As Trump turns his focus to space, calling it ‘the world’s newest war-fighting domain’, peace campaigners are working to preserve it for peace. CND’s Chair, Dave Webb, is active on this crucial issue, and shares the latest news with us below, in a timely guest blog.
“In 1999 the United Nations General Assembly declared that an annual World Space Week should be held in October. This has been taken up by the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (GN) as Keep Space for Peace Week. As a member of the GN, CND campaigns against both an arms race in outer space and missile defence systems. For years it has been one of our strategic objectives and we have drawn attention to the role played by US bases in the UK in US plans to control and dominate outer space. Recently though things have taken a giant leap in the wrong direction.
When the US Space Force was established last year President Trump said that it marked “a big moment” and that there was “going to be a lot of things happening in space. Because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain.” A new generation of space weapons – episode 2 of Reagan’s Star Wars – is on the cards. The US has already tested anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons and a Space Force squadron of 20 operators has been stationed in Qatar to work on jamming, hacking and blinding satellites. Russia, China and India also have extensive military space programmes and tested ASATs and the UK, France, NATO, Japan and South Korea have either established or are working towards their own military Space Forces. The recent US claim that Russia tested an ASAT by firing a projectile towards one of its own satellites has increased fears. The possibility of a war in or from space is becoming a huge threat to international security. If a vital satellite should malfunction at a time of international tension and another nation is blamed – the results could be disastrous.
In just a few decades outer space has become of the utmost importance for global commercial, political and military interests. Space is now big business with some forecasters suggesting it could be worth over $1 trillion by 2040. The UK wants to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030 and last year Penny Mordaunt, the defence secretary at the time, announced a £30 million military space programme for the development of small satellites. According to the MoD “the programme may eventually see live high-resolution video beamed directly into the cockpit of the RAF’s fighter jet fleet, providing pilots with unprecedented levels of battle awareness”. The programme will be supported by a team working closely with the US and Mordaunt announced that: “today we show the sky is no longer the limit for our Armed Forces”, she also talked of facing up to “evolving threats” and of being the first partner in Operation Olympic Defender, a US-led international coalition aimed at deterring “hostile actions by rivals”. Surrey Satellite Technology Limited has already received over £4 million for the development of Carbonite 2, a low-orbit mini-satellite launched in 2018, to provide high-resolution reconnaissance for intelligence gathering. The government has also awarded grants totalling nearly £40 million to establish the launch of small satellites from UK spaceports. Spaceports in Cardiff, Cornwall and Scotland. Two planned for Sutherland and the Shetlands, have been marketed as “commercial” developments for launching climate and communications satellites. However, US aerospace giant Lockheed-Martin has received £23.5 million to help with spaceport development and other defence contractors, such as Raytheon and BAE Systems, are involved – a strong indication that there will be military applications.
This escalating militarisation of space is set to put an end to the view of outer space as a “global commons” to be used “for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development” – as declared in the 1967 “Outer Space Treaty” (OST). The OST was initiated by Russia, the US and the UK and has 110 state parties but it looks destined to be another treaty that the US is walking away from. There are attempts in the UN to stop all this – every year a resolution calling for “International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” is adopted by the General Assembly. Russia and China introduce an annual resolution on a treaty for the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space. The resolution is overwhelmingly adopted – except by the US who vote against and Israel, who abstain. The US claims the treaty is not needed but others are sceptical and frustrated that no progress can be made until the most powerful space-faring nation agrees. Progress will therefore be up to us – politicians are too easily persuaded by aerospace giants like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Last October during Keep Space for Peace Week 40 events were held in 10 countries but many more are needed if we are to keep outer space free from weapons and war. This year several online events are being organised.Please join us – get informed and get active!”