Ready for lift-off? A commitment to restrain anti-satellite weapons testing

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, News, Space Security

Awareness of the damaging effects of anti-satellite (ASAT) missile tests is growing. The most recent test, conducted by Russia in 2021, produced a cloud of space debris that forced astronauts on the International Space Station to take shelter in lifeboats. Today, the remaining debris continues to menace satellites and humans in space.

After the ISS: Why cooperation in space remains essential

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, News, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

Just as China’s first permanent space station Tiangong (“heavenly palace”) nears competition, the International Space Station (ISS) is, apparently, nearing its end. With war in Ukraine as a backdrop, Russia has stated its intentions to withdraw from the partnership that built and has maintained the ISS as a permanently crewed human habitat in low Earth orbit for more than 20 years.

Statement to the Open-ended Working Group on Reducing Space Threats

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, News, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

I am here on behalf of both Project Ploughshares – a Canadian peace and arms control research institute – and the Canadian Pugwash Group, which is committed to the abolition of weapons of mass destruction and has a long tradition of “dialogue-across-divides.” Both of these organizations have long supported efforts to develop formal arms control mechanisms for outer space.

Astronauts and astronomers need better space governance

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, News, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

On November 15, 2021, seven astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) were ordered to take shelter because of the possibility of catastrophic collisions as the station passed through a cloud of debris. The astronauts remained in lifeboats while the ISS passed through the cloud multiple times.

The Sputnik moment re-examined

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

A U.S. military official recently described a missile test conducted by China in August as “very close to a Sputnik moment.” It seems that the test involved the launch of a re-entry vehicle capable of entering orbit and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere with its payload intact; this primary vehicle also carried a hypersonic glide vehicle that was released following re-entry.

Outer Space: Cloaked by a fog of peace

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

In his book On War, published in 1873, military analyst Carl von Clausewitz said, “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.” Contemporary military theorists and planners still find this idea of the “fog of war” relevant.

Time to ban debris-generating weapons tests in space

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

Orbiting our planet are thousands of satellites that support military operations as well as critical civilian and commercial infrastructures that provide essential services for humans all over the world. These satellites are unprotected and can be seriously damaged by even the smallest piece of orbital shrapnel or debris. And in space, the danger is ongoing, because the debris stays in orbit.

Joint Statement on Outer Space

Jessica West Featured, Ploughshares Monitor, Research in Action, Space Security

This statement was drafted on behalf of civil society by Project Ploughshares Senior Researcher Jessica West. Dr. West presented it to the United Nations General Assembly First Committee for Disarmament and International Security on October 13, 2020.

Space Security Cooperation: Changing Dynamics

Jessica West Featured, Research in Action, Space Security

The security of outer space is a cooperative endeavor to achieve a shared benefit. Yet, while cooperation is essential for space security, it is often fraught. This chapter examines the logic for cooperation as an approach to space security, including supportive governance mechanisms, and traces the impetus and evolution of such efforts over time, marked by struggle to overcome strategic competition.