Space Weapons Earth Wars
Space weapons for terrestrial conflict have been the subject of intense debate twice in the modern history of space. The first time, at the beginning of the Cold War, was over the possibility of bombardment satellites carrying nuclear weapons. The second time, at the end of the Cold War, was over the possibility of space-based defenses against nuclear missiles. Now, well past the Cold War, the topic of space weapons seems headed again for public debate, this time based on ballistic missile defense. National policy documents tacitly include the development of advanced technology to improve ballistic missile defense options. The latest space policy document from the Department of Defense (Cohen, 1999) supports 'ballistic missile defense and force projection'. To this end, the United States is developing space-based laser technology, which is approaching the demonstration phase. For these reasons, as well as the threat that space weapons could pose if developed by an adversary, it is time for public discussion of the subject. This report does not present an argument either for or against space weapons but instead describes their attributes and sets out a com- mon vocabulary for future discussions. The report classifies and compares these weapons and explains how they might be used. It also explores ways in which the United States and other countries might decide to acquire them and the potential reaction of other countries if the United States or some other nation fielded such weapons. The report dispels some of the myths regarding space weapons to help ensure that debates and discussions are more fact based.
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