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Outdated Treaties and the Rush to Control Resources in Space

Article by Malcolm Davis                               August 31, 2020                                   (aspistrategist.org.au)

• The US Air Force Academy’s Institute for Applied Space Policy and Strategy has a ‘military on the moon’ research team set up ‘to evaluate the possibility and necessity of a sustained US presence on the lunar surface’. The focus of its report (see here) seems to be on the establishment a US lunar military base.

• The notion of a military base on the Moon has the space law community seeing red. Such a base would directly conflict with both the spirit and letter of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (see here), which provides that: “The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapon and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden.” A military base on the Moon would also violate the 1979 Moon Treaty (see here), which no major space power has yet ratified. According to these treaties, no Earthly nation may establish a lunar military base, so long as that nation remains a signatory.

• Space law was developed for a different, more benign era and doesn’t adequately address the emerging dynamics of modern space activities. The framework of the treaties contain gaps that that an adversary could exploit in coming decades. For example, ‘commercial’ space operations can provide a convenient cover for states that wish to sidestep established law.

• The 1967 Treaty allows military personnel to be on the Moon for scientific ‘or any other peaceful purposes’, and states that ‘the use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the Moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited’. This leaves a lunar facility’s role open to interpretation. Is it a commercial base or an undeclared military facility?

• Article IV of the 1967 Treaty extends to both military and private commercial activities in space. “States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by government agencies or by non-governmental entities.”

• The 1967 Treaty states that space is “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.’ However, the 2015 US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (see here) sets a precedent for legitimate activity by permitting a commercial company to secure, own and profit from a space resource. This creates a grey area between lawful commercial activities and illegal claims of sovereignty. Safeguarding access to a resource, and preventing a competitor from intruding, implies the necessity of security that the 1967 Treaty wasn’t designed to manage.

• In April 2020, President Trump signed an executive order ‘encouraging support for the recovery and use of space resources’… consistent with applicable law’. The Trump administration then released the Artemis Accords (see here) designed to establish a common set of principles to govern the civil exploration and use of outer space. In the accords, ‘all activities [on the Moon] will be conducted for peaceful purposes, per the tenets of the (1967) Outer Space Treaty’. The Artemis Accords require the US and its partners to share information on the location and general nature of operations so that ‘safety zones’ can be created to ‘prevent harmful interference’. This implies the delineation of territory or a zone of control around a facility.

• While lunar military bases may be prohibited, competition for resource wealth in space will test the premise of the 1967 Treaty. States and non-state actors will inevitably compete for access to and control over resources in space, and for a permanent and exclusive presence where those resources are located.

 

The 2019 movie Ad Astra had a US military base on the moon and a memorable battle scene involving a moon rover, implying that by late this century the moon will be heavily militarised. A question now being discussed in space policy circles is whether fact will follow science fiction, as the US Space Force considers exactly what its role will be. It has some pretty ambitious ideas, and a recent report indicates that its thinking will be shaped by a deep astrostrategic perspective.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise when news emerged that a group of US Air Force Academy cadets are researching the idea of military bases on the lunar surface. The academy’s Institute for Applied Space Policy and Strategy has a ‘military on the moon’ research team that was set up ‘to evaluate the possibility and necessity of a sustained United States presence on the lunar surface’. The focus seems to be on a military base, though there’s little information on exactly what they’re planning.

But the very notion of a military base on the moon has the space law community understandably seeing red.

Such a base would directly conflict with both the spirit and letter of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST), which provides the foundation for space law.

Article IV of the treaty states that: The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapon and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden.

A military base on the moon would also violate the 1979 Moon Treaty, which Australia supports, though no major space power has ratified it. So that means no overt or declared lunar military bases, at least as long as all powers remain signatories to the OST.
The academy cadets would no doubt be aware of this. Why even consider such a move, then?

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Space Weapons to Counter China and Russia

Article by Dave Makichuk                                August 28, 2020                                 (asiatimes.com)

• The Pentagon and President Trump consider space to be a warfighting domain on par with land, air and sea. And the newly established US Space Command indeed faces a clear and present danger. China has already tested anti-satellite missiles, while Russia has deployed on-orbit systems that could threaten US satellites. America’s adversaries now have the ability to use jammers, ground-based lasers, ground- and space-based kinetic weapons, attack ground facilities that support space operations or even carry out a nuclear detonation in space.

• “As a geographical combatant command focused on the space domain, those are the things that keep us up at night,” says Army National Guard Major General Tim Lawson. But Lawson told the virtual audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Space Warfighting Industry Forum (on August 21st) that America has new capabilities are on the way to mitigate the threat. But these capabilities classified as “black budget” projects, and he can’t tell you about them.

• “A lot of times you listen to that threat picture and you kind of get a little dismayed at what you’re seeing, but then you look at our side and — trust me — we’ve got some things coming. So, it’s good news,” said Lawson.

