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United States Space

US Ready to put Weapons in Space 1023

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the deploy-the-space-laser-cannons dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Guardian reports "America has begun preparing its next military objective - space. Documents reveal that the US Air Force has for the first time adopted a doctrine to establish 'space superiority'." If this goes ahead, it will be in violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which forbids the militarization of space."
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US Ready to put Weapons in Space

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  • No Violations Here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Allen Zadr (767458) * <Allen,Zadr&gmail,com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:19PM (#10757277) Journal

    I'd like to point out that space superiority does not necessarily mean the militarization of space. Already, the presence and testing of ICBMs skirts the issue, and so, too would many other technologies.

    That's not that I agree that this should be a direction we want to go, I'm just pointing out that the treaty isn't worth much. To me the millitary objective of space is right in line with the "Star Wars" ideas.

    • by shawn(at)fsu (447153) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:25PM (#10757361) Homepage
      You've got a point.

      From the treaty;
      Article IV

      States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.


      I guess destroying some other nations satellite would not count as weapons of mass destruction. I think it's a crappy idea. I mean, sure we could use our nuclear arsenal to obliterate any nation that looks at us funny but we don't I don't think we need to start knocking other countries stuff out of the sky either.
      • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:39PM (#10757583) Homepage Journal
        Hmm- would my favortie space based weapon- guided 2-meter crowbars as a Weapon of Minimal Distruction- be legal then because it's specifically designed only for assasination inside of reinforced concrete bunkers?
        • Hmm- would my favortie space based weapon- guided 2-meter crowbars as a Weapon of Minimal Distruction- be legal then because it's specifically designed only for assasination inside of reinforced concrete bunkers?

          Anything dropped from space has kinetic energy equivalent to about 15 times its weight in TNT, at most.

          Your 2-meter crowbar will weigh maybe 30 lbs.

          Is 500 lbs of TNT enough to crack a buried bunker designed to be safe from tactical nuclear weapons?

          I don't think so either.

          Space-based weapons ar
          • Oh, I don't know - guided 2 meter crowbars would make a handy anti-tank weopon. Clusters of them could be used as "artillery support" - I imagine it would be a very useful capability to be able to support a small airborne combat team ANYWHERE in the world with what amounts to heavy artillery. Make a nice force multiplier.

            It would be kind of expensive to set up "orbital artillery", but then you'll be able to reload them from the winning vehicle of the American Space Prize competition, so it might not be s
      • >> ...I don't think we need to start knocking other countries stuff out of the sky..."

        How would you feel about that if the "other countries stuff" included satellites carrying nuclear weapons or biowarfare payloads?

        Without that capability, what would you do if a hostile nation launched placed such weapons in orbit?
        • Without that capability, what would you do if a hostile nation launched placed such weapons in orbit?

          Yes, and that explaines it all, right ? Such weapons shall be deployed just-in-case ? This just smells as the cold war.

          To me this seems again the same story as when Uncle Sam objected on E.U.&co. deploying their own GPS system too, stating that would provide U.S.'s possible enemies with possible unwanted tactical advantage in case of war.

          What if those bloody europeans suddenly got to their senses
    • by benj_e (614605)
      Actually, space is already militarized. It's just not *weaponized*, which is a quite different thing.

      Militarization in it's most basic form just means using for military purposes, like intel satellites. Almost from the get-go, space has been militarized in this manner. In fact, one reason that we were slow in launching a satellite is to let the Soviets establish the practise of satellite overflights of other countries.

      Weaponization means positioning weapons in space - something that is not forbidden eithe
    • by onion2k (203094) on Monday November 08, 2004 @03:14PM (#10758137) Homepage
      What this could lead to is some sort of "space terrorism". Imagine if someone launched a conventional bomb into space packed with a couple of hundred thousand small steel ball bearings, and detonated it... hell, what if they sent 20 of them up? Millions of lethal (to anything in orbit) weapons effectively stopping *any* space exploration for the foreseeable future.

