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Space United States

Do We Really Need Space Weapons? 938

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the but-what-about-star-wars dept.
tcd004 writes "The U.S. military is developing technology to disable, jam, and even destroy enemy satellites. But are space weapons necessary? No, says Michael Krepon, director of the Stimson Center's Space Security Project. He argues that developing space weapons is a surefire way to launch a new space weapon race.
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Do We Really Need Space Weapons?

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  • by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:37AM (#13269208) Journal
    There will be no need to worry about weapons based in space...someone will just send a ship up and steal the whole satellite.
    • by Monkey Angst (577685) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:39AM (#13269238) Homepage
      There will be no need to worry about weapons based in space...someone will just send a ship up and steal the whole satellite.

      This is why we need the snooping powers provided by the USA-PATRIOT act. All we need do to foil the plots of satellite-stealing villains is track the purchases of large numbers of silver jumpsuits and miniskirts. An ounce of prevention...

    • "But are space weapons necessary? No, says Michael Krepon, director of the Stimson Center's Space Security Project. He argues that developing space weapons is a surefire way to launch a new space weapon race."

      Irrelevant. Whether or not developing space weapons is a surefire way to launch a new space weapons race does not answer the question as to whether or not space weapons are necessary.

      • Plus, as everyone knows, if we don't have space weapons, we can be conquered by aliens who only have a stick with a nail in the end.
      • by Golias (176380) on Monday August 08, 2005 @11:04AM (#13269512)
        Well, if Michael Krepon, the director of something called the "Space Security Project" for something called the "Stimson Center" says we don't need space-based weapons, that pretty much settles the issue, doesn't it?

        I mean, he's an EXPERT!

        It sounds like he might even be an expert on SCIENCE and stuff!

        What more is there to discuss!?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Seems Dubya's still having a hard time finding those WMDs (the ones where he told the UN tht he knew where they were)

      Perhaps Iraq hid them in space - once we have such a ship that can steal the satellite we'll have proof that the war had some justification.

  • A dissent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ar32h (45035) * <jdaNO@SPAMtapodi.net> on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:37AM (#13269209) Homepage Journal
    I disagree.
    Space is essentially worthless until it is militarized.
    Nothing worthwhile is left unguarded.

    A space race would be a good thing, in my opinion, because it focuses the much-maligned military-industrial complex on a worthy goal: human occupancy in space.
    It may be more efficient to send up the sleek craft of the X-Prize and other private ventures, but heavy lift will probably only come with military ventures.
    Getting to space en mass via the military will doubtless cause distress to many who feel that space should be kept pure, untouched by the dirty and unwholesome aspects of human existence.
    Keep in mind that most successful ventures in space (and all the major ones) were driven by a space race with heavy military overtones. Such motivation worked once and will work again.
    • Re:A dissent (Score:4, Interesting)

      by El Cubano (631386) <roberto@conneYEATSxer.com minus poet> on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:43AM (#13269270) Homepage

      Keep in mind that most successful ventures in space (and all the major ones) were driven by a space race with heavy military overtones. Such motivation worked once and will work again.

      Not just that, but it would certainly help breath new life into the NASA. Let's face it, NASA is currently being crushed by its own beauracracy.

      It may not be long range space missions to Mars and such, but it will certainly help move space flight from where it currently is at the edge of the envelope. The same thing happened with aviation in WWI and WWII. The US and other military powers invested hevily in making aircraft more common place and exploring the variety of roles in which they could be employed. This made aviation safer, more commonplace and in general made the public more aware of it. If the same happens to space flight, only good can come of it.

      • Re:A dissent (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CokeBear (16811)
        So lets put it out of its misery. Cut all funding from NASA except the bare minimum to continute to gather data from things already launched (and possibly a few relatively low budget projects that are near completion) and pay down the debt for a few years before launching a new and improved NASA in 15-20 years.
        • by BerntB (584621) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:58AM (#13269451)
          Cut all funding from NASA except the bare minimum [and launch] a new and improved NASA in 15-20 years
          You are the kind of guy that would happily eat your seed potatoes if you get a bit hungry in the winter.

          Today, you have to do research or your grand children will be poor farmers. Sure, NASA is FUBAR. Start another agency and give the money to them. If you stop space research for a couple of decades, China will own you.

          Cut something less important. Say, only start serious wars. Sure, a democratic arab country would make the world a better place -- but there has to be a cheaper way!

