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Space Technology

Military Seeks Approval to Develop Space Weapons 878

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-no-moon dept.
ranson writes "The New York Times is reporting that U.S. Air Force officials are seeking Bush's Approval to begin researching and developing space arms. While analysts feel this move will be unwelcome in the international community, military officials believe that "Space superiority ... is our destiny, ... our vision for the future.""
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Military Seeks Approval to Develop Space Weapons

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  • by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:04PM (#12572518) Journal
    It's to enable them to legally deploy them. From TFA:

    With little public debate, the Pentagon has already spent billions of dollars developing space weapons and preparing plans to deploy them.

    I'm wondering if perhaps this isn't also the military wanting to show off a little and provide the public a glimpse of yesterday's technology, similar to what happened with the F-117 circa 1990. Maybe they want to show us what the Aurora really looks like.
  • by GQuon (643387) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:04PM (#12572522) Journal
    DefenceTech.org Times' shaky spacewar story [defensetech.org]:

    "[Global Strike] -- which we first looked at back in November 2003 -- is legit, with a hefty $91 million invested into it over the last two years. But, by making so little distinction between this effort and more pie-in-the-sky plans, the Times does its readers a bit of a disservice."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:18PM (#12572639)
    Here Bush goes will go breaking international laws again...

    The 1967 Outer Space Treaty bans the stationing of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in outer space, prohibits military activities on celestial bodies, and details legally binding rules governing the peaceful exploration and use of space.

    The treaty's key arms control provisions are in Article IV. States-parties commit not to:

    * Place in orbit around the Earth or other celestial bodies any nuclear weapons or objects carrying WMD.
    * Install WMD on celestial bodies or station WMD in outer space in any other manner.
    * Establish military bases or installations, test "any type of weapons," or conduct military exercises on the moon and other celestial bodies.

    The USA fully signed and ratified the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

    http://www.peaceinspace.com/sp_faq.shtml [peaceinspace.com]
    http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/outerspace.a sp [armscontrol.org]
    (among others)
  • by l2718 (514756) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:33PM (#12572783)
    Here Bush goes will go breaking international laws again...

    This is not to say I support Mr. Bush, but as parent clearly indicates in the rest of his post, the 1967 treaty concerns WMD -- not all weapons. Quoth TFA: "no treaty or law bans Washington from putting weapons in space, barring weapons of mass destruction."

    Moreover, the pentagon isn't stupid. Using (or threatening to use) nuclear weapons is not a central aspect of US security at the moment. The main threats come either from dictatorships (think N. Korea) or terrorism. Neither kind of enemy can be deterred with nuclear weapons. They are probably trying to revive SDI [wikipedia.org] (i.e. place energy/kinetic antimissile weapons in space), but they may have plans for space-to-ground weapons that are not WMD.

  • Idiots! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dasher42 (514179) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:40PM (#12572837)
    We already have our hands full managing the debris cloud in low earth orbit from the operations we've got on-going. If we ever get stupid enough to blow things to bits en masse on *purpose*, getting into space will become very, very risky.

    Well, that'd be one way to keep the rest of the universe safe from manifest destiny. ET can just listen to our broadcasts safely knowing we'll be blowing things up on the ground, as God intended.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:54PM (#12572958)
    I'm sick of this alarmist attitude. We are a mightily important trading partner with China. Killing all of your customers would pretty much be suicide for China.

    In reality, the only threat from China is if we try to meddle with their affairs by trying to defend Taiwan (of what interest to Americans is Taiwan?).

    If the US spent a little more time being dipolomatic and less time pouring trillions into finding ways to blow everyone on the planet up several times over, we wouldn't even need to have this discussion.
  • by wall0159 (881759) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:14PM (#12573119)
    I don't want to start a flame-war, but here are some points to consider

    Firstly, the US is *not* doing "everything we can to make sure this [loss of power] doesn't happen".

    Secondly, the cessation of the US as a superpower does not necessarily imply that it will be replaced by another superpower.

    Thirdly, there's probably not much that can be done about it. An excellent book is "Clash of Civilizations & the remaking of world order" by Samuel P. Huntington. I personally don't agree with everything he says, but it's an amazing read.
  • Too late (Score:4, Informative)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:16PM (#12573137) Homepage Journal
    The old USSR already did deploy weapons in space.
    The USSR deployed a network of anti Satellite weapons.
    The USSR deployed a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System.
    One of the Some of the Soviet manned missions where military missions.
    The Soviets tried to launch a space battle station it failed to make it to orbit.
    http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/mwade/art icles/sovtion3.htm [friends-partners.org]
  • by poopdeville (841677) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:36PM (#12573302)
    I trust the US a lot more than 3 cultures with a contiued history of placing a low value on human life.

    You're really naive.

    I suggest reading a history book or two. Look up Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Panama, Nicaragua, Chile, East Timor [rotten.com]. Read about the lives of Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, Richard Nixon, George G.W. Bush, Robert McNamara.

  • by poopdeville (841677) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:59PM (#12573448)

    Fine. Google Small pox infected blankets. Illegal wars against Northern Africa (i.e., the "Barbary Pirates"). Slave labor and the slave trade. Native American genocide. The CIVIL FREAKING WAR. Government sanctioned strike busting. Do any of those ring a bell?

