Author Topic: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban  (Read 5327 times)


Offline nomadd22

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #1 on: 01/26/2009 02:13 PM »
 As the US destruction of the "Toxic fuel tank" satellite showed, something doesn't need to be called a space weapon to be one. If you ban anything that could be used to take out satellites you ban the ABL and any mid-course missile defense. In fact, any satellite that has decent maneuvering ability can take out another satellite. The Chinese weapon was just a bus with a bomb on it. Not exactly a weapons technology breakthrough.
 You can consider ICBMs space weapons even thought they aren't up there for long.
 The statement is so vague there's no way to really know what the intention is, or if there is an intention other than trying to impress people who never look past headlines.
« Last Edit: 01/26/2009 06:23 PM by nomadd22 »

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #2 on: 01/26/2009 03:13 PM »
I vote headlines ...
If you're happy and you know it,
It's your med's!

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #3 on: 01/26/2009 03:25 PM »
"Any old satellite" can't be an ASAT unless it has some type of terminal awareness/guidance to take it home to the target.  The problem is similar to automated docking, only without the "docking".  ;) 

But even an impact is no guarantee of success.  Progress M-34 damaged, but did not destroy, Mir.

IMO, for a start an agreement banning ASAT testing that produces orbital debris would be reasonable. 

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 01/26/2009 03:31 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline haywoodfloyd

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #4 on: 01/26/2009 03:25 PM »
I vote headlines ...
It's an announcement.
Why do people always have to be so negative?
The man is addressing issues that have either been ignored or should have been addressed by past Administrations.
It doesn't mean he has the solution...that's what advisors are for.
Give the man a chance...it's only been a week.

Offline spacedem

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #5 on: 01/26/2009 03:30 PM »
I think the non-headlined part of the story is far more interesting:  Building a plan to harden satellites from attack and provide a comprehensive backup strategy in case of loss of orbital assets.

The policy statement is extremely high-level, and and taking too much from it would be premature, but it certainly is promising that the statement was made.  from the Defense Policy statment on http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/defense/

Quote
They will thoroughly assess possible threats to U.S. space assets and the best options, military and diplomatic, for countering them, establishing contingency plans to ensure that U.S. forces can maintain or duplicate access to information from space assets and accelerating programs to harden U.S. satellites against attack.

From TFA:
Quote
Even Obama acknowledged during his election campaign that achieving a global treaty banning weapons in space could be a daunting challenge. A simpler and quicker solution, he suggested at that time, might be a "code of conduct for responsible space-faring nations."

That seems more plausible than a weapons ban.  People might want to read the article before assuming that the new administration is about to undertake to draw lines in the sand between orbital gravel and nuclear weapons.


Offline HIPAR

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #6 on: 01/26/2009 05:57 PM »
Is GPS a weapons system in space?  Can we exclude that because it doesn't directly explode or blow things up?  Can the new administration make a realistic determination?

---  CHAS

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #7 on: 01/26/2009 06:18 PM »
Is GPS a weapons system in space?  Can we exclude that because it doesn't directly explode or blow things up?
Don't tell that to the blockhouse guys during the January 17, 1997 GPS launch  ;)
If you're happy and you know it,
It's your med's!

Offline spacedem

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #8 on: 01/26/2009 06:28 PM »
Can the new administration make a realistic determination?

Yes.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #9 on: 01/27/2009 05:22 PM »
"Any old satellite" can't be an ASAT unless it has some type of terminal awareness/guidance to take it home to the target.  The problem is similar to automated docking, only without the "docking". 

Yes.  There's a lot of ridiculous strawman arguing on this subject.  Several examples:

-the Russians already have a survival pistol on the ISS, so that's a "space weapon" (Jim Oberg is fond of this one)

-a satellite can be maneuvered to collide with another satellite, so that's a "space weapon"

-a satellite can be maneuvered to crash someplace on the Earth, so that makes it a "space weapon"

These strawman claims are used to advance the argument that since "anything" can be a weapon, there is no point to trying to ban or control any weapons.  But it's a ridiculous argument and I think that it ultimately undercuts the case of those making the claims, because it shows that they are not being serious about the debate, simply playing games.  For instance, just because a pencil can be used to kill somebody does not mean that reasonable people consider a pencil to be a weapon.  So just because there is a survival pistol on the space station doesn't mean that we should be unconcerned about ASATs.

A couple of points:

1-in order for a country to have any kind of confidence that something will work as a weapon they have to test it first.  When they test it, their intentions will become clear.

2-the people advocating some sort of space arms control are actually interested in rather limited measures.  Most of their talk is about "rules of the road" rather than actual traditional "arms control agreements."  It is generally the people who are opposed to any form of arms control in space who base their arguments on extreme positions (i.e. the strawman claims and comparisons to previous arms control treaties).

