, an interview with Space Troops Commander Colonel-General
    Anatoliy Perminov, Krasnaya Zvezda, April 27, 2001, p. 1; in "New Space Troops commander Colonel-General Anatoliy Perminov
    interviewed on connection between Space Troops' activities and various areas of country's development"
   See and
consisted of a modified Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM) first stage, a Thiokol Altair III second stage, and a Vought
Miniature Homing Vehicle (MHV). The ASAT was launched at high altitude from an F-15 aircraft in a steep climb. This
gave the ASAT's rocket a useful initial velocity to help it reach its target in orbit. After the first stage separated, the second
stage would propel the MHV into space on a collision course with the target satellite which is destroyed kinetically by
ramming at high speed. The US carried out five tests from 1984-6 and actually tested the system against a satellite in
September 198523. However, considerable cost increases for further development led to the program being cancelled in
1988. In the same year, the US Congress voted against extending a unilateral ban on ASATs and development started
on new ASAT systems.

Under President Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) ASAT projects were adapted for ABM use and vice
versa. Initially the plan was to use the MHV as a basis for a collection of about 40 space platforms containing up to 1,500
kinetic interceptors. By 1988 the project had evolved into an extended four stage development. The first stage was the
“brilliant pebbles” system consisting of many single kinetic interceptors and associated tracking systems. The second
stage would deploy larger platforms and the following phases were to include laser weapons and later charged particle
beam weapons. Plans were to complete the whole thing by 2000 at a cost of around $125 billion.

The only successful energy weapon to come from the SDI was the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL).24 It
can produce a megawatt of output for around 70 seconds and was developed mainly in response to intelligence that the
Soviet Union had created a similar system. However, after an official US visit to the Soviet Union in 1989 discovered that
the Soviet system was no threat and far from completion, Congress banned the use of MIRACL in 1991. The development
of the U.S. Army ground-based kinetic energy ASAT (KE-ASAT) system was also banned in 1993, but was resurrected in
1996 with $45 million of funding which continued until 2002.

In 1996 the ban on using the MIRACL ended and the following year the system was tested by firing at a USAF satellite
420km above the Earth – supposedly to see if US satellites could withstand a laser attack. Currently, the KE-ASAT needs
more funding and testing before it could become operational. The ALMV has not been tested and there appears to be
little interest in reviving the system at the moment. The MIRACL laser is being further developed with Israel but it has not
been tested since 1997 and its full capabilities are not known.

2.3 China

China does not have a publicly declared ASAT program although their existing launch capabilities could provide the
basis for the development of such a system. 25 A program to field a viable ASAT system consisting of a kinetic kill
vehicle, high powered laser, space early warning, and target discrimination system components, was apparently
abandoned in 1980. Preliminary research on ASATs has been carried out since then partly funded under a Program
for High Technology Development. 26

In 2003 and 2004 annual reports to the US Congress on Chinese Military Power quoted an article from a Hong Kong
newspaper that reported China as having developed and tested a “parasitic micro satellite” ASAT system. However, this
information seems to have originated from an item posted in 2000 on an unreliable internet bulletin board service run by a
self-described “military enthusiast”.

3 Current US Developments

The US has recently shown an increase in funding and support for ASAT and related programmes. In 2004 the Pentagon
received $168.6 million for the development of space weapons technology and over $2 billion for weapons related

In August 2004, the USAF released a document entitled “Counterspace Operations, Air Force Doctrine Document 2-2.1”
   which details, for the first time, US anti-satellite and space weapons operations. The Foreword by Gen John P. Jumper,
USAF Chief of Staff states that

23                                                                                   th
   The US tested the ALMV against an ageing Solwind satellite in a 555km orbit on 13 September 1985
   For more information see:
   “Chinese Anti-Satellite Capabilities” from at
27                                                                                                  th
   “Space Weapons Spending in the FY2005 Defense Budget” by Jeffrey Lewis, Presented at the 9 PIIC Beijing Seminar on
    International Security, October 2004
   Available from:
        “U.S. Air Force counterspace operations are the ways and means by which the Air Force achieves and maintains
        space superiority. Space superiority provides freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack ...Space and air
        superiority are crucial first steps in any military operation.”

The document discusses air-launched missiles, direct-ascent and on-orbit ASATs as possible mechanisms for destroying
satellites. This document and others (such as the now infamous “Vision 2020” of the US Space Command) serve to
present a vision of space security through domination. This vision is reinforced by the lobbying of aerospace corporations
who gain from the huge contracts that arise when politicians decide to follow this vision. However, many concerned
engineers and scientists and civil society activists are questioning these activities from the point of view of cost,
desirability and even possibility. These challenges have proved to be effective on occasion.

The Pentagon budget request for space control and space force projection related programmes for 2005 totalled over $3
billion, which included around $217 million for potential ASAT and space weapons associated projects (described as
ASAT and space-based missile defence). The appropriations committees cut nearly $1 billion from the military space
budget 29 and sliced 40% from the space weapons and ASAT requests. The agreed budget includes $10.6 million for
initial work on the space-based interceptor test bed 30 but the Congressional appropriators directed the Force Application
and Launch from the Continental US (FALCON) program31 not to engage in any "weapons-related work" during financial
year 2005 and cut funding for the Common Aero Vehicle (CAV) by half to $12.5 million (any effort to put weapons on the
CAV or test launch it on a ballistic missile was also forbidden). Other space programs suffered funding cuts from
appropriators including the Space Based Radar (SBR), Transformational SATCOM (T-SAT) and Counter Surveillance
Reconnaissance System (CSRS) programs.

A recent article in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report 32 quotes a scientist at Science Applications International
Corporation (SAIC) as saying that these cuts are:

        "largely due to the concern over the proper use of force in space and the vocal anti-space weapons community."
        "To their credit, they have been on the field. The people who are advocates of the funding for these particular
        programs ... haven't well engaged in that debate.”