    Whatever China, Japan, and India have done is irrelevant to the claim that the US has historically held human life as valuable. That claim is incredibly naive.

  • by MochaMan (30021) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @10:00PM (#12573450) Homepage
    How do you figure that when you consider this treaty [unvienna.org] from the UN general assembly stating "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"? And to correct both your short and long answers, refer to the status of the treaty [unvienna.org] and note that the United States is listed as having ratified it.

    Short answer: Yes.
    Long answer: Yes, you did.
  • Re:Base Closings (Score:3, Informative)

    by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @10:29PM (#12573623)
    The tool/venue is, by definition not a moral issue. What you do is.
    Not true. History shows that a large standing army with the ability to kill the enemy with impuntiy makes it all too tempting to do so. The more unequal the balance of power, the more people die.
  • by VStrider (787148) <giannis_mz.yahoo@co@uk> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @10:39PM (#12573703)
    nuke 'em from orbit...that sure sounds like us.Hell yeah it sounds like us.America fights to win.

    +4 insightful???!!!Too bad I don't have any mod points left and I can't mod you down enough.

    These weapons, like the "rods of god" are offensive weapons of mass destruction. The international community works hard to reduce the numbers of weapons of mass destruction and what does the US do? They want more!

    The current US administration snobbs the united nations, have opted out of several international treaties(currently US citizens and military personnel cannot be brought to justice by an international court for war crimes, because of that), invaded two countries in middle east, included several countries in their target list and said so publicly by naming them an axis of evil, maintain a concentration camp in cuba while not reckognising any rights to prisoners, introduced the "preemptive strike" (as in attack for no reason at all any country which their "experts" think it might pose a minimal threat in the future), and degraded diplomacy to a "either you're with us or against us" level (as in our way or else).

    Now, do you feel safe with the US acquiring more weapons of mass destruction? If this administration goes war crazy, which I think they already have, do you applaud the idea of a world war?

    As about the nickname "Rods of God", it could be just that, a nickname. But having heard some infamous speaches about good, axis of evil and so on, I'm not so sure...
  • True, to a degree. (Score:2, Informative)

    by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @11:10PM (#12573898) Homepage Journal
    The original ARPAnet was a DoD project, that is certainly true. Other nations, though, had deployed X.25-based packet-switched networks, such as International Packet SwitchStream, which was dominant in Europe in the 80s and the early 90s.


    (Indeed, the Joint Academic Network in the UK didn't migrate to an IP-based system until relatively late in the game. Many early UK networking projects were based on a series of protocols and libraries under the RAINBOW heading, and many an early MUD player can remember the PAD address of Essex University's DEC-10 mainframe, on which MUD-1 ran - A2206411411.)


    It is also important to note that ARPAnet was designed to be fault-tolerent and highly resistant to attack. The Internet, as it exists today, is largely a spanning tree - there is b*** all anyone can do if a link goes down or some idiot cuts a cable when digging.


    ARPAnet was also horribly primitive in many ways. Early networks used what is sometimes referred to today as IPv0 - essentially ICMP. Ethernet frames were in much earlier incarnations, where Ethernet was used at all. And then it was usually thick-wire T-piece terminate-or-die systems.


    So, yeah, the military did put in a lot of early funds, but they were only one of many, and what they produced has been almost entirely replaced. Most of the "early" work that is still in place was done by the NSF, rather than the DoD, and I can't think of that much NSF stuff that is really in heavy use today.


    The DoD also have been horribly lax in maintaining their level of activity, I might add. Let's see - the DoD "official" IPSec implementation never got passed version 0.1, and NIST's Linux IPSec has been dead and buried for many years. The Navy Research Labs did do a lot of work, especially in BSD-land, but the guys there seem to be unusually intelligent.


    (The NRL also produced a generic IPv4/IPv6 cross-protocol library for Linux, an open-source S/Key implementation, lots of multicast and wireless stuff, and have a Sourceforge-based system for Open Source projects. Now, if only someone could find a way to get them to work on those projects...)


    In general, though, the bulk of really good work is done in academia and usually in off-the-wall projects that have crappy funding and no status. Computing and physics research laboratories, where you need results yesterday and you still need official approval to build the time-machine to make it possible, also tend to produce some exceptionally good stuff. There's nothing quite like having a few billion dollars worth of liability and no budget to pay the insurance agent to focus the mind.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @11:40PM (#12574088) Homepage Journal
    Uhh, no. The jet engine was developed by Frank Whittle, in Britain, in the mid 1930s, and both the Allies and the Axis powers had perfectly good jet aircraft based on the original design by 1944.


    You're more likely thinking of rockets. The Germans did do exceptionally well there, with both the V1 and V2. The US, under Operation Paperclip, "acquired" many of the German scientists involved and the head of the Nazi rocket program - Werner Von Braun - was the head of NASA in the early days. The Saturn rocket was based directly on the V2.


