Chomping at the Bit to Weaponize Space

I’m not sure this is really necessary.

Using similar logic, I think we should spend several billion dollars establishing a military presence in Antartica, so we’ll be ready in case the penguins evolve into a weapons bearing species.

Maybe he’s right. If it happens though, it’ll really, really piss China off.

Well the good news is, he doesn’t actually speak for the military. His rank isn’t given – if he has one – and the school he teaches is either for Lieutenant Colonels or full Colonels. It’s where they learn to “think outside the box” (according to very-carefully prescribed USAF methods :smiley: ), but mostly it’s a school that officers can attend to boost their chances of promotion to the next rank. I’m going to similar school this August to boost my chances of promotion to Major.

One of the things that happens at the upper-level schools is that every officer has to write a well-researched position paper on some issue facing the Air Force. Many of these papers are radical – I read one last month that suggested the Air Force build/buy a “flying aircraft carrier” and proceeded to outline the history of “mothership” operations (e.g. the Zeppelins that carried biplanes). This idea has zero chance of ever being implemented.

The people wanted a quotation from someone who advocated militarizing space, and they got one, but notice that each of the people quoted is in the academic field – none of them has any responsibility for policy. I wouldn’t sweat this particular article. It does not indicate any policy shift, and really isn’t much more than a point-counterpoint op-ed.

If you want to see actual high-ranking people’s opinion on weaponizing space, check out the keynote speeches from the 20th Annual Space Symposium. I got to attend, and hear General Lord’s speech, which was interesting – but a little scary. Remember that he was, at the time, commander of the Air Force Space Command, and stood to gain politically if Pres. Bush increased AFSPC’s importance on his watch.

It’s not uncommon for a new government policy to first appear in this manner. If it’s a controversial idea, like this one is, the President usually isn’t going to be the one to present it to the public. Instead a low level government official proposes the policy as a trial balloon and then the administration gets a chance to see what public opinion is on the issue. If it’s favorable or at least indifferent, the policy can be moved forward and higher ranking officials can associate themselves with it. If public opinion is too opposed, the administration can drop the idea without a loss of face.

Weaponizing space? We can’t even get a decent bed and breakfast up there, how the hell are we gonna place and maintain weaponry that we can’t even get to work right ONCE, much less consistently. This guy, whatever his rank or title, is a nitwit.

Aren’t there treaties, of which we’ve signed, prohibiting this very thing? I seem to remember the Reagan administration taking a lot of heat for weaponizing space.

Yeah, well, this Administration has trouble keeping treaties, if you’ll notice…

Uh-huh. I’m not really looking to turn this into yet another “I hate the President” hijacks.
So I guess I should have asked “Is there a treaty that forbids weaponizing space, and what are the specifics of that treaty?”

Yeah, like the 1972 ABM treaty that we’re currently in gross violation of?

My personal opinion is that this Administration’s focus on a manned space exploration program (to the detriment of ongoing scientific research) is laying the groundwork for an effort to weaponize space and lay proprietary claim to orbital and lunar space. OTOH, our nearest competitor (China) makes no distinction between a “civilian” program and a military effort, so from a certain point of view, it makes sense to prepare for the eventuality of a space race. But the current efforts are short-sighted at best and will likely be judged badly misguided by future analysts.

And I’d watch out for those Antarctic penguins. They may look cute, but they’re actually quite neferious.


Fighting ignorance, and all…

From 2001, when the US withdrew from the ABM treaty, a fact sheet from the State Department:

From the actual text of the treaty:

Note part 2, there. The US felt that its interests were best served by withdrawing from the treaty, and so in accord with the procedure spelled out in the treaty, gave six months notice prior to withdrawal.

No gross violation of the treaty. No violation of any kind, actually.

The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (“Outer Space Treaty”)

So, there are some restrictions: no nuclear weapons in space, or other “weapons of mass destruction”, and no weapons of any kind or military activities of any sort on the Moon or other celestial bodies. On the other hand, there are some loopholes there big enough to fly a 23-mm cannon through: so long as your orbiting space cruisers don’t have any “weapons of mass destruction” (presumably ordinary guns and bombs are OK; I don’t know about death rays), and so long as they don’t land anywhere up there (and militarily speaking I think various orbits around Earth are more useful than “Moonbases” anyway), it seems to me you wouldn’t be in violation of the treaty.

lno and MEBuckner, thank you. I thought that the terms of the 1972 treaty might apply (I’m old enough to remember when it was first signed), but didn’t know that we had withdrawn from it.

As for WMD in orbit, you don’t need anything explosive. Dropping swarms of iron bars (a la Niven’s Footfall) or other objects which could survive re-entry will be just as destructive.

There are problems with this idea. Not to get too technical, but just using our ICBM’s would be much more efficient, easier to maintain, and faster when in use. We’d need a lot of satellites to match it.

But mostly, there’s no real reason to weaponize space, as at the moment there’s nothing worth killing up there. And at the moment, it’s not cost effective. And at the moment, all we could do would be to blow up cities.

So, this proposal asks for a highly expensive weapon with no additional deterrative capacity that, at best, duplicates what we already have.

There are a lot of problems with this idea. All I was pointing out that a kinetic energy weapon (for lack of a better term) guided onto an Earthside target can be as destructive as any WMD we now can produce. Weaponizing space means controlling what other contries can put into orbit.

That said, I don’t think this idea in the OP is going anywhere soon. And even if the current administration starts a space-based weapons program today, there is no way it’ll be finished before three years are up.

Please, let’s find a cure for Testosterone poisoning soon…