      Its certainly not outside the reach of governments such as china, india or pakistan. What would these people be willing to do in order to protect themselves from American weapons?
      • My immediate guess is that the vast majority, if not all of these balls would fall out of orbit and either burn up in the atmosphere or fling out into space, depending on which direction they leave the bomb...
      • by Alsee (515537) on Monday November 08, 2004 @11:11PM (#10762883) Homepage
        Imagine if someone launched a conventional bomb into space packed with a couple of hundred thousand small steel ball bearings, and detonated it

        This scenario has been well studied. You are overlooking a tactic that makes it a million times worse. That detonation you suggest really doesn't get the ball bearings moving very fast, and to the extent you do give them that random velocity you are putting them into almost useless elliptical orbits. Almost half will be kicked down into an orbit that burns them up in the atmosphere, with the other half get kicked up and then fall back down into the atmosphere.

        No, the nasty way to do it is to boost it into orbit and keep going - you swing it around the moon. You then come back into earth orbit - but going in the OPPOSITE direction. And forget the ball bearings, just go with sand or small gravel. Now you gently scatter it. You now have all that shrapnal stable and parked in the target orbit, gently dispersing. They just sit there in that orbit going in the opposite direction. Any satallite in that orbit gets hit HEAD-ON at DOUBLE ORBITAL VELOCITY.

        You could easily wipe out the crucial geostationary orbit belt this way. The whole region would be completely unsable for decades or centuries.

        -
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:20PM (#10757289) Homepage Journal

    ... and destroying what satellites would have helped in the "War Against Terror" or the invasion of Iraq?

    This is another example of the military trickle-down economy. Pump billions into defense, justify it with fear ("The enemy is everywhere"), then some of that cash will flow down to the national economy.
  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:21PM (#10757303) Homepage
    Oh, it's in violation of a treaty? I'm sure the Bush Administration will back off immediately once they find that out given their consistant respect for international law and unwavering dedication to peace in our time.

    Seriously, though: Space was never any different than all the other areas that man has adapted to -- sooner or later it was always going to be used to fight wars. That shouldn't be vaguely shocking to anyone. People settle their disputes by killing each other (or, more accurately, sending 18 year olds as proxies to kill each other).

    Peace doesn't come from treaties. It comes from the realization that war itself is almost never worth fighting.

    • All this arguing is mute...

      What's the difference between some space based platform that launches a missle from LEO and a huge spy glass that directs a stealth plane to fire a missle on an enemy target?

      Nothing. Space got militerized years and years ago. The moment governments started lauching satelites with visual and sigint capability, space became militerized.

      Do you really think Boeing / UT whove been spending billions developing heavy lift booster technology is so Hughes can put a couple more DirecTV
    • by eclectic4 (665330) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:45PM (#10757672)
      "Oh, it's in violation of a treaty? I'm sure the Bush Administration will back off immediately once they find that out given their consistant respect for international law and unwavering dedication to peace in our time."

      No kidding. Let's see...

      Treaties revoked by George W. Bush.

      The biodiversity Treaty

      The Geneva Conventions

      The Forest Protection Treaty

      The Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty

      The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

      1972 Anti-Ballistic Missle Treaty

      The 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention

      The 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination agains Women

      The UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

      The Chemical Weapons Convention

      The International Criminal Court (Nicaragua anyone?)

      We rule by force, and screw anyone who tries to tell us differenet. It's the new American paradigm, and it's beyond ludicrous. PreVENTIVE war, screw treaties and international law, screw any moral high ground we may have had in the past. Welcome to our nightmare...
    • by T.Hobbes (101603) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:53PM (#10757793)
      Peace doesn't come from treaties. It comes from the realization that war itself is almost never worth fighting.

      It works the other way as well: treaties often come from the realization (usually after a horrible war) that war itself is not worth fighting. The problem is that we forget the lessons of past wars, and the consensus that made the treaty possible dissapears. And another generation gives war a try.

  • by Vengeance (46019) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:22PM (#10757317)
    Article IV of the treaty follows:

    States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.

    The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the Moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited.


    Note: No nukes, no 'WMDs' in orbit, and no weapons on pre-existing celestial bodies. Sticking more conventional arms into orbit is A-OK by this agreement.
    • by general_re (8883) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:31PM (#10757471) Homepage
      Never let the facts get in the way of a good story....
    • by Ioldanach (88584) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:45PM (#10757676)
      shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty

      Something else of note... this indicates that the celestial bodies are restricted in use to States Parties. Exactly where do "independent contractors" (today's political phrase for "mercenaries") fit into that? Could the US government just contract out the militarization of the moon to Haliburton and still be, legally, in the clear on this treaty?

