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Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are solely the views of the author and not of her employer, the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the RAND Corporation, or of the U.S. Government. Weaponizing Space: Technologies and Policy Choices. Dana J. Johnson, Ph.D.

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weaponizing space technologies and policy choices

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are solely the views of the author and not of her employer, the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the RAND Corporation, or of the U.S. Government.

Weaponizing Space: Technologies and Policy Choices

Dana J. Johnson, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University

20 April 2005

agenda
Agenda
  • Characterizing the “space weaponization” debate
  • National space policy and the importance of space to the U.S.
  • Space Control and Force Application missions
  • Decision-making rationale and factors for space weapons acquisition by U.S. and/or others
  • Policy choices and conclusions
characterizing the space weaponization debate
Characterizing the “Space Weaponization Debate”

Pro Arguments

  • Just as other environments are used for offensive military purposes, so will the environment of space be used
  • Emerging threats to our national interests and assured access to space require we develop and maintain capabilities to protect our space assets
  • The U.S. economy and way of life depend on space systems
  • The space weaponization debate is a red-herring. Space was weaponized long ago by the transit of ballistic missiles

Con Arguments

  • Space should remain a sanctuary for peaceful scientific uses
  • Space weaponization is:
    • Not inevitable and international agreements barring weaponization are possible and desirable
    • Pre-mature and the sanctuary status of space is in the interests of the United States
  • Use of space weapons would create harmful orbital debris
  • There is no conceivable scenario in which space weapons provide a benefit greater than their harm
agenda1
Agenda
  • Characterizing the “space weaponization” debate
  • National space policy and the importance of space to the U.S.
  • Space Control and Force Application missions
  • Decision-making rationale and factors for space weapons acquisition by U.S. and/or others
  • Policy choices and conclusions
national space policy 1996
National Space Policy (1996)

The United States is committed to the exploration and use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of all humanity. "Peaceful purposes" allow defense and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national security and other goals. The United States rejects any claims to sovereignty by any nation over outer space or celestial bodies, or any portion thereof, and rejects any limitations on the fundamental right of sovereign nations to acquire data from space. The United States considers the space systems of any nation to be national property with the right of passage through and operations in space without interference. Purposeful interference with space systems shall be viewed as an infringement on sovereign rights.

national space policy 1996 cont
National Space Policy (1996) (Cont.)

National security space activities shall contribute to U.S. national security by:

(a) providing support for the United States\' inherent right of self-defense and our defense commitments to allies and friends;

(b) deterring, warning, and if necessary, defending against enemy attack;

(c) assuring that hostile forces cannot prevent our own use of space;

(d) countering, if necessary, space systems and services used for hostile purposes;

(e) enhancing operations of U.S. and allied forces;

(f) ensuring our ability to conduct military and intelligence space-related activities;

(g) satisfying military and intelligence requirements during peace and crisis as well as through all levels of conflict;

(h) supporting the activities of national policy makers, the intelligence community, the National Command Authorities, combatant commanders and the military services, other federal officials, and continuity of government operations.

importance of space to the u s
Importance of Space to the U.S.
  • Contributed $100 billion to US economy in 2000
  • Weather satellites – improved severe weather predictions
  • Communications – point to point and broadcast
  • GPS
    • Navigation—commercial and civil exceed military applications
    • Ubiquitous timing signal—enables global Internet
  • Environmental monitoring
    • Geodesy
    • Mapping
    • Terrain Characterization
space an economic center of gravity and thus a vital national interest

Weather

Prediction

Resource

Management

Communications

Precision

Farming

Surveying

Space: An Economic Center of Gravity and Thus, a Vital National Interest

Today:

  • Over 600 Active Satellites (200+ US Satellites)
  • Over $100 Billion US Dollars Invested

Future: Forecast 20% annual growth in space investments

  • GPS-related products: $8 Billion (2001) projected to grow to $50 Billion by 2010
agenda2
Agenda
  • Characterizing the “space weaponization” debate
  • National space policy and the importance of space to the U.S.
  • Space Control and Force Application missions
  • Decision-making rationale and factors for space weapons acquisition by U.S. and/or others
  • Policy choices and conclusions
space missions
Space Missions*
  • Space Force Support: launching satellites and day-to-day management of on-orbit assets
  • Space Force Enhancement: includes all space operations aimed at increasing effectiveness of terrestrial military operations
  • Space Control: ensuring our use of space while denying the use to our adversaries
  • Space Force Application: combat operations in, through, and from space to influence the course and outcome of conflict

