Tuesday, 15 November 2011
CASE 363 - The Weaponization of Space
The Weaponization of Space is the placement and development of weaponry and military technology in outer space.
Acquisition of high grounds for military advantage has been a perennial feature of military campaigns. For thousands of years, military tacticians have exploited the concept of "capturing" or "keeping" the high ground in military campaigns. Fortifications were built on high points, with walls that enabled archers to rain down deadly volleys. Mobile towers served as siege weapons. Ships were equipped with crow's nests that facilitated long-range reconnaissance. Hot air balloons were lofted by Napoleon, during the American Civil War, and the first World War to observe troop movements. Aircraft were initially seen as useful for high level reconnaissance, which was quickly followed by aerial battles.
Aircraft revolutionised warfare during the twentieth century, leading to "command of the air" as a key strategic concept. The U.S. had already begun its Discoverer space program, now known as Corona, when Francis Gary Powers' U-2 aircraft was shot down in the 1960 U-2 incident. The quest for safer observation from space gained momentum. Initial attempts for control of the environment of space were led by both the US and the Soviet Union. They planned for controlling the realm of space with nuclear and conventional devices such as anti-satellite weapons (ASATs).
The militarisation of space began in the 1960s, and has now evolved into a key military capability for space-faring nations, potentially giving decisive military advantage. Militarisation of space is the next step in this quest to gain higher ground. The idea of placing weapons in space can be found first in 20th century science fiction stories.
One needs to define "militarisation" of space. Does militarisation mean placing weapons in space, or does it include orbiting capabilities that are used by the military such as GPS navigation, communications, and reconnaissance? If the latter definition applies, then space has been militarised for over 50 years already since the first Discoverer/Corona satellite launched in 1959.
While military activities have certainly taken place in space (since the launch of Sputnik by the Russian military), and space is an operating location for many military spacecraft (such as imaging & communications satellites) or a temporary transit medium for weapons (such as ballistic missiles), it must be pointed out that permanent stationing of operational weapons in space has yet never been conducted.
Types of spy satellites
Sircon (project cancelled)
Helios 1B (destroyed), Helios 2A
People's Republic of China
Fanhui Shi Weixing
Technology Experiment Satellite
Global Positioning Systems
The second application of space militarisation currently in use is GPS or Global Positioning System. This satellite navigation system is used for determining one's precise location and providing a highly accurate time reference almost anywhere on Earth or in Earth orbit. It uses an intermediate circular orbit (ICO) satellite constellation of at least 24 satellites. The GPS system was designed by and is controlled by the United States Department of Defense and can be used by anyone, free of charge. The cost of maintaining the system is approximately US$400 million per year, including the replacement of aging satellites. The first of 24 satellites that form the current GPS constellation (Block II) was placed into orbit on February 14, 1989. The 52nd GPS satellite since the beginning in 1978 was launched November 6, 2004 aboard a Delta II rocket. The primary military purposes are to allow improved command and control of forces through improved location awareness, and to facilitate accurate targeting of smart bombs, cruise missiles, or other munitions. The satellites also carry nuclear detonation detectors, which form a major portion of the United States Nuclear Detonation Detection System. European concern about the level of control over the GPS network and commercial issues has resulted in the planned Galileo positioning system. Russia already operates an independent system called GLONASS (global navigation system), the system operates with 24 satellites that are deployed in 3 orbital planes as opposed to the 4 GPS is deployed in. The Chinese "Beidou" system provides China a similar regional (not global) navigation capability.
Military communication systems
The third current application of militarization of space can be demonstrated by the emerging military doctrine of network-centric warfare. Network-centric warfare relies heavily on the use of high speed communications which allows all soldiers and branches of the military to view the battlefield in real-time. Real-time technology improves the situational awareness of all of the military’s assets and commanders in a given theatre. For example, a soldier in the battle zone can access satellite imagery of enemy positions two blocks away, and if necessary e-mail the coordinates to a bomber or weapon platform hovering overhead while the commander, hundreds of miles away, watches as the events unfold on a monitor. This high-speed communication is facilitated by a separate internet created by the military for the military. Communication satellites hold this system together by creating an informational grid over the given theatre of operations. The Department of Defense is currently working to establish a Global Information Grid to connect all military units and branches into a computerized network in order to share information and create a more efficient military.
