By Karl Grossman,
Presented at the Space Tourism: Legal Dimensions Conference, 29 January 2022
The push to turn space into a war zone could spell goodbye to space tourism.
The space tourism drive that is underway, led by billionaires Jeff Bezos with his Blue Origin company, Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic, and Elon Musk and his SpaceX operation, is seen as only a start. As Dylan Taylor wrote in 2021 on www.space.com in an article headed “The Future of space tourism,” it’s a “a growing market expected to be worth at least $3 billion by 2030.” Space.com identified Taylor as an “entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist” and “cofounding patron of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.” https://www.space.com/future-of-space-tourism-op-ed
In his piece Taylor continued, “While only uber-wealthy passengers and private researchers will have access to space tourism in the immediate future, the long term holds promises for ordinary citizens.”
“As more companies consider in-space tourism, orbital vacations are set to become a popular trend.” Taylor envisions an “orbital vacationing infrastructure” including “orbital” hotels.
“Once space tourism does become mainstream, it will also positively impact many socioeconomic factors on Earth: creating jobs, educating citizens about space and fostering a new solar-based energy infrastructure,” declared Taylor. “The sweet escape to the stars can eventually awaken us to the awe-inspiring potential of space exploration while also giving us a better appreciation of home.”
Branson has said: “There’s room for 20 space companies to take people up there. The more spaceships we can build, the more we can bring the price down and the more we’ll be able to satisfy demand and that will happen over the years to come.” https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/03/richard-branson-space-tourism-market-has-room-for-20-companies.html
“Asked if he thought the space market may be growing too quickly, Branson dismissed the idea,” related CNBC. “’I don’t think there’s any overheating,’ Branson said. ‘I think the space world is only just starting.’”
Meanwhile, there’s the push, led by the United States, to turn space into a war zone—and this, despite the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 that sets space aside for peaceful purposes.
As then U.S. President Donald Trump declared in 2018 as he advocated for formation of a U.S. Space Force, “it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.” https://www.space.com/40921-trump-space-traffic-policy-american-leadership.html
The following year, he signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 establishing the Space Force as the sixth branch of U.S. armed forces and said: “Space is the world’s newest warfighting domain.” The Space Force, Trump said, would “help” the U.S. “control the ultimate high ground.” https://www.space.com/trump-creates-space-force-2020-defense-bill.html
Then, at the unveiling of a Space Force flag at the White House, Trump said: “Space is going to be…the future, both in terms of defense and offense.” https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/trump-unveils-space-force-flag-ceremony-says-space-future-n1208021
Trump’s successor, U.S. President Joe Biden, has not rolled back the U.S. Space Force.
“U.S. President Joe Biden will not seek to eliminate the Space Force and roll military space functions back into the Air Force, the White House confirmed,” began a Defense News article soon after Biden’s inauguration. https://defensenews.com/space/2021/02/03/with-the-full-support-of-the-biden-administration-the-space-force-is-officially-here-to-stay
“White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters during a Feb. 3  briefing that the new service has the ‘full support’ of the Biden administration,” it went on. “‘We’re not revisiting the decision.”
Later in 2021, several Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the “No Militarization of Space Act” that would abolish the U.S. Space Force. The prime author of the legislation, Representative Jared Huffman of California, in a statement, called the Space Force “costly and unnecessary.” https://huffman.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/huffman-introduces-bill-to-abolish-wasteful-space-force
The long-standing neutrality of space has fostered a competitive, non-militarized age of exploration every nation and generation has valued since the first days of space travel. But since its creation under the former Trump administration, the Space Force has threatened longstanding peace and flagrantly wasted billions of taxpayer dollars….It’s time we turn our attention back to where it belongs: addressing urgent domestic and international priorities like battling COVID-19, climate change, and growing economic inequality. Our mission must be to support the American people, not spend billions on the militarization of space.
The measure got nowhere. That was not surprising considering that most Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate (and nearly all the members of the other major political party in the U.S., the Republican Party) voted for the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 providing for the Space Force’s formation. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/12/18/the-very-bad-space-force-deal/
And the U.S. Space Force is moving forward.
