Pentagon Denies Space Weapons

Guest article by John Nestler (website: Space Marauder)

space_weapons

The United States is not developing space weapons and could not afford to do so even if it wanted to,” said an official with the Pentagon last Thursday. Space weapons have always been a bit of a hush-hush topic, and it looks like the trend hasn’t been broken with this recent announcement. The real issue surrounding this announcement is what the Pentagon’s ideas of “space weapons” are…

The announcement came from an official with the Pentagon’s National Security Space Office on Thursday, at a time when President Obama has expressed interest in a space weapons ban. It is a bit hard to believe that the Pentagon isn’t looking into space weapons, the final frontier where weapons aren’t prevalent. Just last spring Wired reported on the Pentagon’s estimated budget for space weapons which totaled into a whopping $520 million. Granted this money is spread out over a number of different projects, not all specifically related to space weaponry, yet there was definitely some interest in the area less than a year ago.

Pete Hays, a senior policy analyst with the Pentagon and the associate director of the Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies points to funding issues that would prevent the Pentagon from pursuing further development of space weapons. According to him, the government’s commitments to the military program makes funding for space weapons development improbable. Here’s his say on space weapons development at the Pentagon:

There are no space weaponization programs. It’s an issue that academics like to flog now and then, but in terms of funded programs, there aren’t any. I can tell you that categorically.”

The definition of space weapons still remains a bit shady, as just a few weeks ago the Pentagon admitted to using two covert spy satellites to inspect a failed geostationary satellite. The event caused more than a few people to be worried about transparency within the Pentagon, and the possibility that the Pentagon could use these covert satellites to sabotage other enemy satellites in the future. The U.S. also flexed a bit of muscle when a rocket was launched to intercept and destroy a satellite that was deemed harmful as it was carrying full tank of a toxic propellant. The use of the rocket in this situation was clearly non-hostile to other satellites and was launched to destroy a credible threat. The problem is in the future where this same situation occurs, except the rocket accidentally intercepts and destroys a different satellite. One use is for the protection of the citizens on Earth, while another use is military related. This type of argument can be put forth for other similar developments in space technology which is what makes the area such a touchy subject.

Other countries are rightfully worried about the future of weapons in space, and have taken steps to create a treaty regarding the issue. China and Russia have been asking for a treaty like this at the United Nations Disarmament Conference for a while now. The U.S. has maintained it’s refusal on treaties banning space weapons since the 1970′s. Times are changing though and hopefully we will see some progress made in this area in the coming years.

Taking the news from the Pentagon face value is fine, but there is still a reasonable amount of doubt regarding their space weapon development plans. A little transparency into their plans could calm the nerves of countries that aren’t as established in space yet. On a final note, Pete Hays specifically mentioned that there were not any funded programs dealing with space weapon development. This still leaves open the option that the Pentagon may have secret off the books programs going on, which seems probable. As it stands currently there is no way to know what the future of weapons in space will be despite what countries claim, only time will tell.

Source: Space.com

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5 responses to “Pentagon Denies Space Weapons

  1. As a Sci-Fi fan, and an Army Officer, I thought I should chime in on the debate with weaponization of space. A space-weapon-ban is comparable to a sea-weapon ban. All nations of the world have commerce by sea. Ships are always threatened by attack from land. A movement to ‘deweaponize the sea’ would hugely favor states that are not dependent on the sea. Ships can be DESTROYED BY LAND-BASED WEAPONS (which Imperial Germany, Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union all practiced or planned extensively). All of these states would have loved a treaty ‘de-weaponizing the ocean’ as this would have robbed Britain and America of the means to defend our allies from land attack on other continents.

