Space weapons

There is general agreement amongst states that an arms race in outer space should be prevented, this general agreement includes all space capable countries. Within current international systems however, a binding agreement to prevent weapon systems in space does not yet exist. There are two main potential treaties in negotiation internationally which are deisgned to address the issue of the weaponisation of space. The first is a treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS). The second is a treaty on the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space (PPW). Read more on these here...

There is an important distinction between the militarisation and the weaponisation of space. Space has been militarised since the earliest communication satellites were launched. Today, militaries all over the world rely heavily on satellites for command and control, communication, monitoring, early warning, and navigation with the Global Positioning System. Therefore, most nations accept that "peaceful purposes" include military uses, even those which are not at all peaceful.

Although space is heavily militarised, it is not yet weaponised. Space weaponisation is generally understood to refer to the placement in orbit of space-based devices that have a destructive capacity. Many experts argue that ground-based systems designed or used to attack space-based assets also constitute space weapons, though are not technically part of the "weaponisation of outer space" since they are not placed in orbit.

The weaponisation of space will:

  •  inevitably lead to a new arms race
  • destroy strategic balance and stability
  • undermine international and national security
  • disrupt existing arms control instruments, in particular those related to nuclear weapons and missiles.

US ground- and sea- based missile defenses have already increased tensions with Russia. The deployment of US space-based missile defenses will likely cause Russia as well as the United States (in response to Russia) to make smaller and smaller reductions of their nuclear arsenals. China would likely be forced to build more warheads to maintain its nuclear deterrent, which could in turn encourage India and then Pakistan to follow suit.

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