Last year, it requested a budget of $17.4 billion for 2022 to “grow the service,” reported Air Force Magazine. “Space Force 2022 Budget Adds Satellites, Warfighting Center, More Guardians,” was the headline of its article. And in the first paragraph, Air Force Magazine added “and fund more than $800 million in new classified programs.” (“Guardians” is the name adopted by the U.S. Space Force in 2021 for its members.) https://www.airforcemag.com/space-force-2022-budget-request/
One after another, U.S. Air Force bases are being renamed U.S. Space Force bases.
A Space Force recruitment drive is underway.
In 2020, the Space Force “received its first offensive weapon… satellite jammers,” reported American Military News in 2020. “The weapon does not destroy enemy satellites, but can be used to interrupt enemy satellite communications and hinder enemy early warning systems meant to detect a U.S. attack,” it said. https://americanmilitarynews.com/2020/04/us-space-force-has-its-first-offensive-weapon-heres-what-it-does/
Soon afterwards, the Financial Times’ headline was: “U.S military officials eye new generation of space weapons.” https://www.ft.com/content/d44aa332-f564-4b4a-89b7-1685e4579e72
In 2021, the headline on the c4isrnet.com website, which focuses on U.S. military developments, was: “The Space Force wants to use directed-energy systems for space superiority.” https://www.c4isrnet.com/battlefield-tech/space/2021/06/16/the-space-force-wants-to-use-directed-energy-weapons-for-space-superiority/
As to the impacts of war in space, Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, in an interview in 2021 related the projection of the late Edgar Mitchell, in 1971 the sixth U.S. astronaut to walk on the moon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow8c7LbPvuI&feature=youtu.be
In 1989 during one of our campaigns against NASA plutonium launches [NASA’s launching of plutonium-powered space probes], we had a rally at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and our keynote speaker that day was Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell, one of the moonwalkers. And he came and said if there is one war in space, it’ll be the one and the only. He said because we will create so much space debris or space junk from all the destroyed satellites and things like that in space that there would literally be a minefield encircling the planet – he called it a piranha-laced river—and we would not be able to get through. A rocket would not be able to get off this Earth through that minefield. So, it’s insane to think about having a war in space.
Gagnon has also spoken of how space warfare would “mean activity on Earth below would immediately shut down—cell phones, ATM machines, cable TV, traffic lights, weather prediction and more—all hooked up to satellites, would be lost. Modern society would go dark.” https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/12/18/the-very-bad-space-force-deal/
Also pointing to the generation of space debris resulting from warfare in space was Alexander Chanock in section titled “Problems With Weaponizing Space” in an article published in 2013 in Journal of Air Law and Commerce titled “The Problems and Potential Solutions Related to the Emergence of Space Weapons in the 2lst Century.” https://scholar.smu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1327&context=jalc
Chanock, then a candidate for a law degree, now a legislative counsel in the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote that a major problem “is the amount of space debris that space weapons would produce….The fear is that destroying in space could generate extremely dangerous debris with a long orbital life.”
Chanock quoted Dr. Joel Primack, professor of physics and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and “one of the premier experts on space debris, noted Chanock, as saying “the weaponization of space would make the debris problem much worse, and even one war in space could encase the entire planet in a shell of whizzing debris that would thereafter make space near the Earth highly hazardous for peaceful as well as military purposes.”
Also, a 2018 article in the British publication, The Guardian—headed “’It’s going to happen’: is the world ready for war in space?”—by Stuart Clark, the author of a number of books on space, addressed the issue of space war and subsequent debris. https://www/theguardian.com/science/2018/apr/15/its-going-to-happe-is-world-ready-for-war-in-space
It is through the creation of space debris that any conflict in orbit would have decidedly Earthbound consequences….The debris cloud created by blowing up satellites can easily collide with other satellites, destroying them and triggering a chain reaction that could swiftly surround the Earth with belts of debris. Orbits would become so unnavigable that our access to space would be completely blocked, and the satellites we rely on smashed to smithereens. This nightmare scenario is known as the Kessler syndrome.
