Space: The Final Frontier
October 2, 2003
Height is a precious commodity in warfare, so several hundred kilometres of altitude is very handy to a general.
Near-Earth space is a valuable ‘high ground’ from which a military can control the world below.
So it is no surprise then that the annexation of orbital space is a major goal for the United States’ military industrial complex.
October 4-11 is ‘Keep Space for Peace Week’, an annual international consciousness-raising exercise called by the ‘Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space’ (GN).
If you’re concerned about the increasing concentration of power in the hands of the remaining superpower, it is important to realise that the militarisation of space is a key element of US aspirations.
Space was declared a demilitarised zone by a UN treaty in the 60s but that status has become a fiction in recent years.
Russia’s days as an operator of spy satellites are largely over, but Europe, China, India, Israel and other nations are pursuing military space technology.
But the primary space power is, of course, the US of A, and it has no intention of allowing anyone to challenge its grip on the sky.
There are various ways by which the US military now uses space.
Firstly, and most disturbingly for those who support its space exploration and research, NASA has lost any semblance of being a purely civilian project.
All civilian shuttle flights in the last few years have been ‘dual purpose’, with a military element, on top of the solely military missions that have been happening since the program began.
Two of the astronauts on board Columbia’s last flight, including the Israeli Air Force officer, were engaged in military research.
NASA is also now pushing ahead with developing a nuclear rocket, ostensibly to explore the outer planets, but also, conveniently, ideal for new military space applications.
In 2002 the second Bush Administration abandoned the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty signed by the US and the Soviets in the early 70s, opening the way for the expensive, faulty and partially space-based Missile Defence program.
The US military’s latest orbital communication and positioning systems allow broadband communications to be maintained with individual aircraft and soldiers in the field.
Beginning with Kosovo, but more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq, the whole command and control network supporting the US war effort has been run through space.
And beginning with the Kosovo bombing campaign, the US has not shared its spy satellite and global positioning system (GPS) intelligence with its NATO allies.
As a result of this slight, the European Union has decided to proceed with its own positioning system, ‘Galileo’, after France’s President Jacques Chirac said that to do otherwise would mean submitting to US "vassalage".
So America is starting an arms race in space with one of its own allies, but their antics also risk antagonising its enemies and other nations around the world.
For assets have to be protected, and as the US deploys more and more critical systems to the heavens, the need to protect them becomes that much greater.
Commercial and military satellites would make tempting targets for any technically adept nation annoyed with US policy or behaviour.
China or India could easily decide they need to counter the cultural imperialism beamed to their citizenry by Murdoch and Co and take down a TV satellite.
As yet no one has officially deployed a weapon to space, either to defend orbiting hardware or to attack the surface of the planet, though given the high level of secrecy surrounding all nation’s military space operations it seems reasonable to surmise that something aggressive is already up there.
The US continues to research and develop space-based weapons with the clear expectation that it will be able to publicly deploy them in the near future.
Donald Rumsfeld, George the Second’s truly scary Defence Secretary, said early in his tenure that the US was at risk of a "space Pearl Harbor" and needed to strengthen its orbital defences.
Of course, the Don and his neo-con pals got the Pearl Harbour of their dreams on September 11, which has really cranked up the spending on star wars toys.
As New Zealanders, the number one thing we can do to oppose this madness is to close down the US spy bases at Waihopai and Tangimoana, which are an integral part of the US command, control and surveillance system.
To find out what the US military is up in its own words, check out ‘Air Force Space Command Strategic Master Plan FY04 and Beyond’ put out by the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.