*United States Strategic Command Fact File, http://www.stratcom.mil/factsheetshtml/spacemissions.htm

space control
Space Control

Surveil

Protect

  • Detect, Identify and Track Man-made Space Objects
  • Worldwide Network
    • Radar
    • Optical Trackers
    • Infrared
  • Ensure Use of Space Assets
  • Enhance Survivability
    • Maneuver
    • Harden
    • Redundancy

Prevent

Negate

Disrupt, deny, degrate, deceive or destroy adversary space capabilities

Prevent Adversaries From Exploiting US or Allies Space Services

GROUND SEGMENT

  • Encryption
  • Shutter Control

Link

SPACE SEGMENT

Assure Freedom of Action in Space and Deny Same

space control asat concepts
Direct Ascent (Ballistic Trajectory)

Ground-launched

Air-launched

Co-orbital

Interceptor

Space mine

Directed Energy Weapons

Ground-based

Air-based

Space-based

Electronic Warfare

Ground-based

Space-based

Conventional explosive

Nuclear warhead

Pellet cloud

Aerosols

Hit-to-kill

Induced fragmentation

Component burnout

Power disruption

Jamming

Takeover

Physical tampering

Space Control: ASAT Concepts

ASAT Systems

Types of Negation

Source: Nicholas L. Johnson, Soviet Military Strategy in Space, Jane’s, 1987, p. 138.

legacy asat development

US ActivityUSSR Activity Other

Note that dates are approximate

Legacy ASAT Development
  • Project SAINT (SAtellite INTerceptor) (1950s-1962)
  • Early Spring: conventional ASAT, Polaris launch (1960s)
  • Program 505: prototype Nike Zeus DM-15S ABM (1962-1966)
  • Program 437: Thor launch, Mk 49 nuclear warhead (1964)
  • Program 922: Thor IRBM launch, non-nuclear suborbital ASAT in development (late 1960s)

May 1972 signing of SALT I Treaty prohibited interference with NTM

  • SPIKE: suborbital conventional ASAT air-launched from F-106; MHV with non-nuclear kill capability (1970s)
  • Conventional ASAT: low-risk, off-the-shelf technology alternative using pellets (1970s)
  • USB: platform for space-borne weapons, crewed, Proton launch (late 1970s/early 1980s)
  • Air-Launched Anti-Satellite Missile: F-15 launch, 2-stage + MHV, successful intercept 1985 (1977-1980s)
  • Terra-3: ground-based laser, Sary Shagan (1970s-1980s)
  • RP: space-based rocket interceptor (similar to US Brilliant Pebbles) (1980s)
legacy asat development cont

US ActivityUSSR Activity Other

Note that dates are approximate

Legacy ASAT Development (Cont.)
  • Zenith Star: prototype space combat satellite using Alpha laser (1987)
  • KS: space station with military free-flying autonomous modules dispensing nuclear warheads (1980s)
  • Polyus: combat satellite testbed using Energia launcher; launch failure in 1987 (1985-1987)
  • KE ASAT: Army direct ascent kinetic energy ASAT, with kinetic kill vehicle launched by rocket booster (1989-1990s)
  • Gun-launched ASAT: supergun design by Gerald Bull for Iraq, for blinding Western satellites (1995)
  • Star Lite: space laser concept, to be launched on Titan 4 (1991)
  • HERTF: High Energy Research and Technology Facility, Kirtland AFB, NM, high-powered microwave and advanced technology weapon system development
  • Space-Based Laser: Operational SBL Orbital Vehicle, chemical laser system, part of SDI program (1996)
  • Space Laser Demo: concept (1996)
space control protecting space assets
Hardening/shielding of system components

Developing robust battle management

Improving system maneuverability

Attaining adequate force protection

Developing adequate defensive information operations

Threat warning and assessment reporting

Space weather sensor systems

Mobile mission processors

Diagnostics and repair technology

Quick launch recovery

Modeling and simulation

Detect and report threat/attacks

Identify, locate, and classify threats

Withstand and defend

Reconstitute and repair

Assess missions impact

Space Control: Protecting Space Assets

Operational Needs

Functional Capabilities

space force application
Space Force Application
  • Currently no weapons in Space
  • DoD Space Policy (1999) tasks US military to plan for Force Application from space
  • International law & treaties prohibit weapons of mass destruction in space
  • “Conventional” weapons are not prohibited