Clark’s article quoted Michael Schmitt, professor of public and international law at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, a “space war expert,” wrote Clark, as saying: “It is absolutely inevitable that we will see conflict move into space…I am convinced beyond a scintilla of doubt…It’s going to happen.”
And science writer Alan Boyle in 2020 reported: “In the years ahead, the long-running nightmare of the nuclear Cold War—mutually assured destruction—could return in a new context on the final frontier, a Pentagon adviser said today at a Seattle-based space policy conference.” https://www.geekwire.com/2020/satellite-attacks-spark-new-kind-mutually-assured-destruction/#:~:text=Pentagon%20worries%20that%20satellite%20attacks%20could%20spark%20%27mutually%20assured%20destruction%27&text=%E2%80%9CIf%20nations%20start%20arming%20with,assured%20destruction%2C%E2%80%9D%20he%20said.
During the conference, sponsored by the University of Washington’s Space Policy and Research Center, Brad Townsend, “a space strategy and policy adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” warned that “in the course of destroying an enemy satellite, attackers could set off a catastrophic chain reaction of out-of-control orbital debris. Such a phenomenon, sometimes referred to as the Kessler syndrome, has fed into plotlines for movies…and novels. But Townsend warned that the threat is more than a science-fiction possibility,” wrote Boyle.
Further, U.S. plans for war in space will likely lead to an arms race, stated Chanock in his Journal of Air Law and Commerce article. “The main problem associated with weaponizing space is that an arms race would likely occur, which could destabilize the international system and make the world more vulnerable to war,” he wrote.
Accordingly, if the United States develops space weapons, other countries, such as China and Russia, will inevitably start to develop their own weapons to counteract the Unites States’ advantage in space or else face the consequences of a superpower with a strategic advantage. This potential arms race will also cost countries vast amounts of money and will put many weapons in space, which increases the likelihood that they will be used.
Moreover, “Deploying weapons in space crosses a threshold that cannot be walked back,” wrote retired U.S. Army Colonel John Fairlamb in a 2021 piece in the The Hill, the Washington, D.C. news website. https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/536774-the-us-should-negotiate-a-ban-on-basing-weapons-in-space
Fairlamb’s background includes being International Affairs Specialist for the Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Military Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs. An Army company commander in the Vietnam War, he holds a doctorate on “Comparative Defense Policy Analysis.”
“Given the implications for strategic stability, and the likelihood that such a decision [to deploy weapons in space] by any nation would set off an expensive space arms race in which any advantage gained would likely be temporary, engaging now to prevent such a debacle seems warranted,” wrote Fairlamb.
“It’s time,” said Fairlamb said, “for arms control planning to address the issues raised by this drift toward militarization of space. Space is a place where billions of defense dollars can evaporate quickly and result in more threats about which to be concerned. Russia and China have been proposing mechanisms for space arms control at the United Nations for years; it’s time for the U.S. to cooperate in this effort.”
The blueprint for international cooperation in space has been the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which sets aside space for peaceful purposes and declares it a “global commons.” It was put together by the United States, United Kingdom and the former Soviet Union and has wide support from nations around the world. https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/outerspace
As Craig Eisendrath, who as a young U.S. State Department office was involved in the treaty’s creation, explained, “we sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized…to keep war out of space.” https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/214007/weapons-in-space-by-karl-grossman-foreword-by-dr-michio-kaku/
The model, he said, was the Antarctic Treaty which provides that Antarctica is to “be used for peaceful purposes only.”
“This foundational treaty has allowed for half a century of ever expanding peaceful activity in space, free from man-made threats,” wrote Paul Meyer in his chapter, “Arms Control in Outer Space: A Diplomatic Alternative to Star Wars,” in the book Security in the Global Commons and Beyond. Arms Control in Outer Space: A Diplomatic Alternative to Star Wars | springerprofessional.de
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 prohibits placement “in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction or from installing such weapons on celestial bodies.”