Peter Huessy of the National Defense University Foundation was also quoted as saying that the anti-space weapons
lobby has been effective in part because of its significant financial backing. The lobby is:

        "being led, unfortunately, by not just the traditional arms control community, but about $100 million a year from
        foundations," according to Huessy. "And that kind of money is so far and beyond anything being spent by the

Another controversial project with possible space weapons implications is the Near Field Infra Red Experiment (NFIRE) of
the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). The primary role of NFIRE is to gather data to help differentiate between the rocket
and its exhaust plume. The proposal was to launch a platform, termed a "kill vehicle," to closely encounter a target missile.
Such a capability could obviously be used to disable or destroy targeted missiles or orbiting satellites. The NFIRE was
originally to be launched from a Minotaur missile in summer 2004, but the MDA announced in March that there would be a
year-long delay apparently due to having received only $ 44.5 million of the requested $ 82 million of funding in 2004.
Then, in July 2004, the Congressional appropriators cut all the $ 68 million requested for NFIRE, although the Senate
Appropriations Committee recommended that the program should be preserved. In August 2004 was reported 33 that the
controversial sensor (the 'kill vehicle") would be removed from the program. At time of writing NFIRE is scheduled for
launch in June 2006, although this may be delayed as the Senate Appropriations Committee, who approved $13.7 million
for the programme, has now urged the retention of the kill vehicle which will take extra time to add. NFIRE was also
shifted from the Ballistic Missile Defense System Interceptor Program into the BMD Technology Program , indicating a
possible shift in function. 34

29                                                                                          th
   “Space Weapons Spending in the FY2005 Defense Budget” by Jeffrey Lewis, Presented at the 9 PIIC Beijing Seminar on
International Security, October 2004
   “Programs to Watch” by Jeffrey Lewis, in “Weapons in Space”, Arms Control Today, November 2004, available at:
   Details of the FALCON program can be found in the “US Air Force Transformation Flight Plan”, November 2003 – see:
   “Space Weapon Proponents Need to make Better Case” by Jefferson Morris, Aviation Week’s Aerospace Daily & Defense Report,
    Vol 211 No 25
   “Critics Laud Plan to Remove 'Kill Vehicle' From Satellite” by Jeremy Singer, -
   "Committee Urges Kill Vehicle Use in NFIRE Test” by David Ruppe, Global Security Newswire, 29 September 2005, -
One other growth area with a clear ASAT capability is the ongoing development and testing of US Micro-satellite (MS) and
Experimental Satellite Series (XSS) prototypes, including a 28 kilogram XSS-10 MS to manoeuvre around and
photograph space objects.35 The USAF launched the first satellite of these in January 2003. A larger version, the XSS-11,
will remain in orbit for a year transmitting real-time streaming video to ground stations. The “single strongest
recommendation” of the informal Air Force 1999 Micro-satellite Technology and Requirements Study, was for “the
deployment, as rapidly as possible, of XSS-10-based satellites to intercept, image, and if needed, take action against, a
target satellite.” More recently, the US Air Force Research Laboratory has plans to develop a small experimental
satellite to orbit close to a host spacecraft – known as the Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space
or ANGELS spacecraft. 37 In addition the DART (Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology)38 and Orbital
Express 39 (to be used to validate the technical feasibility of robotic, autonomous on-orbit refuelling and reconfiguration of
satellites) use small satellites to operate near larger ones. It is not surprising that accidents occur when working at very
large distances with very small satellites and in April 2005 DART collided with a target satellite. 40 Therefore, extreme care
and international agreement and understanding are necessary to avoid serious problems arising from an escort satellite
straying too far from its host – especially if it were to approach an operational satellite of another nation.

Much of the current US development of space-based technology and weaponry (including space based interceptors 41
and air borne and space based lasers) is taking place under the missile defence umbrella. As David Wright and Laura
George from the Union of Concerned Scientists have stated:

          “… current US ASAT capability is fairly limited and, based on current funding levels, dedicated ASAT systems
          appear not to be high priorities. Some of the planned missile defence systems, on the other hand, would add
          significant ASAT capability to the US arsenal and have strong political and financial support. This fact should be
          kept in mind when analysing US capabilities and developing policies relevant to restricting ASATs.” 42

It seems clear then that projects that are overtly developing anti-satellite or space weapons systems are having some
difficulties obtaining funds. However, there are other ways of obtaining large sums of money for very similar space-based
programmes under the guise of a system to defend against missile attack from terrorists or “rogue states”.

4. Missile Defence

US missile defence is sold to the American people and the world as a defence against limited missile attack but it can also
be seen as a proving ground for certain space weapon components. In the past any strategy for ballistic missile defence
(as opposed to theatre missile defence which involves short range battlefield weapons) has been formulated in the light of
traditional nuclear deterrence theory between major nuclear states and the concept of “mutually assured destruction”.
Currently however, the US is justifying development of ballistic missile defence systems by pointing to a threat from
“rogue” states such as North Korea and Iran or terrorists. However, there is no evidence that any of the states specified
has the technology to launch a long range missile at the US (or even the intent - such an act would be suicidal) and there
are numerous alternative means (that are cheaper and easier to obtain) for terrorist groups to deliver a nuclear weapon or
dirty bomb.

There is an alternative view as to why the US is so keen to develop technologies that are unreliable, costly and
controversial. While it may be difficult to convince people that space weapons are necessary, it may be much easier to
generate a fear of attack from terrorist groups or states to justify the development of space weapons technologies. There
are a number of examples of technological systems being developed for missile defence that can easily be adapted to war
fighting or anti-satellite roles.