It was revealed that Soviet officials were concerned that the US Space Shuttle program had such military objectives such as to make a sudden dive into the atmosphere to drop bombs on Moscow and these concerns were part of the motivation behind pursuing their own Buran program.
The NASA uncrewed spaceplane project X-37 was transferred to the US Department of Defense in 2004. It is unclear what its military mission would be. The X-37 is akin to a space version of Unmanned aerial vehicle.
Weapons in space
Space weapons are weapons used in space warfare. They include weapons that can attack space systems in orbit (i.e. anti-satellite weapons), attack targets on the earth from space or disable missiles travelling through space. In the course of the militarisation of space, such weapons were developed mainly by the contesting superpowers during the Cold War, and some remain under development today. Space weapons are also a central theme in military science fiction and sci-fi video games.
Main article: Space warfare
Space warfare is combat that takes place in outer space, i.e. outside the atmosphere. Technically, as a distinct classification, it refers to battles where the targets themselves are in space. Space warfare therefore includes ground-to-space warfare, such as attacking satellites from the Earth, as well as space-to-space warfare, such as satellites attacking satellites.
It does not include the use of satellites for espionage, surveillance, or military communications, however useful those activities might be. It does not technically include space-to-ground warfare, where orbital objects attack ground, sea or air targets directly, but the public and media frequently use the term to include any conflict which includes space as a theater of operations, regardless of the intended target. For example, a rapid delivery system in which troops are deployed from orbit might be described as "space warfare," even though the military uses the term as described above.
A film was produced by the U.S. Military in the early 1960s called Space and National Security which depicted space warfare. From 1985 to 2002 there was a United States Space Command, which in 2002 merged with the United States Strategic Command. There is a Russian Space Force, which was established on August 10, 1992, and which became an independent section of the Russian military on June 1, 2001.
Only a few incidents of space warfare have occurred in world history, and all were training missions, as opposed to actions against real opposing forces. In the mid-1980s a USAF pilot in an F-15 successfully shot down the P78-1, a communications satellite in a 345-mile (555 km) orbit.
In 2007 the People's Republic of China used a missile system to destroy one of its obsolete satellites, and in 2008 the United States similarly destroyed its malfunctioning satellite USA 193. To date, there have been no human casualties resulting from conflict in space, nor has any ground target been successfully neutralised from orbit.
International treaties governing space limit or regulate conflicts in space and limit the installation of weapon systems, especially nuclear weapons.
Treaties are agreed to when all parties perceive a benefit from becoming a signatory participant in the treaty. As mutually assured destruction (MAD) became the deterrent strategy between the two superpowers in the Cold War, many countries worked together to avoid extending the threat of nuclear weapons to space based launchers.
Outer Space Treaty
The Outer Space Treaty, considered by the Legal Subcommittee in 1966. Later that year, agreement was reached in the General Assembly. The treaty included the following principles:
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;
outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;
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;
the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes;
Astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind;
States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental activities;
States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and
States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.
In summary, the treaty initiated the banning of signatories' placing of nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction in orbit of Earth, installing them on the moon or any other celestial body, or to otherwise station them in outer space. The United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union signed the treaty and it entered into effect on October 10, 1967. As of January 1, 2005, 98 States have ratified, and an additional 27 have signed the Outer Space Treaty.
Note that this treaty does not ban the placement of weapons in space in general, only nuclear weapons and WMD.
Space Preservation Treaty
The Space Preservation Treaty was a proposed 2006 UN General Assembly resolution against all space weapons. Three countries, most notably the United States of America, abstained from voting on most provisions of this treaty  because the proposed treaty did not do enough to clearly define what is meant by a "space weapon", and therefore was open to wide interpretation and impossible to verify whether it was being violated.