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Given recent public statements and military assessments, such as the Air Force's Vision 2020 report, the deployment of space weapons has the air of inevitability. The weaponization of outer space is controlled through norms and treaties, most notably the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which prohibited the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in space and was signed by 97 countries, including the United States. The treaty bans weapons of mass destruction from space, defined as "nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction." Space weapons fall into three general categories: those that would defend against ballistic missile attacks, those that attack or defend satellites, and those that would strike terrestrial targets. Proponents of space weaponization argue that since the United States spends 65% of the world expenditure on commercial satellites and approximately 95% of the world expenditure on military space uses, the government must provide for defensive measures to protect such assets. Space weapons could also be used to make preemptive strikes against enemy targets and, possibly, to defend against missile attack. The stakes are high. In addition to the great expense and difficulty involved in developing space weapons, a race with China to weaponize space might be in the offing. Critics suggest that inexpensive technologies could thwart costly space weapons and that the U.S. should take the lead in updating the Outer Space Treaty to ensure that space is kept weapons free.

This month CIAO examines the issue of space weapons.

From CIAO's database:

Securing Outer Space for the Future Strategic Considerations for Pugwash

Lost in Space: The Misguided Drive Toward Antisatellite Weapons

Would Space-Based Defenses Improve Security? - Summer 2002 (PDF)

Should the United States "Weaponize" Space? Military and Commercial Implicatons

Existing Legal Constraints on Space Weaponry

Outside Links*:

Space Weapons Earth Wars - A RAND publication

Union of Concerned Scientists Countermeasures Video

Air Force Vision 2020

Federation of American Scientists Space Policy Project

* Outside links are not maintained. For broken outside links, CIAO recommends the Way Back Machine [].