          • You are the kind of guy that would happily eat your seed potatoes if you get a bit hungry in the winter.

            Today, you have to do research or your grand children will be poor farmers.


            Personally, I'm not counting on NASA to feed my eventual grand-children. Call me crazy, but I don't expect much more out of them than the occasional pretty picture of Jupiter or something.

            Oh, and here's a news flash kids: Space is already militarized. Those GPS toys you like playing with? Yeah, those satelites are there to guid
          • Sure, NASA is FUBAR. Start another agency and give the money to them. If you stop space research for a couple of decades, China will own you.

            Doesn't have to be done by NASA or any new agency. IMO the idea behind NASA was that it was (theoretically) a non-military driven space exploration agency. Give it a military agenda, and the Air Force is ready and willing to take over.
        • Re:A dissent (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ArbitraryConstant (763964) on Monday August 08, 2005 @11:38AM (#13269876) Homepage
          NASA's budget is $16.5 billion. The US deficit is $318 billion.

          How will cutting NASA funding pay down the debt?
          • Re:A dissent (Score:4, Insightful)

            by demachina (71715) on Monday August 08, 2005 @01:28PM (#13271050)
            $10 billion here, $10 billion there, before you know it you are talking about some real money.

            I'll grant you NASA is pretty inconsequential in the larger scheme of things, but the manned space program has just become so damn good at spending money and having nothing to show for it, that they are like shooting fish in a barrel.

            Reality is when the Republicans are in charge they squander lots of the money on military/intelligence spending and subsidies for big corporations who don't need them. When the Democrats are in charge they squander it on social programs and subsidies for big corporations who don't need them.

            Neither party can seem to resist the temptation to dish out large helpings of pork that accomplish very little of real value which would be the first obvious place to start reining in spending. Until there is a third party that is fiscally responsible, and has a chance of winning politicians know they can waste money and get away with it as long as they both do it. They can get away with it that is, until the U.S. debt burden leads to an economic calamity, but at that point its to late.
      • Re:A dissent (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Total_Wimp (564548)
        First off, parent and grandparent are wrong. Neither the military, nor government agencies have been able to make major infrastructural changes in our country. It's always been industry. Don't get me wrong, the military and the government have, on occasion, done a great deal to get things started (think darpanet), but it's always been the free enterprise system that's balooned those things to global significance (think cisco and intel).

        On the other hand, the article was wrong too. According to the artic
        • Re:A dissent (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cens0r (655208) on Monday August 08, 2005 @11:40AM (#13269896) Homepage
          Neither the military, nor government agencies have been able to make major infrastructural changes in our country.

          The interstate highway system?
          • Re:A dissent (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Total_Wimp (564548)
            ok, ya got me. Teaches me to make blanket statements. I'm thinking now of other examples as well, but they all come with a very significant private component. Even the presense of private road crews working in a competitive environment is neccessary to keep our current roads in good running order.

            TW
    • Space weapon race doesn't promote Human Occupancy in space. All they need is something in the space to shoot down or jam other satellites or fighter jets.
    • by lawpoop (604919)
      "Nothing worthwhile is left unguarded."

      So the US/Canadian border is worthless?

    • Re:A dissent (Score:3, Informative)

      by lucabrasi999 (585141)
      Keep in mind that most successful ventures in space (and all the major ones) were driven by a space race with heavy military overtones. Such motivation worked once and will work again.

      Oh, the peacenik in me hates to agree with this kind of thinking, but I must agree.

      Don't forget that many military ventures on earth resulted in significant scientific advances. For example, World War II gave us Penecillin (spelling?); the jet engine; and without the funding for the Manhattan project, it may have taken many

  • We're boned. This kind of stuff scares the hell out of me. Having weapons that can disable other satellites is one thing. The next thing you know, laserbeams from outer space could fry anyone anywhere. And who is gonna handle it? The most violent nation in the world. This is not a dig on the american gung-ho way that seems the norm these days, i'm just putting in the perspective of a foreigner. And like the cruise missiles, they're gonna pull the "It's for our defense, national security, blabla" card to put
    • The most violent nation in the world.

      Bit of a stretch, isn't it? The US may be the most powerful country on the planet, and it may be to most arrogant country on the planet, and it may even be the most bullyish country on the planet, but it is hardly the most violent.
    • >> Hell, the Cuban missile crisis is nothing compared to some serious strike capabilities in space with a far greater range than some archaic missiles on a carribean island.