I personally don't think that these measures are going to work, and I think there are flaws in them.  But I think that the opponents to arms control have done a very poor job of making their case, and ridiculous claims are not what they should base their arguments upon.
« Last Edit: 01/27/2009 05:24 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Analyst

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #10 on: 01/27/2009 05:33 PM »
Please provide the real reasons why arms control (for "space" weapons and "earth" weapons) does not work.

Analyst

Offline William Barton

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #11 on: 01/27/2009 06:29 PM »
If I wanted to control "space weapons," I wouldn't waste my time trying to address it directly. Instead, I'd try for a "space debris control" treaty. Let people test their "systems" all they want. Just don't make any messes.

Offline William Barton

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #12 on: 01/27/2009 06:34 PM »
Please provide the real reasons why arms control (for "space" weapons and "earth" weapons) does not work.

Analyst

reason #1. Humans are involved.

Ummmmm... can't think of any other reasons.

The original 1951 version of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" had the real issue embedded in it. Klaatu's people created an all-powerful race of incorruptible robot policemen and then surrendered their freedom forever, much like the people who want to surrender American civil liberties so they can be "safe." But the old movie fumbled its real message due to ban-the-bomb fretfulness. Harry Bates' original short story said it all with the real title: "Farewell to the Master." At the end of the story, the reader realizes the master is Gort the robot.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #13 on: 01/27/2009 08:49 PM »
Please provide the real reasons why arms control (for "space" weapons and "earth" weapons) does not work.

Verification is difficult if not impossible.

Example from recent past: The Biological Weapons Convention which was signed in 1972 and entered into force in 1975.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_Weapons_Convention

Despite the fact that the Soviet Union signed it, the Soviet Union undertook an extensive program to develop biological weapons during the 1980s.  The United States did not discover this blatant violation of the treaty until the 1990s when a defector (Ken Alibek) told the United States about the violations of the treaty:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Alibek

So there was an arms control agreement and it failed dramatically and the United States never knew about it.

There are other examples.  See the Krasnoyarsk radar, for example.

In the case of space weapons, verification would be difficult in most instances, if not impossible.  For example, it would be impossible to impose a ban on ground-based anti-satellite weapons because they can easily be hidden and it is unlikely that any signator would agree to on-site inspection.  A good example is the Chinese ASAT tested in early 2007.  It uses a mobile ballistic missile as a launch vehicle.  Unless a treaty allowed the inspection of all Chinese mobile ballistic missiles, there is no way to know if any of these missiles contained an ASAT weapon.  China would not agree to inspection of its mobile missiles (the purpose of making a missile mobile is so that you can hide it).  The treaty would therefore either not be agreeable, or would not be verifiable.

There are also tough definitional issues.  An "inspection satellite" like the XSS-11 could also be maneuvered to collide with a target.  Would it be banned under a treaty?

http://www.kirtland.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-070404-108.pdf

It is worth noting that in general, arms control treaties have fallen out of favor in the past two decades.  There are reasons for this, including the difficulty of negotiating them and the long time it takes to ratify them (look up the process for ratifying treaties in the United States).  Bilateral agreements or "rules of the road" are more realistic approaches.

Offline Analyst

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #14 on: 01/28/2009 07:25 AM »
Bilateral agreements may be easier to ratify. But they are not easier to verify. So maybe they are more realistic to get. But are they - in your framework of thinking - better? No, so why get them in the first place? When you rule out arms control for verification issues, you have to rule out bilateral agreements too.

When you think all this to the end using basic game theory, you end up with all players having all weapons, because noone trusts the other. Bad result and massive waste of recources. Been there for half a century. No need to go back. There are better ways.

Just because some treaties are not kept (have not been kept in the past) by all participants, does not mean this is (will be) true for all treaties. Otherwise there would be no risky private contract ever, anymore. Or to put it another way: The risk of failure is no reason not to try.

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Offline Blackstar

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #15 on: 01/28/2009 10:12 AM »
You have not explained how to overcome the verification issue.

I've explained the problems, which are generally accepted by everyone.  Those problems are the reason that arms control treaties have gone out of vogue.  Wishful thinking doesn't change the fundamentals.

Offline Analyst

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #16 on: 01/28/2009 12:18 PM »
Inspections. Did and does work for strategic arms control. Did work for conventional weapons in Europe. Did work for the nuclear program in Iraq, only the US government didn't trust the inspectors. And yes, you can never be 100% sure. Such is life.

You have not explained why bilateral agreements are more realistic than arms control. Given your position about the verification issue, both won't work.

Analyst

Offline HIPAR

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #17 on: 01/28/2009 02:44 PM »
Is anyone aware of existing space weapons?  I mean the kind of things that directly blow things up or kill people but excluding surveillance, communications and navigation machines.

