Space Solar Power to be outlawed?

Space Solar Power to be outlawed?

January 29, 2009 Opinion, Our Policy Voice

In its first space policy proposal, the Obama has called for a ban on weapons in space.

In case you think I’ve accidentally posted this to the wrong forum, let me point something out: This would effectively outlaw Space Solar Power (and any other significant form of space development).

The late G. Harry Stine defined a weapon as any system that can have a physical, chemical, biological, or psychological effect on an enemy. The Obama Administration does not seem to be defining weapon that broadly. Rather, they are calling for a ban on weapons that “interfere with military and commercial satellites.”

Interfering with satellites is actually quite easy, if you can reach them. One person with a can of spray paint could easily disable the Hubble telescope or a military spy satellite. As a Reuters article states, “even seemingly harmless weather tracking satellites could be used to slam into and disable other satellites.” (http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE50O15X20090125)

The only way to ban “weapons” that can “interfere” with satellites is to ban systems that can access the orbits where those satellites are. The Soviets were quite correct when they classified the Space Shuttle as an ASAT weapon.

Space solar power is something that cannot be done without the ability to access and work in space on a large scale. In other words, the ability to “interfere” with objects in space, on a large scale.

This policy proposal is the greatest threat to space development today. Even Daily Kos has expressed concern about it (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/1/12/9710/60633/713/435590).

Once such a space weapons ban becomes international law, it will be almost impossible to repeal it. Much like the Outer Space Treaty, many of whose provisions are decades out of date but still have the force of law in the United States and other signatory nations. And the US would put diplomatic pressure on all spacefaring nations to sign it, so forget about moving to a country with more lenient regulations.

If anyone thinks a space weapons would only affect the military and not apply to civilian technology, I suggest you look at ITAR or TSA regulations. A space weapons ban would make ITAR look benign. So, if you really want to see projects like Space Solar Power, this is something you’d better think about.

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