   "Arms Race in Space? US Air /force Quietly Focuses on Space Control", by Theresa Hitchens and Jeffrey Lewis, Defense News,
    Sept 1 2003
   “Military Microsatellites: Matching Requirements and Technology” by Matt Bille, Robyn Kane, and Maj. Mel Nowlin, Presented to the
   AAIA Space 2000 Conference and Exhibition, Long Beach, CA, September 19-21, 2000, p. 9.
   “Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space (ANGELS)”, FBO Daily Issue,#1469 December 4, 2005 -
   Space Flight Center News -
     See -
   “Fender Bender: NASA's DART Spacecraft Bumped Into Target Satellite”, by Brian Berger, Space News, 22 April 2005 -
   The US has stated its intent to launch a space-based interceptor test bed by 2008. See for example: “Space-Based Interceptors –
   Still Not a Good Idea” by Theresa Hitchens and Victoria Samson, Center for Defense Information, Summer/Fall 2004 – available at space-based-interceptors.pdf
   “Anti-satellite Capabilities of Planned US Missile Defence Systems” by David Wright and Laura George, Disarmament Diplomacy,
    Issue No 68, December 2002 – January 2003. Also at and from the Union of
    concerned scientists:
The development of improved space tracking facilities on the ground (such as the upgrading of the Ballistic Missile Early
Warning System, BMEWS, radars at Fylingdales in the UK and Thule in Greenland and the development of the X-band
radar) and in space (such as the Space Based Radar, SBR, and Space Tracking and Surveillance Systems, STSS, or
Space Based Infra Red System, SBIRS) is integral to missile defence but could also be used for ASAT capabilities.
Interceptor missiles for the Ground-based Midcourse Defence element of Missile Defence, designed to hit and intercept
incoming missiles, could also be deployed against LEO satellites.43

The Air-Borne Laser (ABL) - a high powered laser fitted to a modified Boeing 747 which is under development and being
tested - is capable of both intercepting missiles and destroying, or at least blinding, satellites.44 Although the Space-Based
Laser (SBL) programme has been more or less cancelled, the idea of a powerful land based laser using a space based
mirror system has been proposed to act as a missile defence and/or space weapon.

There are also a number of reasons why the pursuit of a national missile defence programme can be questioned. Firstly of
course, why would any group or nation use an expensive and unreliable long range missile to deliver a nuclear or similar
weapon to the US when it is cheaper, easier and more trustworthy to smuggle a device into the US by way of a boat, or a
truck? Also, as long ago as 2000, The Union of Concerned Scientists 45 made it clear that any group capable of launching
an ICBM with a nuclear warhead would also be capable of deploying sufficient countermeasures to overcome the missile
defence system as proposed by the Pentagon.

Another scientific study by the American Physical Society (APS)46 concentrated on boost-phase interception. This form of
ABM system is favoured by many US military strategists for a number of reasons. For example, it would enable
interception before deployment of decoys and mean that debris would be scattered over the launch area rather than the
target area. The APS study showed that ground or air based interceptors (even ABLs) would need to be positioned too
close to the launch sites to be practical and that a huge fleet of around 1600 space based interceptors would be needed
to guarantee global coverage at all times. Even if an intercept was able to be made in the first few minutes of launch
(during the burn time of the missile’s rocket motors) it is still likely that a missile launched from somewhere in the Middle
East say, would reach the American Continent.

Even so, in December 2002 President Bush ordered the deployment of the first 10 long-range interceptors by the end of
2004. The first batch of interceptors were installed at Fort Greely in Alaska and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in
California. These are to be increased to up to 40 by the end of 2007 with the possibility of others in Europe (probably
Poland). With over $130 billion dollars already spent on developing the associated system components since President
Reagan’s ”Star Wars” speech in 1983, there have been growing concerns about the overall costs (not least from the
General Accounting Office). It has been estimated that the research and development costs for the period 2004-2009 will
be approximately $ 50 billion with the total life-cycle cost for a layered missile defense system will be close to $1.2 trillion
up to 2035.47 Perhaps in response to these concerns, and the general lack of confidence in its effectiveness, in October
2005 the Pentagon announced that it may not progress to further generations of the ground based interceptors.
Alternative methods of interception, such as miniature kill vehicles or boost phase intercepts using the airborne laser or
short range interceptors are likely to be pursued instead, all of wich also have ASAT possibilities.

4.1 International Response to US Missile Defence
In Europe, the UK, Denmark and Greenland - have already agreed to become part of the missile defense system by
allowing the early warning and tracking radars at Fylingdales and Thule to be upgraded for this purpose. A Missile
Defence Centre was launched In the UK in July 2003 and two months later it was revealed that the British Government is
to spend £5 million a year until 2009 on missile defence. Other European countries are being tempted with associated
R&D contracts. For example a $3 billion contract has been awarded to MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defense System)
for missile defence - a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space
Company (EADS), MBDA-Italia and Lenkflugkorpersysteme (LFK), Germany. The US has been negotiating with Poland
and the Czech Republic over the possibility of siting radar stations and/or missile interceptors there. Hungary, Romania
and Bulgaria have also been approached.

On July 7 2004 Australia signed a framework memorandum of understanding with the US outlining future Australian
participation on cooperative missile defence development and testing over the next 25 years. The agreement aims at
establishing new joint efforts and includes specific arrangements for collaboration on the development and testing of
advanced radar technology for the improved early detection of ballistic missiles and the potential options for a missile
defence capability for a new Australian destroyer,

   “Boost-Phase Intercept Systems for NMD” a report by American Physical Society Study Group, July 2003
   “The Full Costs of Ballistic Missile Defense” by R. F. Kaufman (Ed), Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Jan 2003
At the time of writing Canada is alone in pulling away from involvement in US missile defence, although Ottawa has
already agreed to amend its NORAD agreement with the US so that its missile warning function is available to the US
missile defence system and there are some concerns that it is actually collaborating with the US in many ways.48

Japan was the first country to agree to work with the US on ship-based missile defence because of the perceived threat
by North Korea. In 1998 Japan was shocked by the launching of a North Korean multistage “Taepodong” ballistic missile
over Japan’s main island and, although Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi won a promise in 2002 from North
Korea for a moratorium on further long-range tests, distrust runs deep and Tokyo is responding by upgrading its own
destroyers and acquiring US-made interceptors.