  • by kngthdn (820601) * on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:22PM (#10757326) Homepage
    A more descriptive article about this can be found here [state.gov]. I found this portion to be most interesting...

    The substance of the arms control provisions is in Article IV. This article restricts activities in two ways:

    First, it contains an undertaking not to place in orbit around the Earth, install on the moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise station in outer space, nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction.

    Where in the mentioned article does it indicate that the new weapons will be nuclear (or WMDs)? This sounds (mostly) legal to me.

    A very bad idea, possibly, but illegal?
  • meteor defense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ericdano (113424) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:23PM (#10757340) Homepage
    I'd really like to see a meteor defense started. That is the single most likely thing that could wipe out the whole planet. And lately, we've had a lot of close calls......
  • by Gyorg_Lavode (520114) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:24PM (#10757342)
    What a load of crap. This is siting the Airforce saying they want to disable enemy satelites and a bit of MDA funding as proof we're going to put weapons into space?

    First, you don't have to have a weapon in space to disable a satelite. Hell, last week it was either here or on fark that there was an article about non-perminant disabling of satelites using RF energy.

    And the MDA funding? 7.4million is NOTHING. They gave 8 million to fund a program to improve the software aquisition process. Thats not 8 mil to build software. its not 8 mil to improve building software. Its not even 8 mil to pay the people who buy the software. Its 8 mil to improve HOW we buy the software. 7.4 million at the MDA means they are paying to see if the current state of technology supports TRYING to build it. 7.4 million isn't even enough to start drawing concept designs.

    And lets face it, if the US realizes this is important, we can assume Russia, China, India, etc do to.

    And what the hell does the US putting interceptors at Fylingdales have to do with anything? They're ground based intercepters. I didn't realize the US had even picked a eastern basing site. The US does something nice like offer to cover your country from missile attacks, and the media twists it into some sort of "the US is making us put weapons in space" bs. Iran is working their ass off to get long range missiles. If you want to depend on the idea that they won't attack you because they don't want to be attacked, thats fine, but considering Iran's support of the war in Iraq, (and not our side of it), I wouldn't trust them not to 'lose' a shahab 3 and then lightly condemn the terrorists who launched it on some western base in europe.

  • Uh... guys... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by boomgopher (627124) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:25PM (#10757360) Journal
    There has been this thing called "Space Command" in the Air Force for a long time now. There has even been talk of branching the space forces from the Air Force for a long while - like over ten years or so?

    I call alarmist BS, nothing new here.

  • This is dangerous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hortensia Patel (101296) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:25PM (#10757368)
    Space-based assets are simultaneously very valuable and very vulnerable. In a tense international standoff (Cuban Missile Crisis style) they inject a strong "use it or lose it" incentive to go for a first strike. On balance, this is probably not a plus.
  • by 3770 (560838) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:26PM (#10757389) Homepage

    Exactly how will this stop a dirty bomb from going off on Manhattan?
    • Exactly how will this stop a dirty bomb from going off on Manhattan?

      Nothing can really stop a dirty bomb from going off in Manhattan. There are bigger threats out there though, a dirty bomb in Manhattan might wipe out a few buildings and throw some fallout around. The number of people that would be killed would be fairly low. A ICBM in the wrong hands however could kill millions.
  • Ohh Goodie (Score:5, Funny)

    by Aqua OS X (458522) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:27PM (#10757402)
    Who needs good public schools or child healthcare... we're go'na have mother f***'n space lasers!

    Now, if anyone tries to have a gay marriage, they'll be fired upon from the United Defense death star orbiting above.

  • Not exactly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stubear (130454) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:28PM (#10757415)
    It appears the treaty only excludes nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction from being put into space or on any celestial bodies. According to the Guardian article (why do people take this rag seriously?) the US Air Force is looking to deploy a few small spacecraft, likely highly maneuverable satellites, that can destroy surface to surface missiles, enemy aircraft, and enemy satellites which may be used for surevillance or other tasks which offer an advantage on the battlefield. I'd wager these are laser based weapons and do not violate the treaty as they are neither nuclear nor weapons of mass destruction.
  • For good information (Score:5, Informative)

    by afidel (530433) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:30PM (#10757451)
    on space weapons and why they might not be a good idea see the union of concerned scientist's [ucsusa.org] page on space weapons [ucsusa.org].
  • by wcrowe (94389) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:31PM (#10757457)
    The treaty only bans nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction. The Air Force want anti-satellite weapons, which are not in either category.

