Space Security 2006

Tasneem Jamal

Author
Sarah Estabrooks

The Ploughshares Monitor Autumn 2006 Volume 27 Issue 3

For the full Space Security 2006 report, click here.

Space Security 2006, the third annual report of the Space Security Index project, was published in July 2006. The report is the product of Spacesecurity.org, a research consortium that includes the Cypress Fund for Peace and Security, the International Security Research and Outreach Program at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Institute of Air and Space Law of McGill University, Project Ploughshares, the Simons Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Research of the University of British Columbia, and the Space Generation Foundation. Project Ploughshares provides secretariat services to the project.

Space Security 2006 aims to provide a comprehensive and integrated assessment of the state of space security. Based on a comprehensive review of the open source literature in the space field and consultation with international experts, Space Security 2006 examines international developments in space security according to eight indicators, providing an overview of the concerns of military, civilian, and commercial stakeholders from around the world.

The eight indicators are:

  1. the space environment
  2. space law, doctrine, and policy
  3. civil space programs
  4. commercial space and global utilities
  5. space support for terrestrial military operations
  6. space systems protection
  7. space systems negation, and
  8. space-based strike weapons.

Spacesecurity.org adopts the approach that space, as enshrined in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, is a global commons bordering every community on Earth. Space security is defined as the secure and sustainable access to and use of space, and freedom from space-based threats. There is no doubt that space security is linked to national and international security dynamics on Earth. Space systems can enhance national security by providing transparency and by supporting military operations, while international security concerns on

Earth risk spilling over into the space environment. Space security, however, does not have to be a zero-sum game. There are policies that can enhance the security of all actors in space, increasing the opportunities for prosperity and strengthening common security.

The pursuit of space security is plagued by contradictions. For example, the acquisition of independent space access by more actors could aggravate environmental concerns in space. Technologies that enable more effective use of space for some have the potential to negate the secure use of space by others. Indeed, the same assets used for space surveillance and collision avoidance could provide precision targeting of space assets. Such contradictions are commonly interpreted from the national security vantage points of individual space actors. These concerns need to be explored and collectively managed. A common understanding of space security, as articulated by Space Security 2006, can contribute to improved transparency about activities in outer space.

The strategic environment of outer space is evolving rapidly, with a growing number and diversity of actors accessing and using space.

In 2005, Iran became the 45th state to launch a satellite and 19 new military space assets were launched by China, France, Russia, Spain, the UK, and the US. The rapid miniaturization of satellite components is enabling development of cheaper yet highly effective space systems. The US leads in the pursuit of foundational technologies for potentially offensive laser and anti-satellite weapons systems, while the Japanese and European space agencies as well as NASA are developing asteroid interception systems, which could also be employed against other space assets. At the same time, the commercial exploitation of space continues; revenues reached an all-time high in 2005 of nearly $100-billion. Commercial space is dominated by the satellite services sector, providing services such as direct-television that affect daily life all over the world.

The vital importance of the space environment has intensified space use, which has in turn created challenges, including the management of space traffic and orbital debris, as well as the distribution of scarce resources such as orbital slots and radio frequencies. In 2005, the amount of space debris of sufficient size to inflict damage on a space asset grew by 2.1 percent and 1,374 incidents of satellite radio frequency interference were reported, primarily because of orbital crowding.

It is evident that technological developments and environmental pressures are outstripping the existing governance framework for outer space. The growing strategic importance of space and consequent competition among commercial, civil, and military space actors pose unique challenges for the current regulatory regime. Although 2005 saw a breakthrough with the agreement to orbital debris mitigation guidelines by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), debate over the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space continues to be hampered by the agenda deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which was dealt a serious blow by a US ‘no’ vote in the UN General Assembly. (See “Update on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space” in this issue.) These governance challenges will only become more pressing as states become more dependent on space to meet their national security needs.

Space security is of increasing concern to all space actors and weaknesses in the current space treaty regime are the subject of wide international debate. There are debates at the CD on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space, at COPUOS around the issue of space debris, during negotiations in the International Telecommunications Union, within the larger debate over developing ballistic missile defences, and in civil and military space programs in numerous countries. With an objective and accurate portrayal of trends and developments in the full range of space activities, Spacesecurity.org seeks to provide a vital tool for those engaged in this debate.

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