This apparent general acceptance of missile defence allows the US and others to develop and test ASAT capable
systems and has also helped the development (if not the deployment) of space weapons to be more acceptable.

Russia has stated that it would be prepared to cooperate with the US as long as an agreement on the demilitarisation of
space could be reached. However, this is unlikely and so Russia is continuing to go it alone with the further development
of its missile defence systems and countermeasures. In February 2004 President Putin announced that Russia had
successfully tested a new nuclear hypersonic missile that is capable of altering course as it nears its target. This was a
clear statement that new types of missile were being developed to overcome missile defence systems justifying the
criticism that missile defence would lead to another technological arms race.

China has expressed concern over the implementation of missile defence and especially by the deployment of land or
ship based missile defence systems in the Pacific region by Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

The wide-spread development of missile defence systems (including Theatre Missile Defence) and the possible use of
such systems for fighting wars in and from space have lead to the popular terminology of “Star Wars” to generically
describe these activities. Most countries agree that an arms race in space is undesirable and that efforts should be made
to prevent the sationing of weapons in space (see section 5.2). Therefore, the question arises as to whether it would be
possible to prevent or control the spread of space weapons by international treaties and agreements if a careful definition
of a space weapon could be developed and generally accepted.

4.2 Space Debris49
One area of concern that could unite commercial, military and political opposition to war in space is the problem
associated with resulting space debris. Even tiny orbiting fragments produced by space collisions or warfare activity can
impact on non-combatant satellites or space vehicles at tremendous speeds and the ultimate threat to a military system
from space junk is the disabling of a nuclear-armed nation's early warning satellite, possibly resulting in a false early
warning of an impending attack. High-speed collisions with space debris resulting from anti-satellite weapons testing could
disable or destroy satellites orbiting Earth. 50 High-speed impacts from air-launched and ground- and space-based anti-
satellite could create space debris might take months or even years to de-orbit and could deter or prevent future space
launches despite recent attempts to develop a code of conduct for space debris mitigation.51

5. The Possibility of Space Weapons Control

5.1 What is a space weapon?

There are many space based systems that could be employed for useful non-military purposes or just as easily turned to
an offensive capability. For example: maneuverable micro satellites or space planes. There are also space based
components such as communications or surveillance systems (or mirrors to direct ground based lasers) that, although not
weapons themselves, could be part of a weapons targeting or battle management system.

Space weapons can be based in space or on the ground and they may be aimed at targets in either place. So there is the
possibility for Space to Space, Space to Earth, Earth to Space, or Earth to Earth (through space) weapons. Also, different
technologies may be deployed to deliver the knockout blow. These could be ‘kinetic kill vehicles’ that destroy by impact

   See: “Election Issue: Canada DID Join Missile Defense, Open letter from the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT)” 10
    December 2005, -
   A detailed technical report on space debris from the International Space Information Service is available at
   “Space Weapons and Space Junk”, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 5 September 2005
   “Space Debris Mitigation: The Case For a Code of Conduct”,, 15 April 2005 -
alone (as with some ASATs or “Rods from God” – a proposal to fire tungsten rods from space to ground-based targets 52),
missiles with conventional or nuclear warheads, killer satellites, directed energy weapons, etc.

Neuneck and Rothkirch 53 have tabulated the advantages and disadvantages of these different technologies as in Table 1.
They also point out that definitions of space weapons could be technical, geographical or politically motivated.

                           Table 1: Advantages and disadvantages of future space weapons
                                         (from Neuneck and Rothkiech, 2003)
                     Principle          Advantage         Disadvantage/ Problems         Warning Time
             DEW     Laser              Direct effects    Energy, Line of sight,         Seconds to
                                                          atmosphere, Countermeasures Minutes
                     Microwaves         Invisible         Low resolution,                Seconds to
                                                          Countermeasures                Minutes
                     Particle Beams; Invisible, fast      Propagation. Energy production Seconds to
                     X-Rays                                                              Minutes
             KEW     Homing missiles/ High closing speed Acceleration of the collision - Minutes /Hours/
                     kill vehicles                        mass; Homing                   Days
                     Collision devices Hard to identify   Space debris multiplication,   Minutes/Hours
                     Electromagnetic High closing speed Energy; Technical Problems       Minutes
             Nuclear Nuclear weapons Lethality,           Destroys own satellites        Seconds
                                        destruction radii

Definitions could be based on:
     o technical lists of types of technologies;
     o function or purpose;
     o the altitude reached – and a definition of outer space;
     o parameters such as deployment altitude or orbital characteristics;

Marshall et al. from Student Pugwash 54 have grouped military space activities into three categories – two generally
agreed areas and one grey area, as shown in Table 2. The white area includes military activities that do not involve
weapons based in space while the black area comprises technologies are generally considered as space weapons. The
grey area covers a range of technologies that fall between these two.