    The most successful of World War II aircraft - the Spitfire, the Hurricane and the Mosquito, were based heavily on civilian designs. Indeed, the Mosquito nearly never got built, as the British Government preferred metal designs over wood, even though they had no metal and the Mosquito was vastly superior on speed, range and manoeverability. On the whole, the military rather hindered, not helped, aircraft design.


    (I don't regard US aircraft of that era as particularly memorable. The head of the Luftwaffe did not, after all, ask for a squadren of Mustangs or Flying Fortresses.)


    RADAR was also developed by civilians, prior to World War II. It was exploited by the military, but they didn't invent it, the technique had been known for some time.


    Nukes are a bit of a red-herring as well. The British had the "Grand Slam" - 22,000 lbs of bomb with a shaped charge, capable of blasting through 20+ feet of reinforced concrete bunker. The Americans had a 44,000 lbs variant on the design, but never officially deployed it, although it would have been handy if someone had a 40-50 foot reinforced concrete wall you needed to get through.


    On the face of it, a squadren or three of long-range bombers, each armed with 44,000 lbs of shaped charge, would have been a much more potent deterrent than the same of nuke bombers, because conventional explosives would be far more usable in a conflict. The whole MAD philosophy was that nobody was stupid enough to actually think a nuke war - even on a limited scale - was winnable, so making all such bombs essentially useless, even as a deterrent.


    (Think about it, for a moment. The USSR launches a full-scale nuke attack, the US retaliates with conventional explosives of comparable power. The US wins, because they can occupy the USSR, whereas the Russians have nowhere left to go and therefore no means of escape. Sure, the US is a radioactive cinder, but it wasn't so great to start with.)


    Very few military achievements in the modern era are significant or of interest, even to military historians. With the exception of air power, there has been no real military advance in technique in the past 2,000 years. Carthage, Rome, some books by Sun Tzu, and the hit-and-run methods of the Huns and later by the Mongols pretty much cover every technique used by every military force on the globe ever since.


    Inventions, as I've said, have usually come from outside and are merely borrowed by the military. Not that different from Microsoft's "Extend and Embrace", except the military don't tend to make the enemy sign a EULA.

  • You can say "NASA" and "velcro" all you want

    NASA didn't invent Velcro, it was invented by George de Mestral, a Swiss mountaineer, more than a decade before NASA was formed.
  • by thesupraman (179040) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @12:36AM (#12574500)
    Wow! time to go and re-learn your history moron!

    Ivy Mike was tested 1st November 1952, and that was by Americans, in case you dont know.

    The Russians tested theirs on 12th August 1953, a MUCH simpler design, which could barely be considered a functional hydrogen bomb.

    Try again.
  • by Detritus (11846) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @01:25AM (#12574741) Homepage
    What treaty?

    The only one that I'm aware of is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty [state.gov]. It prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons in orbit, such as the fractional orbit bombardment systems (FOBS) that were viewed as the next step beyond the ICBM back in the 1960s.

    There are a lot of people who are quick to claim that the United States ignores its treaty obligations. Would it be too much to ask for them to back up their assertions with some facts?

  • by GWTPict (749514) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @04:40AM (#12575384)
    The Messerschmitt 262. Frank Whittle was the first to patent a turbojet, and the first to successfully benchtest one, unfortunately he couldn't get official interest and funding initially which allowed Germany to take the lead and fly the first jet engined aircraft in 1939.

    http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bljet engine.htm [about.com]

  • by dabigpaybackski (772131) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:41AM (#12575629) Homepage
    Or they might not - hasn't this been the excuse for ever more destructive weapons since time immemorial 'they'll save more lives than they destroy'? It has never turned out to be true. The aim of war is never minimal loss of lives to both sides.

    Hmm, I can think of two examples right off the bat: Fulton, who thought his submarine would make naval warfare too costly to undertake, and Gatling, who purposely invented the Gatling gun in a bid to make war so terrible that humankind would abandon it. Alas, then, as now, technology cannot solve our deficiency in ethics.

  • by gunnk (463227) <<ude.cnu.gpf.liam> <ta> <knnug>> on Thursday May 19, 2005 @08:39AM (#12576720) Homepage
    The difference is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Article Four says:

    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.

    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 manoeuvres 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.


    When you agree to a treaty wherein you promise not to militarize a specific place, efforts to later break that treaty are generally considered to be in poor taste (putting in very mildly)...

    More info is here [ucsusa.org].
  • by Ioldanach (88584) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @09:30AM (#12577166)
    Good point. So, doing the math, I get that a 100 lb rod travelling at 7200 mph at impact is the equivalent of about 2 tons (not even kilotons) of explosives. Not particularly impressive.

    That's ((7200*5280/3600)^2 * 100 / 2) ft lbs * 1.356 joules/ft lb = 7560622080 joules

    A megaton bomb releases 4.185 x 10^15 joules I'm not sure why they would use the comparison of a nuclear weapon for this unless they're using a really big rod. When one compares a weapon to a nuclear bomb, most people think of a substantial weapon, at least a kiloton yield. For comparison, a 20 lb rod travelling at 7200 mph delivers about the explosive force of a substantial carbomb.

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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