      This statement shoots your entire argument to hell. Read some history. The Cuban missile crisis was probably the single closest point that humanity has come to self-annihilation. No theoretical threat could ever approach it.

      >> Besides, who appointed the USA to be the supreme ruler of space? Surely disabling a satellite or

    • The next thing you know, laserbeams from outer space could fry anyone anywhere.
      Naw, that's not really an issue, 'cause if the military DOES try anything a team of wacky kids from Cal Tech [imdb.com] will put a stop to it.
    • The next thing you know, laserbeams from outer space could fry anyone anywhere.

      Of course it will always be far cheaper just to send a hired thug to shoot you. I love people who think anyone cares enough about them to point some multibillion dollar array of superscience recon and weaponry in their dirrection.

      P.s. I am NOT a crackpot.

      No, but well on the way. :-) Keep up the hard work. Try wiritng a small manifesto or keeping a close eye on your mailman.

    • Hell, the Cuban missile crisis is nothing compared to some serious strike capabilities in space with a far greater range than some archaic missiles on a carribean island.

      How are space based weapons any worse than nuclear missiles stationed 90 miles off your country? Nuclear weapons are the most powerful weapons we have, and they're capable of hitting anywhere on Earth already. How would weapons being stationed in space be any worse?

      Besides, who appointed the USA to be the supreme ruler of space? Surely disa
    • Cold Wars (Score:3, Insightful)

      by scovetta (632629)
      I have a feeling that the US is gonna laugh at the Chinese & Russian efforts to legislate this, possibly causing a cold war in space.

      "In space, all wars are cold."
            -Michael Scovetta, Slashdot, 8/8/2005.
    • by alfredo (18243) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:57AM (#13269439)
      spells it out nicely. Members/contributors of the PNAC include Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Karl Rove, David Wurmer, and Scooter Libby.

      The above document spells out the blueprint for world dominance, starting with seizing the oil in Iraq. It goes on and pushes for space warfare. Ugly document written by ugly people.
    • by Loco3KGT (141999) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:57AM (#13269442)
      I think it's up to the US taxpayer to put a stop to this insanity.

      Gotta be honest, as a U.S. tax payer I this. The ability to take out other satellites helps us in the event of a major military conflicts with other technologically advanced nations. Since I personally feel that a hostile take over of Taiwan by China is inevitable, I look at this as something that could help us to protect Taiwan. No one ever thinks a strong military is worth keeping around until they're on the receiving end of an invasion. Then everyone stands around wondering why their military didn't do anything to prevent it. There's a lot to be said for having a military powerful enough to deter attack.

      Hell, the Cuban missile crisis is nothing compared to some serious strike capabilities in space with a far greater range than some archaic missiles on a carribean island.

      Maybe someone else on here can contribute more but the last I checked missile range is not a big issue anymore, atleast not for Russia or the United States. What this adds is another area of launching attacks from. Hell, it might even add another dimension to efficiency. wouldn't take much for something falling from that height to reach a pretty extreme speed I'd imagine. Besides, who appointed the USA to be the supreme ruler of space?

      Beg your pardon but who said we were? Creating defenses for investments in space and our nation is entirely different from us stating "We own space, piss off." I mean, last I checked we didn't declare ownership of the moon even though we planted our flag on it.

      Surely disabling a satellite orbiting some other nation's (high) air space could be construed as an act of war similar to say, spyplanes in a foreign country's airspace?

      How many nations put satellites in space in geosynchronous orbit perfectly above their land? That's a serious question that I don't know the answer to, I'm hoping someone else does. And at what point do you think it's fair to say airspace ends?

      And I think "Most violent nation in the world" might be bit of an extreme statement. We might be the only nation currently involved in conflicts in two separate countries but it's not exactly like we showed up to fill a bloodlust. Hell, how many conflicts has Europe started by in other country's affairs that it refuses to fix *cough*Africa*cough*.
    • Laserbeams, smaserbeams, Don't worry about laserbeams, they just will not do the job. Get your biggest fancy-smancy laserbeam, and shoot my house, from space, your luckey to melt a little bit of tar on my roof you putz. The thing to worry about is big rocks, Holey-moley, somebody drops a 250 Kg iron-nickel rock on the house from orbit now we gotta problem. Hits the ground pretty hard, looks like a 15Kt nuke. Put it in a high-elipticle orbit, give it a little nudge at the right time and down it comes, almost
  • by SomeGuyFromCA (197979) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:37AM (#13269213) Journal
    except that someone eventually will develop space weapons - it would be the height of arrogance to assume that just because the u.s. backs off, everyone will - and we really don't want to get a late start in that race.
    • Too late. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:47AM (#13269309) Homepage Journal
      Sorry but the old USSR already built and deployed space base weapons. They deployed orbital ASAT systems in the early 70s and even armed one of their manned space stations.
      The idea that space is weapons free is a myth. If you do not think that spy satellites are not weapons you are just nuts.
      • Re:Too late. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shaper_pmp (825142)
        "If you do not think that spy satellites are not weapons you are just nuts."