                        Table 2: The spectrum of military space activity: what is a space weapon?
                                                (from Marshall et al., 2005)
         Space Weapons                      Intermediate Systems                 Military activities not
         (Generally or historically                                              involving Space Weapons
         prohibited)                                                             (Generally allowed)
         [Key Words: Degrade, Destroy       [Key words: Deny, Disrupt            - Communication
         - WMD or radiological weapons      - ASAT – Deny access to              - Navigation
         - Space-based directed energy         satellite or ground system,       - Reconnaissance (space-based
            weapons                            passive measures, encryption          or high altitude platforms)
         - Space-based kinetic weapons      - ASAT – Temporarily interfere       - Space-monitoring networks
         - Anti-satellite satellites (ASAT)    with satellite or ground system   - Early warning systems ICBM
            destruction or degrade other       (cyber attacks etc.)operation         with suborbital trajectory
            satellites                      - ASAT Disrupt operations of         - Suborbital delivery of troops or
                                               space or ground segments              equipment
                                            - Ground-based directed (at
                                            - Nuclear weapons for NEO
                                            - Ground based jamming

   “Rods from Gods: The insanity of Star Wars” by Bob Fitrakis, Global Research, 24 June 2005 avaiable at:
   “Space as a New Medium of Warfare? Motivations, Technology and Consequences” by Götz Neuneck, André Rothkirch, Institute for
    Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH), Falkenstein 1, D-22587 Hamburg, Germany, 2003.
     “Space weapons: the urgent debate”, William Marshall,George Whitesides, Robert Schingler, Andre Nilsen & Kevin
      Parkin, ISYP Journal on Science and World Affairs , Vol.1, No.1, 2005 19-32 – available at: http://www.student-
                                               - Suborbital intercept missiles
                                                 for missile defence

As we have shown, the activities designated as white are being employed by a growing number of nations while some of
the grey systems are being developed by a significant number. Those in the black area are the controversial systems that
may not be fully developed or deployed, but have often been the subject of some international debate and disagreement.
The Student Pugwash Group consider the technologies within the grey area to be the most important for consideration as
they are most likely to be deployed in the short term, and can produce similar effects to the more traditional longer-term
space-based weapons in the black area.

Generally speaking, space weapons can damage, destroy or alter targets in or from space. In 1991 a study carried out by
the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) proposed the following definition:

“A space weapon is a device stationed in outer space (including the moon and other celestial bodies) or in the earth
environment designed to destroy, damage or otherwise interfere with the normal functioning of an object or being in outer
space, or a device stationed in outer space designed to destroy, damage or otherwise interfere with the normal
functioning of an object or being in the earth environment. Any other device with the inherent capability to be used as
defined above will be considered as a space weapon.“ 55

The final sentence of this definition is interesting and, given the dual capability (perhaps even purpose) of many systems
currently deployed, is unlikely to be accepted by many space faring nations.

A Draft Treaty Limiting Anti-Satellite Weapons was presented to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May
1983 by the Union of Concerned Scientists 56 but did not have the support of the administration. However, the Defense
Authorization and Appropriation bills that followed did support the general principles of the treaty by banning the testing of
ASATs against targets in space. The draft ASAT treaty called for states not to:

        “destroy, damage, render inoperable or change the flight trajectory of space objects” of other states and not to
        place in orbit “weapons for destroying, damaging, rendering inoperable or changing the flight trajectory of space
        objects or for damaging objects in the atmosphere or on the ground”.

It also called for states to refrain from installing such weapons on celestial bodies and from testing such weapons.

In 1985 at the Conference for Disarmament China proposed that space weapons be defined as:

        “…all devices or installations based in space (including those based on the Moon and other celestial bodies)
        which are designed to attack or damage objects in the atmosphere or on land, or at sea… ”(CD/579).57

A definition of a weapon has been proposed by the French as:

        "any satellite or space object in orbit around the earth or any other celestial body which has at least one active
        function capable, by direct action, of destroying, seriously damaging or intentionally interfering with the operation
        of any device located on earth or above the earth within the atmosphere or in outer space should be regarded as
        a weapon in space." 58

Canada has proposed that space continue to be used by the military for surveillance, intelligence-gathering and
communications but that weapons (i.e. “any device or component of a system designed to inflict physical harm through
deposition of mass and/or energy on any other object”) be banned. This is a position that some States and NGOs, who
campaign for a total demilitarization of space, do not necessarily support.59

5.1 The 1967 Outer Space Treaty 60

   “Outer Space A Source of Conflict or Co-operation?” Bhupendra Jasani (Ed.), Tokio 1991, p13. (United Nations University Press)
    Published in Co-operation with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
   “The Senate testimony: Controlling Space Weapons”, U.S. Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 98th Congress, 1st Session,
    May 18, 1983; pp.112-129 – available at:
   CD/579, cited after Péricles Gasparini-Alves: “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space. A Guide to the Discussions in the
    Conference of Disarmament”, UNIDIR, New York 1991, UNIDIR /91/79, p.15ff.
   “Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation: French Policy”, Ministry of Defence, Paris, 2000, pp. 60-64.
   See for example the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space –
This treaty provides the basic framework for international space law. Among other things, it recognizes that:

       o   the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and
           shall be the province of all mankind (Article I);
       o   outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States (Article I);
       o   outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by
           any other means (Article II);
       o   international law and the UN Charter extends to the exploration and use of outer space (Article III);
       o   States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or
           station them in outer space in any other manner (Article IV.1);
       o   the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes (Article IV.2);

The preamble to the treaty recognizes “the common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of
outer space for peaceful purposes.” However, it does not ban the transit of nuclear weapons through space nor does it
prohibit the use of nuclear tipped interceptors for missile defense purposes.

There are other arms control treaties that regulate military operations in space:

       o   the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty prohibits nuclear weapon tests or any other nuclear explosions in outer space
           (Article I);
       o   the 1977 Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD) prohibits the military use of environmental
           modification techniques affecting outer space (Article I/II);
       o   the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty prohibited the developing, testing or deployment of ABM systems which are
           space-based (Article V).
       o   other arms control treaties - the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the 1990 Conventional
           Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-I) forbid interference with
           National Technical Means (NTM) such as satellites operated for verification purposes.