    This may or may not be the right thing to do, but the fact is the treaty is NOT being broken.

  • by Linker3000 (626634) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:35PM (#10757515) Journal
    Hubble shot down in friendly fire incident.
  • by Hoplite3 (671379) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:45PM (#10757664)

    Now we're safe from aliens too. Take that, ET!

    What? They're pointed back at Earth?
  • by melted (227442) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:45PM (#10757666) Homepage
    When you can't even fly to your space station on your own. It's time for Russians to renew their anti-satellite program. Yeah, the one that they've developed back in the "Star Wars" day to shoot satellites down using a high-intensity military laser sitting on the ground.

    This reminds me of that joke about NASA developing a ball pen that would function in the state of weightlessnes. Three years and a hundred million dollars later they've developed such a pen. In the meanwhile Russians used pencils.
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:47PM (#10757712) Homepage
    How do you plan on getting those weapons past the firmament?!

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:50PM (#10757746) Homepage Journal
    Space Command has been around since 1982. Its four mission areas are:

    Space forces support involves launching satellites and other high-value payloads into space using a variety of expendable launch vehicles and operating those satellites once in the medium of space.

    Space control ensures friendly use of space through the conduct of counterspace operations encompassing surveillance, negation and protection.

    Force enhancement provides weather, communications, intelligence, missile warning and navigation. Force enhancement is support to the warfighter.

    Force application involves maintaining and operating a rapid response land-based ICBM force as the Air Force's only on-alert strategic deterrent.

    More info here [abovetopsecret.com].

  • by mekkab (133181) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:52PM (#10757771) Homepage Journal
    Space? They can't even put a laser on a frickin' shark!
  • by Positive Charge (592093) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:54PM (#10757804) Homepage
    Given the innate warlike nature of humans, expecting space to remain non-military was just plain foolish.

    Nice fantasy, though.
  • by thelizman (304517) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `kcattaremmah'> on Monday November 08, 2004 @03:17PM (#10758185) Homepage
    "If this goes ahead, it will be in violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which forbids the militarization of space."


    That treaty exists between the United States of America, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Let me know if the political entity known as the USSR has any objections.

  • by I'm Spartacus! (238085) on Monday November 08, 2004 @03:36PM (#10758528)
    The Project for the New American Century [newamericancentury.org] - a neoconservative thinktank established in the '90s - published a document in 2000 entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses" which advocates preemption with an emphasis on the militarization of space. You can read it here [newamericancentury.org].

    The people who've signed off at the bottom of this madness are the principle figures in George W. Bush's administration: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et. al. as shown on this page [newamericancentury.org].

    Get ready world! What you've seen thus far is only the beginning.
  • by swingerman (29475) on Monday November 08, 2004 @05:40PM (#10760312)

    A quick, cursory reading of the treaty [state.gov] referenced by the poster will show that there is no banning of such a space-based missile defense system. In fact, the claim that the militarization of space is forbidden is not grounded in fact.

    The treaty bans the following:

    • Space-based nuclear weapons
    • Space-based weapons of mass destruction
    That's it. It does not ban a State that is a Party to the treaty (member state) from placing weaponry in orbit to shoot down incoming ICBMs. It does not ban a member state from proactively destroying the satellites of another state, esp. when the destroying state is under attack by the state owning the targeted material.

    Certainly, space-based systems designed to provide a member state with defense against incoming weapons of mass destruction do not themselves qualify as weapons of mass destruction. Similarly, as long as the weapons to not contain nuclear warheads, they are not in violation of this treaty.

    Following are few places in the treaty where weapons are mentioned.

    1. Preamble: Recalling resolution 1884 (XVIII), calling upon States to refrain from placing 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 . . .
    2. Article IV: . . . not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space . . .
    3. Article IV: The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used . . . exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden.

    As can be plainly seen, none of these items ban the installation of conventional defensive weaponry in space. The treaty explicitly deals with installation of nuclear weapons and offensive weapons of mass destruction, as well as using the moon or other celestial bodies for military bases, installations, or fortifications, or for the conducting of military maneuvers.

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