For decades there has been an effort to extend the Outer Space Treaty and enact the Prevention of an Arms Race (PAROS) treaty, which would bar the placement of any weapons in space. China, Russia and Canada have been leaders in seeking passage of the PAROS treaty. But the United States—through administration after administration, Republican and Democrat—has opposed the PAROS treaty and effectively vetoed it at the United Nations.
A rationale for the U.S. Space Force has been that it is necessary to counter moves by Russia and China in space, particularly development of anti-satellite weapons. This’s what a Cable News Network report in 2021, titled “An Exclusive Look Into How Space Force is Defending America,” centrally asserted. https://www.cnn.com/videos/business/2021/08/06/space-force-defense-sciutto-pkg-nr-vpx.cnn
(There was no mention in the six-minute-plus CNN piece of how China and Russia have been leaders for decades in the push for PAROS, and how China and Russia in recent times have reiterated their calls for space to be weapons-free.)
“We are calling on the international community to start negotiations and reach agreement on arms control in order to ensure space safety as soon as possible,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, in April 2021. “China has always been in favor of preventing an arms race in space; it has been actively promoting negotiations on a legally binding agreement on space arms control jointly with Russia.” https://spacefeed.tech/index.php/2021/04/17/chinese-foreign-ministry-calls-for-promptly-starting-talks-on-space-arms-control/
A day earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov called for talks to create an “international legally binding instrument” to ban the deployment of “any types of weapons” in space. Lavrov said: “We consistently believe that only a guaranteed prevention of an arms race in space will make it possible to use it for creative purposes, for the benefit of the entire mankind. We call for negotiations on the development of an international legally binding instrument that would prohibit the deployment of any types of weapons there, as well as the use of force or the threat of force.” https://www.spacewar.com/reports/Russia_Calls_for_Talks_on_Binding_Treaty_to_Prohibit_Weapons_in_Space___Lavrov_999.html
Most recently, the U.S. concern about Russia and China moving into space militarily was heightened by Russia in November 2021 using an antisatellite weapon to blow up a defunct Soviet intelligence satellite that was launched in 1992.
“The blast created more than 1,500 pieces of trackable debris and is likely to eventually generate hundreds of smaller pieces, according to the U.S. State Department, which was sharply critical of the test for posing dangers to satellites and crewed spaceships,” reported Andrew E. Kramer in The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/16/world/europe/russia-antisatellite-missile-test.html
Dr. Paul Robinson, professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa, in an article on RT, the Russian media network, provided a motive for the Russian action. “The Russian anti-satellite test may be seen as an effort to try to force the United States to recognize its vulnerability and so bring it to the negotiating table,” wrote Robinson. “This may not work.” https://www.rt.com/russia/540627-missile-space-war-stop/
He wrote in the piece: “News that Russia has tested an anti-satellite missile has sparked concern for spacecraft and, more worryingly, highlighted the lack of international treaties regulating space weapons, meaning the cosmos is becoming a battlefield.”
He added: “Nobody but generals and arms manufacturers will benefit from an arms race in space. The sooner everyone recognizes this the better.”
U.S. interest in war in space has deep roots: back to the former Nazi rocket scientists and engineers brought to the U.S. from Germany after World War II under the U.S.’s Operation Paperclip. They ended up at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama—to use “their technological expertise to help create the U.S. space and weapons program,” wrote Jack Manno, a professor of environmental studies at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry, in his 1984 book Arming the Heavens: The Hidden Military Agenda for Space, 1945-1995. https://www.abebooks.com/9780396082118/Arming-heavens-hidden-military-agenda-0396082114/plp
“Many of the early space war schemes were dreamt up by scientists working for the German military, scientists who brought their rockets and their ideas to America after the war,” he wrote. Many of these scientists and engineers “later rose to positions of power in the U.S. military, NASA, and the aerospace industry.” Among them were “Wernher von Braun and his V-2 colleagues” who began “working on rockets for the U.S. Army,” and at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal “were given the task of producing an intermediate range ballistic range missile to carry battlefield atomic weapons up to 200 miles. The Germans produced a modified V-2 renamed the Redstone….Huntsville became a major center of U.S. space military activities.”