Other relevant space treaties include: 61

       o   the Agreement on the rescue of astronauts, the return of astronauts and the return of objects launched into outer
           space, 1968;
       o   the Convention on international liability for damage caused by space objects, 1972;
       o   the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1975;
       o   the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the Moon Agreement)
           - entered into force in 1984;
       o   the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Convention of 1932, which protects civilian satellites from
           interference, amended in 1992 and 1994.

So, it is possible to come to international agreement on many issues concerning the use of space. However, the definition
of how to define a space weapon remains a problem and the difficulty of deciding what is or is not (or might or might not
be) a weapon is being employed while development continues.

As Theresa Hitchens from The Center for Defense Information has said 62:

           “Unfortunately, it seems that the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force are doing their best - although
           perhaps not deliberately - to further muddy the already murky definitional waters. Masked by a combination of
           confusing Pentagon-ese (always a problem) and official hair-splitting, real-world space weapon programs are
           being bred and born with almost no public scrutiny. And as anyone knows who has followed weapon system
           acquisition, killing a program past a certain point in the developmental (read spending) chain is well nigh

           If the current situation continues, it may be that a far-reaching shift in U.S. strategic policy will be made as a fait
           accompli, rather than as the result of the serious, in-depth public policy discussion it deserves.

     “When is a Space Weapon Not a Space Weapon?” by Theresa Hitchens, Center for Defense Information, 23 January 2004 -
         Officially, as numerous senior U.S. Air Force officials have publicly insisted over the past year, there are "no
         space weapons programs on the books." The real meaning of this statement, however, is highly dependent on
         how one defines space weapons and on the books.”

The famous blind men analogy springs to mind. There are four blind men who discover an elephant. Since the men have
never encountered an elephant, they grope about, seeking to understand and describe this new phenomenon. One
grasps the trunk and concludes it is a snake. Another explores one of the elephant's legs and describes it as a tree. A
third finds the elephant's tail and announces that it is a rope. And the fourth blind man, after discovering the elephant's
side, concludes that it is, after all, a wall. One object seen as being completely different when only part of the whole thing
is known about. Thus whenever there is secrecy there will be guesses as to the worst possible scenario.

5.2 The United Nations

Despite the fact that there is no current treaty to prevent the stationing of weapons in space – other than weapons of
mass destruction - and a treaty has not yet been negotiated to comprehensively prevent an arms race in outer space,
there is general agreement in the United Nations, including among all space faring countries, that an arms race in outer
space should be prevented. The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) attached to the General
Assembly's Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonisation), and UNISPACE holds periodic meetings but usually
discusses space exploration issues. Military related problems in space are discussed by the First Committee
(Disarmament and International Security) and negotiations on these issues are held within the Conference on
Disarmament (CD).

The weaponisation of space first appeared at the CD in 1981 when it was trying to negotiate a treaty to regulate the
military use of space through a resolution called Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS). Some slow
progress in drafting a treaty was made until disagreement between China and the US in 1995 when China insisted that it
would only negotiate a Fissile Material Control Treaty if PAROS was completed at the same time. However, the US is the
key opponent to a treaty banning space weapons, although it does favour the creation of a PAROS ad hoc committee (as
long as the committee has a broad mandate). In CD debates the US argues that current treaties are sufficient and there is
no need to negotiate a PAROS treaty, since there is no threat of an arms race in space and, although there is general
agreement on the need for a PAROS ad hoc committee, the differences over its proposed mandate have continuously
stalled consensus within the CD.

Despite the stalemate in the CD, in 2000 the UN General Assembly adopted a PAROS resolution by a vote of 163 to none
with 3 abstentions. The three states that abstained were the Federated States of Micronesia, Israel and the United States
of America.63, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly continues to support the mandate. At the 2002 session
the vote was 156 in favour of PAROS, none against, with Israel and the US abstaining.

More recently, on 20 October 2004, at the UN First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) in New York a
number of states highlighted the importance of preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space. The previous day,
at a special session, Russia announced its new policy of no first deployment of space weapons and joined with China to
submit a draft treaty to prevent the placing of weapons in space. Egypt and Sri Lanka also introduced their traditional
PAROS resolution emphasising

         “the need for further measures with appropriate and effective provisions for verification to prevent an arms race in
         outer space”

and called on the CD to establish a PAROS ad hoc committee in its 2005 session. The vote was 167 for, none against
and two abstentions (the US and Israel). 64

In June 2005 a non-paper to the CD “On the Prevention of the Weaponization of Outer Space” by the Chinese and
Russian Delegations 65contained a summary discussion of some technical definitions and offered the following

     o   Outer Space – above 100km above sea level;

   More details in the UN Press Release GA/9829 – available at
   “PAROS discussions at the 2004 UN First Committee”, by Rebecca Johnson, The Acronym Institute, October 20, 2004 – available at
   “On the Prevention of the Weaponization of Outer Space” A Non-Paper by Chinese and Russian Delegations to the Conference on
   Disarmament, 9 June, 2005 – available at:
     o       Space Weapon – any device, based on any physical principle, specially produced or converted to eliminate,
             damage or disrupt normal function of objects in outer space, on the Earth surface or in its air, as well as to
             eliminate population, components of biosphere critical to human existence or inflict damage to them (except those
             devices needed by cosmonauts for self-defense);
     o       Space Object - any man-made device being launched into the orbit around any celestial body, or being in the orbit
             around any celestial body or on any celestial body except the Earth, or leaving the orbit around any celestial body
             towards this celestial body, or moving from any celestial body towards the other celestial body, or placed in the
             outer space by any other means.

The term “Peaceful Use of Outer Space” is also discussed and it is pointed out that the militarization of outer space has
already occurred with 70% of all satellites being used for military purposes, while many others can serve both military and
civil purposes. Two views on the definition of “peaceful use” of outer space are given:

         o     “non-military use” - any activities that serve military purposes should not be considered as “peaceful use”, no
               matter whether they are directly involved in military operations;
         o     “non-invasive use” or “non-aggressive use” - non-armed activities as satellite reconnaissance (including
               surveillance on the implementation of arms control and disarmament treaties and agreements), communication,
               navigation and nuclear explosion surveillance, which are not meant for direct military use, could be regarded as
               “peaceful use”.