        They aren't. Spy satellites are intelligence-gathering devices that allow you to know where to point your weapons. They're no more a weapon themselves than your lungs are a weapon - hey, without lungs you'd have no oxygen to power your muscles to move your finger to press the button that fires the nuke that actually is a weapon...

        Ok, I'm being slightly facetious, but you get the point. You can gather all the information you like
  • Because if the US decides not to, the rest of the world will surely follow suit.

    I share the opinion that they're a bad thing, but I think it's inevitable.

    Nuke the moon!

    Jerry
    http://www.cyvin.org/ [cyvin.org]
  • by tcopeland (32225) * <tom&thomasleecopeland,com> on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:38AM (#13269220) Homepage

    No satellite has been the subject of a direct physical attack in the history of warfare.
    Well, sure, but that seems a bit disingenuous... it's like saying that there were zero shuttle accidents between 1000 and 1900.
    • way to remove the context from that statement. here it is in full:

      "MK: Weaponizing space would be very unwise. No satellite has been the subject of a direct physical attack in the history of warfare. Whatever we do sets a precedent that others will follow. We depend so heavily on satellites to protect lives and wage war with a minimum of collateral damage. Attacks on satellites would mean that wars become a whole lot more difficult for our forces in the field and a lot more harmful to noncombatants."

      this is
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Keep in mind that there are people in the US government who own or consult for or are in some way related to the big business of providing military equiptment to the government. Of course they want this it's great to win a race, but it's even better to sell everyone shoes.
  • shoot own feet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JanneM (7445) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:39AM (#13269240) Homepage
    All you need to do is take a look at what country or countries would lose the most if space-based communication and localization functions were lost during a crisis. Actively working to increase the risk of such a scenario is self-defeating and shortsighted (I would like to use the expression "utterly stupid" but people may take offence).

  • is never a bad thing.

    Whatever advantage you can give yourself could possibly turn the tide of a battle.

    Imagine being able to blind an enemy in a war by knocking out its surveillance and communications capabilities. How is this a bad thing?

    People make it sound like it's a bad thing by starting a space arms race, but there could be worse things- such as your enemy being able to knock out your satellites and you have no ability to do the same. If you're able to develop such technology, do it.
  • by syntaxglitch (889367) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:41AM (#13269250)
    Two of the biggest drives behind innovation are:
    1) The military
    2) Sex

    The sooner we get both of those going into space, the sooner we'll get some decent progress in spaceflight technology.
  • The problem is... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RandoX (828285)
    Who is going to keep these weapons safe? These will have to be remotely fired, and with the state of system security these days I don't trust the government to keep their satellite weapons under control.
  • A little bit of game theory shows why developing space weapons makes sense from the point of view of any one country.

    Certainly, a "conspiracy" of ALL countries agreeing NOT to develop space weapons would be in our collective best interests. But no one works in terms of collective best interests unless it also maximizes their own best interests.

    Suppose for a moment that a "conspiracy" (or to make the terminology better for this case, a treaty) existed between all nations that "prevented" the development

  • by madro (221107) * on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:43AM (#13269268)
    Am I totally opposed to space weapons? Well, not really. Krepon's arguments include:
    1) North Korea and Iran don't have space programs. Space weapons would be useful against only Russia and China.
    2) The US is the world's most important rule maker or rule breaker. We should set an example and develop a code of conduct.

    My response to (1) is that militarily, it sucks to get leapfrogged. You don't want to get passed because of complacency. As for (2), bad actors tend not to follow rules anyway, so will the conduct of the US really shape the behavior of the rest of the world? (I would guess that many outside the US would hope not.)

    That said, the opportunity cost for space weapons is *huge*. It feeds into the whole asymmetrical warfare concept -- the US can disable satellites but can't stop an insurgency that everybody saw coming except the secretary of defense.