Apply Force From Space

space force application influencing the terrestrial battlespace
Space Force Application:Influencing the Terrestrial Battlespace
  • Defined as:
    • “…things intended to cause harm that are based in space or that have an essential element based in space. The degree of harm…may range from temporary disruption to permanent destruction or death.”*
  • Generic alternatives:
    • Space-based directed-energy and kinetic-energy weapons against missile targets
    • Kinetic-energy weapons against ground targets
    • Conventional weapons against ground targets

*Preston, et. al., Space Weapons Earth Wars, RAND, 2002, p. 23.

comparison of weapon types and their operational utility
Comparison of Weapon Types and Their Operational Utility

Mass-to-Target Weapons

Directed Energy

Laser, RF, particle beam, etc.

Kinetic energy against missile targets

Kinetic energy against surface targets

Space-based conventional weapons

Soft, located from the surface to space, any speed

Hardened targets above 60 km moving at great speed

Hardened fixed or slow-moving targets on Earth

Hardened targets, either fixed or moving at moderate speeds, surface or air

Targets

Effects

Range from nonlethal jamming to lethal heating; finite, inherently “thin” defense

Lethal impact

Vertical, limited-depth penetrator

Inherited from conventional munitions

Responsiveness

Seconds

A few minutes

A few hours

About 10 mins plus time it takes weapon to reach target after delivery from space

Number of Weapons in Constellation

Several dozens

Several dozens for each needed to reach a particular target in desired time

About 6 in reserve for each needed to reach a particular target in desired time

About 6 in reserve for each needed to reach a particular target in desired time

Source: Preston, et. al., Space Weapons Earth Wars, RAND, 2002.

agenda3
Agenda
  • Characterizing the “space weaponization” debate
  • National space policy and the importance of space to the U.S.
  • Space Control and Force Application missions
  • Decision-making rationale and factors for space weapons acquisition by U.S. and/or others
  • Policy choices and conclusions
emergence of space competitors
Emergence of Space Competitors?
  • Currently, no peer in space to threaten U.S. national interests
  • However, concern for developments in:
    • China
      • Human spaceflight
      • Navigation, communications, remote sensing, weather, oceanography, microgravity, science and astronomy, and microsatellites
      • KE ASAT, jammers, “parasite” satellites, ground-based lasers
    • Russia: long-standing interests and capabilities
    • Nuclear proliferation and weapons delivery programs in North Korea, Iran, Libya, Pakistan
    • Continued transfer of ballistic missile-related technology by Russia and China
  • Bottom line:
    • Technically challenging but doable
    • Legal constraints on WMD do not prohibit space weapons
    • Countermeasures are possible – asymmetric strategies by competitors, allowing competition without having to become space-faring nations
concern for vulnerability of u s space based assets
Concern for Vulnerability of U.S. Space-Based Assets

“If U.S. is to avoid a “Space Pearl Harbor” it needs to take seriously the possibility of an attack on U.S. space systems”*

  • What might be a “Space Pearl Harbor”?
    • Lethal actions, such as:
      • Debilitating/destroying attack on U.S. and allied space assets through electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event staged by hostile forces in orbit
    • Non-lethal actions (i.e., for a limited period of time, for specific objectives)
      • Jamming, spoofing, blinding

*Report of the Commission to Assess United States National Security

Space Management and Organization (January 2001)