Manno told the story of former German Major General Walter Dornberger, who had been in charge of the entire Nazi rocket program, and how he “in 1947 as a consultant to the U.S Air Force and adviser to the Department of Defense…wrote a planning paper for his new employers. He proposed a system of hundreds of nuclear-armed satellites all orbiting at different altitudes and angles, each capable or reentering the atmosphere on command from Earth to proceed to its target. The Air Force began early work on Dornberger’s idea under the acronym NABS (Nuclear Armed Bombardment Satellites).”
The Strategic Defense Initiative scheme of U.S. President Ronald Reagan of the 1980s, dubbed “Star Wars,” was predicated on orbiting battle platforms with on-board hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons energized by also on-board nuclear reactors.
As General James Abrahamson, the director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, said at a Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion in 1988, “without reactors in orbit [there is] going to be a long, long light [extension] cord that goes down to the surface of the Earth” to bring up power to energize space weaponry. B. Spice, “Sm Looks to Nuclear Power,” Albuquerque Journal, 12 January 1988, p.A1
A U.S. Air Force report, New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century, spoke of how “new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict. These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills.” However, “power limitations impose restrictions” on such space weaponry making them “relatively unfeasible,” but “a natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space.” Said the report: “Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space.” https://www.amazon.com/New-world-vistas-century-applications/dp/B00010R4J4
That nuclear/space warfare linkage continues.
A 104-page report issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in 2021 declared: “Space nuclear propulsion and power systems have the potential to provide the United States with military advantages.” https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25977/space-nuclear-propulsion-for-human-mars-exploration
A U.S. Space Command was formed in 1985.
“US Space Command—dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict,” its 1998 report Vision for 2020 declared. https://thecommunity.com/vision-for-2020/
The U.S. Space Command was set up by the Pentagon, said Vision for 2020, to “help institutionalize the use of space.”
The motto of one of the Space Command units, the 50th Space Wing, emblazoned above the entrance to its headquarters in Colorado, was “Master of Space.” (The unit—which retains that motto over its entrance—is now a component of the U.S. Space Force.) https://www.kpbs.org/news/2019/may/17/while-trumps-space-force-sits-launchpad-military-s/
Vision for 2020 further said: “Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments-both military and economic.” Nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests” and during “the westward expansion of the United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements and railroads. The emergence of space power follows both of these models. During the early portion of the 2lst Century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare.”
“It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen,” said U.S. Space Command Commander-in-Chief Joseph W. Ashy in Aviation Week and Space Technology in 1996. “Some people don’t want to hear this…but—absolutely—we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space…. We will engage terrestrial targets someday—ships, airplanes, land targets—from space.” (Original italics.) William B. Scott, USSC Prepares for Future Combat Missions in Space, Aviation Week & Space Technology, Aug. 5, 1996, p. 51
The Future of War: Power, Technology & American World Dominance in the 2lst Century is a book by “arms experts” George and Meredith Friedman in which they describe what they see as U.S. space military policy. New York, St. Martin’s Griffin, 1988, ISBN. 0312181000
Just as by the year 1500 it was apparent that the European experience of power would be its domination of the global seas, it does not take much to see that the American experience of power will rest on the domination of space. Just as Europe expanded war and its power to the global oceans, the United States is expanding war and its power into space and to the planets. Just as Europe shaped the world for a half a millennium, so too the United States will shape the world for at least that length of time.