    Furthermore, even within military spending there are better places to spend the money than space weapon deployment. More unmanned systems, better infantry-level support, or faster mobilization (so that the US doesn't build up a force and then claim it's so expensive to keep them there that we have to start the war *right now* -- there were people who said we couldn't wait through a summer ... about $200 billion ago.)

    But the best place to spend money, in my opinion, is accelerated research that supports reduced reliance on oil. (Yes, I'm a Thomas Friedman fan.) I wouldn't mind a grant or two to a brilliant poli sci researcher who could figure out how to sell the public on a large gas tax. (and mitigate the effects on the poor?) I think most economists would say a gas tax (or more generally, a carbon tax) is the most efficient way to spur adoption of renewable energy sources. Otherwise, you're hoping the government can pick technological winners and losers. (While reps are getting nice contributions from the farm lobby.)
    • There are certainly much better places to spend military money than on space weapons at this point. Personally, I think the area where we need additonal funding most desparately is at the individual soldier and platoon level. We need more soldiers, more and better education for our soldiers, better man-portable equipment, better vehicles, better body armor, better communications, better...well, just about everything at that level. I think the current debacle in Iraq is evidence of this--not to mention that
  • I find it so interesting how the world society as a whole is essentially allowing these things to occur. Where is our moral responsibility?

    I am from Canada, and loathe the concept of space warfare. Why would anyone want this capability? Another arms race? Great....

    The part of this article that really stumped me, is that the interviewee was stating how wrong it is to have Weapons in Space, but conludes with 'if we did, we would win anyway'... doesn't this statement essentially challenge an opponent?

    This kind
  • If we don't get along up there, we're going to have problems very quickly. Blow up a enough satellites, and now you have a cloud of virtually impossible to trace debris orbiting the earth at several km/s and presenting a deadly danger to anything else up there. Eventually, it'll be impossible to send anything up without it getting pelted.

    Weapons in space do make sense, but only for protection of the Earth from outside dangers, such as wayward asteroids and comets, or as-yet undiscovered hostile alien race
  • by motorsabbath (243336) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:46AM (#13269295) Homepage
    Space weapons have nothing to do with security and everything to do with generating a fresh revenue stream for the military/industrial complex.
  • developing space weapons is a surefire way to launch a new space weapon race.
    So, there are huge profits waiting for corporations with the right connections. Militarisation of space is stupid and inevitable.
  • Obviously no. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FhnuZoag (875558) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:47AM (#13269310)
    The simplest argument:

    Who are the most plausible opponents in a war in space?

    Note that these countries are almost uniformly our close allies, our essential trading partners, and fellow democracies.

    Do we really want to militarise against our friends, diverting funding from protecting against clear and present and active offensive enemies?
    • Re:Obviously no. (Score:3, Informative)

      by BillFarber (641417)
      >> Note that these countries are almost uniformly our close allies, our essential trading partners, and fellow democracies.

      China and Russia may be an essential trading partner (though I suspect we could live without their crap), but they are hardly either of the other two.

  • by JohnPerkins (243021) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:47AM (#13269319) Homepage
    We must develope this basselope-based weapons system. Rumors are that the russians have a basselope of their own. Do you know what that means, boy? A BASSELOPE GAP!!!
  • Because of the space weapons race, countries create satellites that can defend themselves from attack. Unfortunately, satellites that pass each other too closely inadvertently fire upon each other and destroy themselves. So satellites have to be made smarter. Eventually satellites become smart enough to join together and restrict access to space as the best preemptive defense move. Mankind, not wanting to be trapped on Earth, launch a ground based attack to take out the satellites. Satellites retaliate
  • ...are just interested in more than real estate in Miami. Otherwise, let 'em move in. No need for space guns.

    IronChefMorimoto
  • Define "need" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mnemonic_ (164550) <jamec&umich,edu> on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:49AM (#13269335) Homepage Journal
    Do we need to defend ourselves to the best degree possible in times of war? Certainly, we do.

    Do we need war at all? Certainly, we don't.

    Is war inevitable, space weapons or not? 3,000 years of history says it is.

    Which is more practical, pretending that war won't happen or accepting that it will? With the latter being more realistic, we may then follow through with the most effective defense and proceed with developing space weapons.