5.3 Other Proposals

Other proposals have been made by some academics to:

     o       ban an attack on the International Space Station or all military activities beyond the Geostationary Orbit; 66
     o       ask the “International Court of Justice” to give an advisory opinion on whether the testing or deployment of space
             weapons would be compatible with the key principles of the Outer Space Treaty;
     o       amend the Outer Space Treaty to impose a ban of shooters in space; 67
     o       try to identify a middle ground for space arms control which might accept direct-ascent technologies for missile
             defence, but prohibit shooting down satellites in permanent orbit.

The problem with some partial solutions is that they might allow some degree of space-weapons build-up 68 and Rebecca
Johnson argues for a comprehensive approach employing three components: 69

     o       a ban on testing, deployment and use of all kinds of intentional weapons in space;
     o       a ban on the testing, deployment and use of ASATs deployed on earth and
     o       a code of conduct for the peace-supporting, non-offensive and non-aggressive uses of space.

Neuneck and Rothkirch suggest that it is a good idea to start with confidence building measures to build-up trust and
improve space security. For example The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (1975) could
be strengthened and modified to help ease problems associated with space launches and traffic. A code of conduct for
not attacking satellites could reduce threat of space debris and be in the interests of all space-faring nations.

Robert White has proposed a new Outer Space Treaty which would at least: 70

     o       Reaffirm the major considerations in the preamble to, and the articles contained in, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
             In particular, space - including the Moon and all other celestial bodies - is to be used only for peaceful purposes.
             Space is an international region and not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of
             use or occupation or by any other means. Space is available to all on an equal basis. Space is subject to
             international law including the UN Charter. Other aspects of that treaty to be included as seen appropriate and
             subject to any necessary modification to acknowledge changes since 1967.

   “Keys to Unblocking Multilateral Nuclear Arms Control” by Clifford E. Singer and Amy Sands, July 2002, University of Illinois at
   “National Missile Defense and the ABM Treaty: No Need to Wreck the Accord” by Philip E. Coyle and John B. Rhinelander, World
   Policy Journal, Vol. 18, 3/2001, P. 15-22.
   “New Rules in Outer Space: Options and Scenarios” by Jürgen Altmann and Jürgen Scheffran, Security Dialogue, Vol. 34(1), p. 109-
   116, 2003
   “Multilateral Approaches to Preventing the Weaponization of Space” by Rebecca Johnson, Disarmament Diplomacy, 56, April 2001
   “Preserving Space for Peaceful Use: A Case for a New Space Treaty” by Robert E. White, Centre for Peace Studies, University of
   Auckland, Working Paper N0. 10, ISBN 0-908881-17-7, July 2001.
     o   Prohibit all acts of aggression.
     o   Ban the testing, production, deployment or use of weapons in space. The new treaty should contain an article to
         the effect that states party to the treaty undertake not to deploy in space, to operate in or from space, any system
         or combination of systems constituting a weapon as defined in this treaty.
     o   Ban the testing, production, deployment or use of weapons designed to act into space. They would further
         undertake not to deploy any system or combination of systems constituting a weapon as defined in this treaty,
         and designed to operate into space from the earth or from within the atmosphere.
     o   Require the notification of all planned space activities with details of their nature and intent, and of all launches of
         objects into space. The 1967 treaty should be consulted here.
     o   Establish monitoring and verification procedures, and a monitoring/verification control organisation. Possible
         means for verification have been outlined. The pattern set by the monitoring programme for the CTBT could
         provide a useful model here.
     o   Include an article on 'permissible activities' - to help distinguish between activities that are prohibited and those
         that are not.
     o   Include provision for appropriate national implementation measures - and the designation or establishment of
         organisations to ensure that states party to the treaty implement it consistently and effectively.
     o   Include a disputes resolution mechanism - for consultations, clarifications and resolution of disputes to address
         any suspicions or disputes that might arise. This could, for example, deal with instances of non-destructive
         interference with the space assets of one country by some other party. Non-destructive interference can result
         from a satellite being subject to intense radiation of various types which interferes with its functioning without
         destroying the satellite, as one instance of non-destructive interference. Such an action would constitute an
         aggressive act. This mechanism could also deal with accidental damage to e.g. satellites by space debris, by
         collision or in some other way.
     o   Contain appropriate confidence building measures - to enhance mutual trust among states party to the treaty.
     o   Contain articles dealing with the procedural articles found in international legal instruments - dealing with
         amendment, length of validity, signature, ratification, entry into force, depository, and authentic texts, and any
         other similar issues.71

In 2002 an International Student/Young Pugwash group recommended the establishment of an international treaty to
embody current international customary law by: 72

     1. Prohibiting the placing of primary conventional weapons in space (except under the conditions of protection
        against natural disasters, under international auspices).
     2. Incorporating clauses which include reporting, evaluation, public examination and the passing of appropriate
        disputes to the International Court of Justice (modelled on the Chemical Weapons Convention).