“U.S. generals planning for a space war they see as all but inevitable” That was the
headline of a two-and-a-half page article in a 2021 issue of the aerospace industry trade journal
Space News. The article quoted Lt. General John Shaw as saying at the 36th Space Symposium held in Colorado Springs that the U.S. is “only starting to grapple with what space warfighting means.” And it quoted Carey Smith, “CEO of defense and cybersecurity contractor Parsons,” having “noted” at the symposium that the “only foundation of international space law that current exists, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, is outdated and doesn’t address most space security issues that could set off a war.” https://spacenews.com/u-s-generals-planning-for-a-space-war-they-see-as-all-but-inevitable/?fbclid=IwAR1S2TrVu9JbtWoj7Q9ddhKSOSpRbxinJaGnwsyqgkl2w37cDenKHo0cet4
“Is war in space inevitable?” That was the headline of a 2021 piece on www.space.com by Leonard David, the author of the 2019 book Moon Rush: The New Space Race and long a writer for www.space.com which describes itself as “the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news.” https://www.space.com/41418-about-us.html
The subhead was: “Space.com asked experts about the ongoing militarization of space.”
“Here on Earth, the air, land, and sea are zones of conflict, clashes and combat. There is a growing perception that next up is the ocean of space, transformed into an arena for warfare,” David began. http://www.space.com/is-space-war-inevitable-anti-satellite-technology
Among those he interviewed was Wendy Whitman Cobb, a professor of Strategy and Security Studies at the U.S. Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and author of a 2020 book Privatizing Peace: How Commerce Can Reduce Conflict in Space.
“The flourishing commercializing of space and the global economy’s reliance on space-based systems make open conflict in space very costly, as Whitman Cobb points out in her recent book,” David wrote.
Then there was Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Rhode Island. Asked by David whether space war fighting plans should continue, she said: “I would like to see a major effort by this new administration in space diplomacy, specifically toward transparency and confidence measures.”
Can we by building upon the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, notably by enacting the
PAROS treaty, and through diplomacy, and a strong system of verification, keep space for peace?
The cover of the November 2021 issue of Harper’s magazine was emblazoned with the heading: “The Coming Battle Over Space.” An extensive story followed. https://harpers.org/archive/2021/11/ad-astra-the-coming-battle-over-space
In it, Rachel Riederer related going in 2020 to the Pentagon for a ceremony in which General W. “Jay” Raymond, the chief of operations of the U.S. Space Force, was to “ceremoniously transfer” several hundred Air Force personnel into the Space Force.
He also was “formally introducing’ the “first military document” of the Space Force, titled “Spacepower.” And from Riederer’s description of it, the building on the Outer Space Treaty and its call for space to be set aside for peaceful purposes would seem quite doubtful.
The new doctrine inaugurates space as a distinct-war fighting domain, and “spacepower” as a military power in its own right. Among the Space Force’s goals, it says, are to “destroy, nullify, or reduce” adversarial menaces in space, especially by deterrence through the flexing of enormous military muscle. The document is dutifully reverential of the Outer Space Treaty and international law, and says that “military space forces should make every effort to promote responsible norms of behavior that perpetuate space as a safe and open environment.” But at its core, the doctrine opposes the fundamental purpose of the OST [the Outer Space Treaty], which was to define and preserve space as a place of peace. It also explicitly hedges against the promises of the ’67 treaty, saying: “No domain in history in which humans contest policy goals has ever been free from the potential for war.” The United States must “acknowledge” that space “is for peaceful purpose” wile preparing to defend it, a quiet clause clarifies, not from those who would disrupt the peace, but from those “who will seek to undermine our goals in space.” Included in the “cornerstone responsibilities” of the Space Force, the doctrine says, are to “Preserve Freedom of Action” and “Enable Joint Lethality and Effectiveness.
Riederer related that in his “speech at the Pentagon, General Raymond told the incoming troops of the Space Force” that:
If deterrence fails, a war that begins or extends into space will be fought over great distances at tremendous speeds….Direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles can reach low Earth orbit in minutes. Electronic attacks and directed-energy weapons move at the speed of light, and on-orbit capabilities move at speeds greater than 17,500 miles an hour. To plan for warfare at that speed and those distance, we must be agile, and we must be fast.”
“’Our adversaries are moving deliberately and quickly in order to reduce our advantage,’ he said,” she reported. “‘I’m not confident that we can achieve victory, or even compete, in a modern conflict without space power. And I am not willing to lose in order to learn.’”
