On June 28, 2010, President Barack Obama revealed the nation’s National Space Policy. The new policy was vastly different than the previous administration’s policy. Areas of concern addressed in the 2010 policy included future direction for NASA missions, increased cooperation between nations, commercial and civilian use of space, and space as a contested environment. One of the biggest differences between President Obama’s policy and the policy of past administrations was the stance on weapons and conflict in space. No longer is the United States in a space race with the Soviet Union. Space is now a congested, contested arena where over 60 nations currently operate. This research paper will analyze the 2010 National Space Policy and identify the implications it has on space warfare.
Prior to President Obama’s policy, the 2006 National Space Policy set forth by President Bush had an entirely different tone as far as space warfare is concerned. The 2006 policy laid out national security guidelines that spoke of global strategic warning, missile defense, denying adversary’s use of space, and intelligence collection. These statements are not found in the 2010 policy. Three techniques that have implications on space warfare that can be found in the 2010 space policy are transparency, cooperation, and arms control.
The first implication that this policy has had on space warfare is transparency. Transparency, in the context of space policy, means being open about the activities any nation operating in space takes. It is difficult to use transparency as a means to prevent the weaponization of space because some of the biggest powers that have access to space are the least transparent. For example, North Korea is one of the most non-transparent nations. We know little to nothing about their Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) programs, and even less about their space program. In late 2012 North Korea launched a very basic satellite that actually achieved orbit. While this launch may not pose an immediate threat, the possibility exists that they might have more advanced technology waiting in the wings.
Another non-transparent nation that has actually tested their capabilities to wage war on satellites in space is China. The problem with China is that they have the money, technology, and know-how to pose a real threat. On January 11, 2007, China launched an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile at an old Fengyun-1C weather satellite. The test proved successful; however, the explosion littered a section of low Earth orbits with thousands of pieces of debris. While China claims to promote the peaceful use of space, their space program is led by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Being that little is known about their intentions in space, using transparency to bar any future wars in space simply will not work.
Cooperation between all of the space faring nations in order to better mankind is a great notion. However, laws, and...