While, in the longer term, the UN set up an International Committee for the Long-Range Future, initially for a period of 18
months, with the following goals:

     1. To rigorously analyze the relative weights of risks to human security in a formal scientific fashion;
     2. To assess future space development and security needs on a 50 year time scale and beyond;
     3. To research the feasibility and goals of a permanently established Standing Committee on the Long-Range

An International Space Preservation Treaty proposed by the Institute for Cooperation in Space 73 has been paired with a
Space Preservation Act (H.R. 2420) which was introduced to the US Congress as proposed legislation in May 2005 by
Dennis Kucinich and 34 co-sponsors. The Treaty and Bill propose:

     o   a ban on basing weapons in space and the use of weapons against objects in orbit
     o   an international treaty banning space-based weapons and the use of weapons against objects in orbit

They also incorporate the following definitions:

   The last 5 proposals are from a Chinese Working Paper, CD/1606, 9 February, 2000
   “The Weaponisation of Space - An International Student/young Pugwash perspective” by Will Marshall, George Whitesides, Iole de-
    Angelis, Yuri Takaya, Robert Schingler, Paul Reilly, Mark Lupisella – available at
       o    `space' means all space extending upward from an altitude greater than 110kms above the surface of the earth
            and any celestial body in such space.
       o    `space-based weapon' and `space-based system' mean a device capable of damaging or destroying an object or
            person (whether in outer space, in the atmosphere, or on Earth) by:
                o firing one or more projectiles to collide with that object or person;
                o detonating one or more explosive devices in close proximity to that object or person; or
                o any other undeveloped means.

While this bill has come in for some criticism from some NGOs – it is possibly a good start, although unlikely to be passed
by Congress.

Perhaps it is possible for one or more of the ideas and suggestions described above to be developed into a full
internationally agreed treaty. Some analysts suggest that a possible way forward for such a treaty might be along the lines
followed for development of the Ottawa Land Mines Treaty. This would involve a country which supports the prohibition of
space weapons (such as Canada) hosting a treaty conference for interested nations.

6. An Ethical Space Policy

Among all these discussions and debates, politics and military or industrial advantage are always at the forefront. Hardly
ever does an ethical argument enter into these discussions, although it could be said that perhaps the most successful
space treaty of all, The Outer Space Treaty – declaring space as the province of all human kind, is basically ethical.
Perhaps it is time to turn to an ethical consideration of the problem in order to find a common human resonance and a
path through vested interest, fear and mistrust?

The ethical use of space was considered at a conference entitled “Space Use and Ethics. Criteria for the Assessment of
Future Space”, held in 1999 at the Darmstadt University of Technology (TUD) in Germany. In the 21st century, space
technology should contribute to solving conflicts and problems on Earth in a sustainable way. 74

In order to assess the use of space technology and to ensure its societal acceptance, costs and resources, goals and
benefits, and also undesired consequences and risks, Jürgen Scheffran from INESAP has suggested eight concrete
criteria for the assessment of future space projects which can also be applied to other fields of technology:

       o   Exclude the possibility of severe catastrophe
       o   Avoid military use, violent conflict, and proliferation
       o   Minimize adverse effects on health and environment
       o   Assure scientific-technical quality, functionality, reliability
       o   Solve problems and satisfy needs in a sustainable and timely manner
       o   Seek alternatives with best cost-benefit effectiveness
       o   Guarantee social compatibility and strengthen cooperation
       o   Justify projects in a public debate involving those concerned

7. Conclusion

War in space is undesirable for a number of reasons – not least of which are the problems associated with space debris
and the possibility of space based weapons aimed at earth – and nations appear to be united in wishing to prevent
weapons being stationed in space. However, the US is determined not to give up its superiority and dominance in space
technology and has consistently prevented progress in treaty negotiations and has in fact lead space weapons
development through missile defence and other programmes claiming them to be defensive rather than offensive.
However, offense is often in the eyes of the beholder and other technologically capable (or near capable) states are
concerned about the dominance and aggressive stance of the US in this area.

A major question often asked is what is the force behind the US drive to space dominance? How do major projects get
huge amounts of funding when eminent scientists can show that they are not technically feasible? Are concerns about
national security and a national faith in technological solutions to national and global problems too strong in the US? Does
the drive come from a desire for world domination and control? Perhaps it is a mixture of many things. Certainly the
aerospace and defence industry is a major beneficiary in the effort to achieve “full spectrum dominance” have been at the
forefront of the development of a philosophy of security through strength and a role for the US as a global police force

     See reports from the conference in INESAP bulletin #17 – available at
through technological superiority. This does fit well with right wing political views and the American people’s trust in
technology to eventually find solutions to seemingly insoluble problems.

One problem may be the continuing decline in non-military public support for science and engineering programmes and
training. The increasing reliance on industry to support these activities has meant that market forces prevail and high
technology projects are often linked to military programmes. Groups such as the Scientists for Global Responsibility in the
UK 75 and the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US 76 actively campaign on issues such as the ethical use of science
and engineering and continue to lobby politicians but there has been little positive response from Government. Therefore,
there is little choice for those wanting to follow a career in engineering or science but to become an integral part of the
‘military industrial complex’ and contribute to the development of lucrative military projects. Now must be the time for
scientists, engineers and politicians to seriously consider what might constitute a workable ethical policy on space.
Although fears are that it is already too late.

At a time when satellite and missile related technologies are growing rapidly, an international space weapons race cannot
be the path to follow. Many nations and NGO groups agree on a number of issues, including the desirability of the ethical
and sustainable use of space. A truly secure future can only be guaranteed if space remains weapon free and the
increasing development of military related space systems is limited (or ideally reversed) and rigorously monitored and
controlled. There is a significant role for the technologically able nations here. The world is seeing the warnings and
suffering the consequences of ill-planned technological growth. Global warming is beginning to be taken seriously by the
major energy and resource consumers. Urgent action is needed to prevent global disaster. Technological growth that
ignores environmental consequences usually results in human misery and suffering and the leading nations must take the
lead even if personal or national pride has to be sacrificed to guarantee future global survival.

In the case of space, it is likely that most nations will want to increase or initiate military capabilities in this arena. However,
a significant step for humanity would be made if the nations of the world could come to an understanding on the definition
of a space weapon, trust each other to adhere to a global treaty and care enough to keep the space environment free of
war – or, to use the global campaigning slogan: to “Keep Space for Peace”.


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Description: On the Definition of a Space Weapon