A January 2022 article in Air Force Magazine called attention on the aggressive stance of the U.S. Space Force. “Fighting Comes Into Focus for the Space Force in 2022,” was its headline. It began: “The leaders of the Space Force foresee the service continuing to become more ‘lethal’ in 2022, inventing new tactical scenarios in its third year…” https://www.airforcemag.com/fighting-comes-into-focus-for-the-space-force-in-2022/#:~:text=Fighting%20Comes%20Into%20Focus%20for,in%202022%20%2D%20Air%20Force%20Magazine&text=Airmen%20recite%20the%20oath%20of,ceremony%20at%20the%20Pentagon%2C%20Sept.&text=About%20300%20Airmen%20at%20bases,audience%2C%20transferred%20during%20the%20ceremony
It quoted Lt. General Nina M. Armagano, director of staff at the Space Force, as saying: “I hope I am able to say that in Year 3, you’ll see us really putting our tires on the track and just really moving out and delivering the things that we’ve been thinking about and working on and designing.”
“Only a few years ago, talking about ‘fighting in space’ wasn’t only taboo,” said the article. It then quoted retired Air Force General Kevin P. Chilton, a former commander of both the U.S. Air Force’s Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command and a former astronaut, saying: “I can remember when ‘space superiority,’ ‘offensive and defensive operations in space,’ ‘warfighting in space’—you couldn’t even use these words. It was against policy to talk about these things.”
Not any longer.
Alexander Chanock’s article in Journal of Air Law and Commerce, as was part of its title, “The Problems and Potential Solutions Related to the Emergence of Space Weapons in the 2lst Century,” included a section headed “Potential Solutions.”
It began: “There are a number of different views on how the United States should address the issue of space weapons. On one end of the spectrum is the view that the United States should abstain entirely from developing space weapons and help construct an international legal regime to restrict them. On the other end is the notion that an international legal regime would prove futile and the United States should continue developing space weapons in order to dominate the new frontier. There are also proposals that fit between the two extremes…”
Chanock then elaborated on this.
Under “Space Dominance,” he wrote:
There is a view among many U.S. officials and politicians that instead of adhering to a restrictive international legal regime that would prevent the United States from ascertaining a substantial military advance in space, the United States should proceed with developing space weapons and dominate the upcoming space race without international oversight. If the United States is able to dominate the space weaponization race, it will only further cement its military superiority over the rest of the world. The thinking follows that if the United States is a dominant player in the space race, then it could potentially solve the inevitability and vulnerability problems associated with space weaponization. By controlling space, the United States would remain at the forefront of the inevitable weaponization of space. As for the vulnerability problem, no country will attempt a ‘Pearl Harbor’-type attack on U.S. interests in space because the United States would have obtained an unassailable military and commercial dominance.
Although dominating space might seem like an advantageous idea for the United States, there are many problems with this thinking. First, it is highly unlikely that the United States will be able to dominate space. Considering the economic rise of China and its aspirations for a stronger military, it is highly doubtful that the Chinese would likely see such a policy as highly provocative and would use its vast resources to compete with the United States in a space arms race….China and Russia also cannot afford to allow the United States to dominate space because the United States could presumably take out their nuclear capabilities via space weapons.
Then there is a section titled “Space Doves.”
On the other end of the spectrum is the idea that the United States should not develop space weapons but should instead find ways to restrict all space weapons. Proponents of this course of action, often called ‘space doves,’ argue that the perceived threats relating to space weaponization are overblown and that there are other more practical and peaceful ways to protect the U.S. interests in space and simultaneously protect space commons from the dangers of space warfare.
Chanock went on: “Space doves also advocate that the United States could use its international influence to create a legal regime to effectively stop the production of space weapons. Space dove Nina Tannenwald argues that the United States should use its power and position to create an ‘operational regime for space based on the rule of law.’”