    This is the same military/diplomatic issue we will encounter in the next century in space. The American armed forces rely on Satellites extensively for navigation, communication, and pin-point targeting. We do so far more than our rivals in space, China and Russia. We have Strategic OFFENSIVE weapons that can already hit anything on the earth’s surface. The military’s interest in space weapons is for DEFENSIVE platforms to protect our hundreds of military satellites, which our enemies (China and Russia) have the capacity to destroy or damage. The Chinese and Russians support a ban on space weapons BECAUSE THEIR ARSENALS ARE GROUND-BASED ANTI-SATELLITE MISSILES FOR OFFENSIVE USE AGAINST OUR SATELLITE NETWORK. Our interest in space weapon is as laser-mounted defensive satelites to interdict ASAT (Anti-Satelitte) munitions. It is only feasible to defend these platforms from orbit. Space based lasers would have no ability to penetrate to the ground (the main problem with weaponizing lasers is that the energy is distributed through air, so they only work well in a vaccum). They also need to concentrate on their target to have an affective heat exchange, which means they are best suited for defense (an object moving toward you is far easier to engage than an object on a completely different trajectory, this mathematics is at the corp of air-to-air interception technology).

    Long story short a space-weapon’s ban doesn’t stop China from building 400 ASAT missiles, and giving them a hefty-head start in a conventional war. It will only stop us from defending ourselves.

  2. On one level, at least, this concern is misplaced, regardless of the Pentagon's wishes, or, for that matter, the wishes of any military establishment in the world.Look at the myriad of ordinary objects in our daily lives that are inherently dual- and even multi-use.Consider the lowly spading fork. It is used to spade the soil. In a pinch, it can function as a stand-in pitchfork. It can even be used as a crude sledge hammer.It also can be used to inflict nasty injuries or death on living creatures, including us.And what about a ballpoint pen or a pencil? Both make fine stabbing weapons, especially directed against the soft tissues of the eyes and ear drums.Neckties and belts make perfect garraottes.And I doubt the inventors of any of those had in mind murder and mayhem.The same can be said of space weaponry. Perch a research satellite atop an orbital booster, and you've got an utterly peaceful application of launch-spaceflight technology. Perch any sort of warhead atop the booster instead of a research satellite, and now we;ve got a weapons system, including one that conceivably could bring down a satellite. Heck, for that purpose, forget the warhead; just use the kinetic energy of the rocket slamming into a satellite to destroy it.It is, in my view, correct that we in the civilian world ride herd on the Pentagon. But in so doing, we need to keep in the forefront of our thoughts that of *course* they're going to be considering military applications of stuff. After all, they would be derelict in their duty were they *not* to make such considerations. We can still keep a tight rein on the occasional warmonger who finds himself with some stars on his shoulder. And such warmongers are truly rare, as most people who've actually been involved in war loathe it — that is, our warriors are often the ones most desperately interested in piece, since they've been there, done that.Of course, there will always be (I guess) the black helicopter/one world government/tin foil hat crowd who disagree. . . . sigh. There's no convincing those who “know” some revealed truth.

  3. On one level, at least, this concern is misplaced, regardless of the Pentagon's wishes, or, for that matter, the wishes of any military establishment in the world.Look at the myriad of ordinary objects in our daily lives that are inherently dual- and even multi-use.Consider the lowly spading fork. It is used to spade the soil. In a pinch, it can function as a stand-in pitchfork. It can even be used as a crude sledge hammer.It also can be used to inflict nasty injuries or death on living creatures, including us.And what about a ballpoint pen or a pencil? Both make fine stabbing weapons, especially directed against the soft tissues of the eyes and ear drums.Neckties and belts make perfect garraottes.And I doubt the inventors of any of those had in mind murder and mayhem.The same can be said of space weaponry. Perch a research satellite atop an orbital booster, and you've got an utterly peaceful application of launch-spaceflight technology. Perch any sort of warhead atop the booster instead of a research satellite, and now we;ve got a weapons system, including one that conceivably could bring down a satellite. Heck, for that purpose, forget the warhead; just use the kinetic energy of the rocket slamming into a satellite to destroy it.It is, in my view, correct that we in the civilian world ride herd on the Pentagon. But in so doing, we need to keep in the forefront of our thoughts that of *course* they're going to be considering military applications of stuff. After all, they would be derelict in their duty were they *not* to make such considerations. We can still keep a tight rein on the occasional warmonger who finds himself with some stars on his shoulder. And such warmongers are truly rare, as most people who've actually been involved in war loathe it — that is, our warriors are often the ones most desperately interested in piece, since they've been there, done that.Of course, there will always be (I guess) the black helicopter/one world government/tin foil hat crowd who disagree. . . . sigh. There's no convincing those who “know” some revealed truth.

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