    We've always been in some weapons race, though not necessarily at the pace of the Cold War. Space weapons won't initiate any Cold War-esque weapons race as much as any of our other weapons have. They're not holocaust devices like nukes or any NBC weaponry. Without anti-satellite weapons, we're back at traditional warfare. With those weapons, we only take it outside of earth.

    Space weaponry if anything will reduce war to a battle of communications and intelligence, where space coverage matters more than occupying ground. With troops and conventional weapons reduced in importance, satellites will be the main casualties, as long as they directly affect the ground war below.
  • And how are we supposed to ward off a cylon attack without space weapons?
    • And how are we supposed to ward off a cylon attack without space weapons?

      We use the sharks with lasers on their heads, silly. Space weapons are just an expensive substitute for stuff we already have.

  • Against treaties (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ruiner13 (527499) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:49AM (#13269340) Homepage
    People seem to forget or ignore the fact that deploying space-based wepondry goes against the ABM (Anti Ballistic Missile) Treaties signed by us and the USSR. Bush has already broken these treaties in testing many of his toys. Does no one care that he has such disregard for them? He has stated that the treaties are too limimting and therefore aren't in the best interest of our country, a fact I wholeheartedly disagree with.
    • Re:Against treaties (Score:4, Informative)

      by BillFarber (641417) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:53AM (#13269380)
      The USSR no longer exists, hence the treaty no longer exists. Not to mention the fact that the ABM is ridiculously antiquanted.
    • Haven't you heard? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by krell (896769)
      'Treaties signed by us and the USSR. Bush has already broken these treaties in testing many of his toys'

      Haven't you heard? There is no USSR.

      'He has stated that the treaties are too limimting and therefore aren't in the best interest of our country, a fact I wholeheartedly disagree with'

      At least you admit it is a fact. Too bad you do not like it. Treaties which ban entirely-defensive efforts are certainly not in our interest.

    • Re:Against treaties (Score:5, Informative)

      by Necron69 (35644) <[jscott.farrow] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday August 08, 2005 @11:33AM (#13269824)
      Perhaps you seem to forget (or are ignorant of the fact) that the United States formally withdrew from the ABM treaty in 2002. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-ballistic_missil e_treaty [wikipedia.org]> for reference.

      The ABM treaty is no longer in effect and is irrelevant to this discussion. There are no legal obligations preventing the US from deploying space weapons. It is solely a technical and policy and/or moral decision.

      - Necron69

  • by jurt1235 (834677) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:50AM (#13269350) Homepage
    Quote from the article:
    MK: Weaponizing space would be very unwise. No satellite has been the subject of a direct physical attack in the history of warfare. Whatever we do sets a precedent that others will follow. We depend so heavily on satellites to protect lives and wage war with a minimum of collateral damage. Attacks on satellites would mean that wars become a whole lot more difficult for our forces in the field and a lot more harmful to noncombatants.

    So in short, you can reduce the efficiency of the US army by taking out their satellites. Since other countries are denied access to space, this would be a good tactic for such a country. They will be more dependent and more trained in a war without satellite information, and will be enabled by such a move to get the upperhand in a conflict.

    I think the US better invest in protecting their own satellites since they are the softpoint.

    PS Disabling satellites by large lasers might work since you could fry just a few components like a photo optic chip, the rest of the satellite is packed in a heat blanket to reflect sunlight and thus a laser will just reflect of that too (at least most of it, rendering it pretty useless, if the atmosphere didn't do that yet)
  • by porkchop_d_clown (39923) <mwheinz&me,com> on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:52AM (#13269366) Homepage
    Because we all know how well banning weapons has worked before.

    The first attempt I can remember was when the Pope tried to prohibit crossbows. The most recent is the Japanese ban on firearms - which worked quite well until Admiral Perry showed up.
  • by linuxrunner (225041) on Monday August 08, 2005 @10:53AM (#13269375) Homepage
    Follow my logic here:

    Without Space Weapons, there would be no Star Trek
    Without Star Trek, there would be no Captain Kirk
    Without Captain Kirk, there would be no Geeks
    Without Geeks, there would be no Slashdot
    Without Slashdot, I would stop wasting time at work

    So: No Space Weapons = No Geeks = No Slashdot = A Raise in our National GDP

    Therefore: Profit!