Dr. Tannenwald is a senior lecturer in political science at Brown University who has been director of the International Relations Program at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown. She wrote an extensive article published in The Yale Journal of International Law in 2004 titled “Law Versus Power on the High Frontier: The Case for a Rule-Based Regime for Outer Space.” https://openyls.law.yale.edu/bitstream/handle/20.500.13051/6495/18_29YaleJIntlL363_2004_.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y
The article’s conclusion began:
The challenge the international community faces in space today is the imminent collapse of a forty-five-year tradition of restraint with regards to military activities in space. U.S. plans for “global engagement” represent the abandonment of any concept of restraint in favor of a regime of unilateral assertion of power, largely in disregard of the interests of others. This will place in jeopardy not only the interests of other nations in space, but the multiple interests there of the United States itself.
And in its last paragraph, she wrote:
The United States should use its power and position to support the creation of an operational regime for space based on the rule of law, rather than pursue a short-sighted policy of competition for national dominance. Security in space will be more effectively achieved through a rule-based regime than through the deployment of destabilizing weapons systems….In the long run, the best way to protect U.S. commercial, scientific, and security interests in space will be through the stability of the rule of law, rather than through unilateral assertions of military power. The United States should take the lead in promoting the transition to a regime of mutual restraint and benefit in space.
However, Chanock, in his piece, stated: “Although space doves have many valid arguments for reducing the danger of space weaponization, in reality, it is unlikely that their ideas will prevail.”
He noted: “The U.S. Congress has consistently rejected any bill that tries to ban the use of space weapons.” He cited bills that “sought to ban space weapons but failed” including one introduced in 2001 by Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio which “did not garner a single co-sponsor.”
Chanock also wrote under a category “A Middle Ground Between Weaponization And Space Doves,”— “In the middle of the spectrum is the idea that the United States should develop space weapons but use them as means of deterrence or develop a legal regime to limit their use, or both. This approach seeks to take many of the ideas put forward by the space doves but ground them in the political and military realities of the international system.”
Internationally, since the creation of the U.S. Space Force, several nations—including the United Kingdom—have begun to emulate the U.S. in space military posture. “How to halt the space arms race” was the headline of an article in the British publication The New Statesman in 2021. It began: “The major powers are engaged in an unprecedented expansion of military power in space, but it remains dangerously covert, opaque and unregulated.” https://www.newstatesman.com/comment/2021/11/how-to-halt-the-space-arms-race
“This year the UK launched its own space command, with military chiefs acknowledging space as a domain of conflict co-equal with air, land, sea and cyber,” said the piece by Paul Mason.
“Could space be demilitarized?” asked the article. “Not a chance, say the experts, who point out that—in contrast to the space exploration of the popular imagination, where it is still seen as a benign, trans-national endeavor—the entire history of space technology, from the Nazi V2 rocket to the recent Russian anti-satellite strike, has been driven by the military. Yet military activity in space could be made more orderly and transparent,” wrote Mason.
“We are stuck,” concluded his article. “And while polite verbal fencing takes place at the UN, the major powers of the 21st century are engaged in an unprecedented expansion of military power in space, leaving the vast majority of countries powerless, most of humanity as passive spectators, and the Earth’s orbit increasingly polluted with debris from exploded satellites.”
This is pessimistic forecast need not be. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was—and is—a visionary documentary. “Let Us Beat Our Swords Into Plowshares” is the title of a statue by Evgeniy Vutetich in the sculpture garden of the UN in New York. It is based on the Book of Isaiah and its call that nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
War on Earth is terrible enough. It must not be brought up to the heavens.
This will take continued take political will and international pressure—to preserve and extend the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and its setting aside space for peaceful purposes. Especially in the United States, this will require action at the grassroots because the two major political parties in the U.S. have joined in a bellicose stance on space, supporting it becoming a war zone. Every year, the grassroots organization Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, founded in Washington, D.C. in 1991 and the leading group internationally challenging the weaponization of space, holds a “Keep Space For Peace Week” with actions around the world. Meanwhile, there are nations around the globe that have, unlike the U.S., adopted a peaceful stance—as reflected in their support for the proposed PAROS treaty.
We must, indeed, keep space for peace.
Can space tourism co-exist with space being turned into a war zone? The answer is no.
And with a shooting war in space, it will not only space tourism that would be kissed goodbye.
Reprinted with permission