Also, does a system that's ground based but goes into space qualify as a space weapon?

What kinds of space machines might President Obama wish to ban?

Our national security depends upon how he perceives this matter.

---  CHAS
« Last Edit: 01/28/2009 02:46 PM by HIPAR »

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #18 on: 01/28/2009 03:30 PM »
Is anyone aware of existing space weapons?  I mean the kind of things that directly blow things up or kill people but excluding surveillance, communications and navigation machines.

Also, does a system that's ground based but goes into space qualify as a space weapon?

What kinds of space machines might President Obama wish to ban?

Our national security depends upon how he perceives this matter.

---  CHAS

The U.S. and China have demonstrated their ground/sea-based ASAT capability during the past couple of years.  A U.S. F-15 air-launched ASAT system was tested during the 1980s, but the program was canceled and no equivalent system is currently known.  The U.S. has also performed several automatic rendezvous/inspection satellite demonstration missions in recent years - a capability that an adversary would certainly find disconcerting.

The USSR tested a "co-orbital" ASAT system numerous times during the 1960s-80s, but this system, which was based on a Tsyklon 2 type launch vehicle now being phased out, is thought to be inactive.  USSR/Russia also was thought to have developed an air-launched ASAT system during the 1980s-90s, but, again, the current status is unclear.  http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/world/russia/mini.htm

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 01/28/2009 03:36 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #19 on: 01/29/2009 03:55 PM »
You have not explained why bilateral agreements are more realistic than arms control.

Because an agreement between two countries is easier than an agreement between ten.

Again: arms control treaties have fallen out of vogue in the past two decades.  There are reasons for this.

Offline Analyst

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #20 on: 01/29/2009 05:53 PM »
You have not explained why bilateral agreements are more realistic than arms control.

1) Because an agreement between two countries is easier than an agreement between ten.

2) Again: arms control treaties have fallen out of vogue in the past two decades.
3) There are reasons for this.

1) It is easier to negotiate. But is it easier to verify? Why should it? Even if it is: You replace 1 treaty between n counties and n-1 verification issues for any given country (e.g. the US) with n-1 bilateral treaties and (again) n-1 verification issues for the country (e.g. the US) having signed the n-1 bilateral treaties. I am not convienced the latter is more efficient.

2) This is simply an empirical observation. I assume you are correct, but I have not verified it. It does not say anything about the reasons for this.

3) Its the reasons I am interested. There may be others. But I am not convinced by the ones you provided.

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Offline Blackstar

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #21 on: 01/29/2009 07:35 PM »
3) Its the reasons I am interested. There may be others. But I am not convinced by the ones you provided.

The fact that a) the Soviet Union signed the Biological Weapons Convention, b) the Soviet Union violated the BWC, and c) the United States did not discover the violation until after the Cold War ended--and by accident--should be sufficient reason to explain why treaties are not exactly in vogue.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #22 on: 01/29/2009 07:38 PM »
1) It is easier to negotiate. But is it easier to verify?

Verify that one country is complying versus verify that two, three, or four countries are complying?  Of course it is easier.

But verification is not easy and probably impossible.  China will not allow the United States to inspect its mobile ballistic missiles for ASAT weapons.

Offline Analyst

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Re: Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
« Reply #23 on: 01/30/2009 07:45 AM »
Your logic is faulty. You compare apples and oranges.

Your assumtions:
1) Verification is hard.
2) There are n counties you want to deal with.

Let n=1:
a) You negotiate one bilateral agreement and have one verification issue.
b) Or you sign an arms control treaty with one other country and have one verification issue.

Let n=2:
a) You negotiate two bilateral agreements and have two verification issues.
b) Or you sign one arms control treaty with two other countries and have two verification issues.

And so on. The number of verification issues is the same: one, two and so on.

Of course it is easier to verify that one country is complying versus verify that two, three, or four countries are complying. But this is true for both types of agreements: For any given number n of coutries you have n verification issues, independent of the agreement type.

Or to put it another way: You can't - as you do - compare one bilateral agreement (covering one other country) with an arms control treaty covering five other countries. But you can compare five bilateral agreements (covering five other countries) with an arms control treaty covering five other countries too. But now your number of hard to solve verification issues is the same.

If you change assumtion 1) and say verification is impossible, both contract types fail.

Quote
The fact that a) the Soviet Union signed the Biological Weapons Convention, b) the Soviet Union violated the BWC, and c) the United States did not discover the violation until after the Cold War ended--and by accident--should be sufficient reason to explain why treaties are not exactly in vogue.

As shown, the very same problem would have come up if this has been a bilateral agreement. Also, one can come up with counterexamples showing treaties did work. So why are some failures a reason to not try again, in particular if your alternative has exactly the same inherent verification problem?

Analyst

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