  • by Henry V .009 (518000) on Monday August 08, 2005 @11:02AM (#13269493) Journal
    "Weaponizing space would be very unwise. No satellite has been the subject of a direct physical attack in the history of warfare. Whatever we do sets a precedent that others will follow. We depend so heavily on satellites to protect lives and wage war with a minimum of collateral damage. Attacks on satellites would mean that wars become a whole lot more difficult for our forces in the field and a lot more harmful to noncombatants."
    So we can get them to ignore our satelites—the ones that have been absolutely vital to every war the U.S. has fought since 1988—by not weaponizing space? Please, explain more.
    "Rules matter, and we are the world's most important rule maker or rule breaker. One rule that has stood the test of time so far is that you don't attack satellites directly. That's a very important rule to keep if we want to protect our forces in the field. We could develop a code of conduct for responsible space-faring nations."
    Some rules matter. This one doesn't. No nation at war with us is going to ignore our satelites giving us up-to-the-minute battlefield data when it has the option to do something about them instead.
  • by kent, knower of all (47897) <kent&nettally,com> on Monday August 08, 2005 @11:08AM (#13269553)
    Weapons in space is inevitable. Looking at militiary history, it's also logical.

    100 years ago wars were fought as ground wars.

    When planes first appeared in warfare, they were used simply for data gathering -- They would fly over the enemy position and the pilot would report his observations.

    The military soon realized that if they could knock out their enemy's use of aerial surveylance they would realize a huge tactical advantage and Air combat was born.

    The same thing holds true with satellites. The launch of the first communcations / spy satellite ensured that one day someone would develop the ability to neutralize enemy satellites.

    We don't have to like it, but it is inevitable.
  • by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Monday August 08, 2005 @11:16AM (#13269620)

    So we develop space weapons. They develop space weapons. We all develop space weapons. We decide to blow the 1,800 satellites out of the sky in some sort of stellar turf war.

    What nobody has considered, is the gravity of the situation (literally, or lack thereof). Now you have billions of little pieces of satellite material flying around in all directions without any gravity to stop them.

    You think some foam sticking out of the bottom of the shuttle has problems now, try plucking it out of there with billions of pieces of metal, plastic, glass, wire and other satellite debris flying around you in all directions at 16,000 miles per-hour.

    Sure, some of it will orbitally degrade into the atmosphere, but much of it will not, and it will continue to fly in all directions at full-speed, until it either collides with something to slow it down, or it deflects off of something (such as the other billion pieces of debris) to change its path.

    Forget going to the moon, other shuttle launches, Mars missions, all of it. Not without some major retrofit to the hull and other materials used in the manufacturing of them (i.e. adding weight, potentially).

    Yes, lets all just blow ourselves out of the sky too, and keep our upper orbital atmosphere a nice fence of shrapnel traveling at thousands of miles per-hour.

    • That's exactly what I was thinking. Actually, if you go a bit further, you can wonder how many satellites you need to destroy before the debris end up destroying even more satellites create a chain reaction. I'm sure I've seen people research that, but I don't know the result. With the number of satellites up there, I would expect just a few would be enough.
  • by TheLink (130905) on Monday August 08, 2005 @11:47AM (#13269972) Journal
    If you get tons of debris 40,000km up, who has the most satellites there to lose?

    You think north korea would care as much? China? India?

    It costs a lot more to defend a satellite against this than to destroy a satellite. It's also not too hard to disguise a killer satellite as a civilian satellite (but this would have to be in a "normal" orbit travelling in the same direction as other satellites- makes it a bit harder to be very damaging).

    I don't see why one should spend so much money on space weapons. A few dozen _cheap_ satellites with explosives and hard to deflect shrapnel (glass?) can make tons of orbits useless. How it could work - someone just has to stop broadcasting the relevant keepalive signals, or broadcast a "trigger" signal and the shrapnel satellites will blow up and wipe various orbits within a day.

    So your mucho expensive space weapons better be parked in different orbits or be capable of moving significantly. And you better be able to decide and use them quickly.

    If stuff happens we'd probably lose use of the prime orbit regions, for quite a long time.

    It's like MAD but in space.
  • by DoktorTomoe (643004) on Monday August 08, 2005 @12:11PM (#13270258)

    ... that international law and treaties is of no concern for the United States...

    Outer Space Treaty of 1963 [unvienna.org]

    Yes, I know those "space weapons" will (officially) not be nuclear. Have a look at article 8, however. I doubt the US wants to pay for foreign satellites, development and launch costs.

    Overall, I think if the US would finally stop bullying the rest of this planet around, they would be a lot more liked.

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