• Lawson highlighted the need to have resilient space architectures that utilize large networks of small communications and intelligence-gathering satellites that would be less vulnerable to enemy attacks. “If you had hundreds of small satellites up there in a constellation … the enemy can take out quite a few of those and it will really never have an impact on us,” he said. “That really is the resiliency piece that we’re seeking out there and we need.” The ‘Spacecom’ command is also interested in developments in space logistics such as on-orbit refueling or servicing of satellites. Lawson says that if American industry could put assets into orbit to overwhelm adversaries’ ability to shoot them down, “it would be a game-changer”.

• But it’s not the first time a US president has launched a major military defense project in space. President Ronald Reagan envisioned a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) as an array of space-based X-ray lasers would detect and deflect any nukes headed toward the United States. On March 23, 1983, Reagan called upon the US scientists who “gave us nuclear weapons to turn their great talents to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.”

• But politicians and scientists argued that SDI was overambitious. Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy referred to it as Reagan’s ”reckless ‘Star Wars’ schemes.” The “Star Wars” moniker stuck. Over the course of 10 years, the government spent up to $30 billion on developing the concept without achieving operational status. It was scrapped by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

[Editor’s Note]   So where did this $30 billion go? By coincidence, the 1980’s was when the US Navy created and deployed its deep space fleet of eight oversized submarine-type warp drive spacecraft known as ‘Solar Warden’, unbeknownst to the public.

 

To say that officials at the newly established US Space Command face a clear and present danger, is an understatement.

                       Tim Lawson

America’s adversaries now have the ability to use jammers, ground-based lasers, ground- and space-based kinetic weapons, attack ground facilities that support space operations or even carry out a nuclear detonation in space.

               Ronald Reagan

China has already tested anti-satellite missiles, while Russia has deployed on-orbit systems that could threaten US satellites.

But according to Army National Guard Major General Tim Lawson, new capabilities are on the way to mitigate the threat — he just can’t tell you about them, because they are classified under the umbrella of “black budget” projects.

“As a geographical combatant command focused on the space domain, those are the things that keep us up at night,” said Lawson, who made the remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Space Warfighting Industry Forum, which was held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

                Sen. Edward Kennedy

“I would love to sit behind some closed doors and have this discussion on some of the things we really think we need,” Lawson said when asked about the types of capabilities Spacecom is seeking.

“A lot of times you listen to that threat picture and you kind of get a little dismayed at what you’re seeing, but then you look at our side and — trust me — we’ve got some things coming. So, it’s good news.”

Significant portions of the US military’s space programs are classified, making it difficult for outside observers to know what’s coming down the pike.

Meanwhile, Lawson highlighted the need to have resilient space architectures that utilize large networks of small communications and intelligence-gathering satellites that would be less vulnerable to enemy attacks.

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. ExoNews.org distributes this material for the purpose of news reporting, educational research, comment and criticism, constituting Fair Use under 17 U.S.C § 107. Please contact the Editor at ExoNews with any copyright issue.

Pentagon Launches Task Force to Study UFOs

Article by Brandi Vincent                                 August 17, 2020                                   (nextgov.com)

• On August 14th, Pentagon officials confirmed the recent creation of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, an investigative unit to probe puzzling UFO sightings and encounters by U.S. military personnel, particularly near military bases and restricted airspace. The Task Force will be steered by the Department of the Navy.

• “[The DoD] established the (Task Force) to improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs,” Pentagon officials wrote in a press release. “The mission of the Task Force is to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.”

• Though Defense personnel did not immediately clarify what sparked the creation of the new task force, in April the defense department authorized the release of three videos captured by U.S. Navy pilots that appear to show airborne objects operating in inexplicably aerodynamic ways. Shortly after the release, President Trump deemed the footage “a hell of a video,” and added, “I just wonder if it’s real.”

• In May, The Drive published multiple hazard reports spotlighting brushes between unidentified aerial phenomena and Navy aircraft obtained through a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA request. (see previous ExoArticle here)

• In June, The Senate Intelligence Committee voted to require the Defense Department to craft a detailed report for the public synthesizing all UAP-related data so far collected. (see previous ExoArticle here)

• “[T]he safety of our personnel and the security of our operations are of paramount concern,” Pentagon officials said. “[Defense] and the military departments take any incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace very seriously and examine each report.”

 

The Pentagon set up a new investigative unit to probe puzzling UFO sightings and incidents reportedly encountered by U.S. military personnel, officials confirmed Friday.

Officially assembled in early August, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, or UAPTF, will be steered by the Department of the Navy. Its formation follows increasing focus from Defense officials and Congress on unexplained flying objects spotted near military bases and restricted airspace.

“[Defense] established the UAPTF to improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs,” Pentagon officials wrote in a press release published Friday. “The mission of the task force is to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.”

Though Defense personnel did not immediately clarify what sparked the creation of the new task force, the department in April authorized the release of three videos captured by U.S. Navy pilots that appear to show airborne objects operating in inexplicably aerodynamic ways. “The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified,’” the agency revealed at the time. Shortly after the release, President Trump deemed the footage “a hell of a video,”—and added, “I just wonder if it’s real.”

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