if the u s were to acquire space weapons how might it happen
If the U.S. Were to Acquire Space Weapons, How Might It Happen?
  • Under what circumstances might the U.S. decide to acquire?
    • Deliberately
    • Incidentally
  • Once the decision is made, how might the transition occur?
    • Possible strategies
    • Possible consequences
possible circumstances requiring purposeful decision making
Possible Circumstances Requiring Purposeful Decision-Making
  • Responding to threat(s) by undeterred adversaries
  • Responding to another nation’s decision to acquire, whether adversaries or allies
  • With another nation(s), to forestall, control, or influence their independent acquisition of space weapons
  • Unilaterally, in absence of compelling threat, to demonstrate global leadership, protect U.S. and allied economic investments, improve efficiency and effectiveness of military capabilities, etc.
possible circumstances involving incidental decision making
Possible Circumstances Involving Incidental Decision-Making
  • Commercial or civil development of technologies with applicability to military purposes
  • Incremental decision – hedging strategy as way to shape security environment
  • Monolithic decision and implementation – reactive strategy to deal with emerging threat that may be defensive and stabilizing in nature
transition period 1
Transition Period (1)
  • Ideally, no consequences for U.S. deployment
  • Worst case:
    • Adversaries take lethal action to deny U.S. ability to launch and deploy first space weapon
  • Adversary’s options are numerous
    • Deterrent capability, possibly nuclear, leading to possible launch on warning/launch under attack policy
    • Physical attack – on launch sites
    • Burying targets
    • Developing/deploying “silver bullets,” such as ASATs
    • “Seize moral high ground against U.S. hegemony”
transition period 2
Transition Period (2)
  • Responses by allies
    • Potential political pressure
    • Potential fallout in other non-space-related areas (e.g., foreign policy issue of great importance to U.S. interests)
    • Adversary attempt at coercive behavior to influence ally
    • Commercial companies’ reaction to possible orbital debris that, depending on orbits, may last forever
  • World may view U.S. acquisition and deployment decision as risky behavior, with long term consequences for U.S. global leadership
policy context for deciding to acquire and deploy space based weapons
Policy Context for Deciding to Acquire and Deploy Space-Based Weapons
  • Some sensitivities have underpinning them the notion of space as a sanctuary:
    • U.S. has most to lose because of dependence on space assets
    • Absence of imminent threats to U.S. freedom of space could lead to perceptions of U.S. aggressive behavior
    • Potentially trigger arms race in space
  • Others argue that U.S. inhibitions against space weapons deployment do not necessarily apply to others
    • U.S. needs to press ahead with development and deployment
  • From a narrow, operational viewpoint:
    • Technical feasibility
    • Strategic desirability
    • Cost
  • However, other sensitivities:
    • Political will
    • Legal restrictions and ramifications
    • Reactions of allies, neutrals, and adversaries
what if others decide to acquire space weapons
What If Others Decide to Acquire Space Weapons?
  • Range of “others”
    • Peer competitors
    • U.S. friends and allies
    • Non-peer competitors
    • Neither friend nor foe
    • Non-state coalition of entities (possibly state-assisted)
  • Decisions will be driven by national interests
    • Security, e.g.:
      • Regional threats requiring long-range force projection
      • Overcoming competitor’s military strengths
    • Economic and technological
    • Political:
      • National prestige, peer recognition
      • Global reach and power projection
      • Enhanced freedom to act regionally/globally
      • Promotion of internal security
agenda4
Agenda
  • Characterizing the “space weaponization” debate
  • National space policy and the importance of space to the U.S.
  • Space Control and Force Application missions
  • Decision-making rationale and factors for space weapons acquisition by U.S. and/or others
  • Policy choices and conclusions
policy choices facing the united states
Policy Choices Facing the United States
  • Continue to maintain consistency in long-held space-related principles, yet be prepared to acquire and deploy space-based weapons should circumstances change
  • Move now, through explicit policy, programmatic, and budgetary decisions, to deploy space-based weapons based on national interests and emerging threats
  • Prepare for the inevitable: pursue a deliberate, long-term hedging strategy
impact of security challenges facing u s defense planning in 2006 qdr

Do space weapons contribute to “filling the gaps” in capabilities to respond?

Impact of Security Challenges Facing U.S. Defense Planning in 2006 QDR

Higher

  • Irregular
  • Unconventional methods adopted and employed by non-state and state actors to counter stronger state opponents. (Erode our power)
  • Catastrophic
  • Acquisition, possession, and possible employment of WMD or methods producing WMD-like effects against vulnerable, high-profile targets by terrorists and rogue states. (Paralyze our power)

VULNERABILITY

Lower

  • Traditional
  • States employing legacy and advanced military capabilities and recognizable military forces, in long-established, well-known forms of military competition and conflict. (Challenge our power)
  • Disruptive
  • International competitors developing and possessing breakthrough technological capabilities intended to supplant U.S. advantages in particular operational domains. (Marginalize our power)

Higher

Lower

LIKELIHOOD

conclusion
Conclusion
  • Space will become yet another environment for the full spectrum of human activities, including conflict
  • Not a matter of should space weapons be deployed, but when
  • Prudent approach to protect U.S. national interests is a proactive strategy for shaping political, technological, diplomatic, and security environment
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