- UNITED NATIONS -- A scientists'
group on Thursday warned the United States against weaponizing space, saying
the move would be prohibitively expensive and could set off a new arms
- The Union of Concerned Scientists, a watchdog group that
opposes weapons in space, said the United Nations should consider drafting
a treaty that would prohibit interfering with unarmed satellites, taking
away any justification for putting weapons in space to protect them.
- "The United States has a huge lead in the space
field -- it can afford to try out the multilateral approach," said
Jonathan Dean, a former U.S. ambassador and an adviser on global security
- The Union's demand comes as the administration of President
Bush is reviewing the U.S. space policy doctrine. Some scientists worry
that the review will set out a more aggressive policy that could lead to
the greater militarization of space.
- On Wednesday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told
reporters that the policy review was not considering the weaponization
of space. But he said new threats to U.S. satellites have emerged in the
years since the U.S. space doctrine was last reviewed in 1996, and those
satellites must be protected.
- "There are changes that have occurred over the last
eight or nine years, and there are countries that have taken an interest
in space, McClellan said. "And they have looked at things that could
-- or technologies that could -- threaten our space systems. And so you
obviously need to take that into account when you're updating the policy."
- The Bush administration has also included some money
in the budget for space-based weapons programs to defend satellites, strike
ground targets and defend against missile attacks, said Laura Grego, a
scientist with the union.
- Any complete weapons system in space would be very expensive,
running into the many billions of dollars. Developing a shield to defend
against a single missile attack would require deploying 1,000 space-based
interceptors and cost anywhere between $20 billion and $100 billion, said
David Wright, a union scientists and co-author of a recent report on the
feasibility of space weapons.
- And such a system would require a huge expansion of U.S.
launching capability. The United States currently launches between 10-12
large rockets a year, while with space interceptors, it would need to launch
many times more that each year.
- Wright argued that space-based ground attack systems
were not yet practical either. One, dubbed "Rods from God" --
which would fire rods of tungsten from space -- would cost 50-100 times
as much as a similar attack from the ground.
- "The fact that it's still being considered I think
suggests that there's some sort of emotional attachment to it for putting
weapons in space rather than a hard-nosed analysis," Wright said.
- Any such move would also likely draw swift international
condemnation. In 2002, after the United States withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty, China and Russia submitted a proposal for a new international
treaty to ban weapons in outer space.
- But the United States has said it sees no need for any
new space arms control agreements. It is party to the 1967 Outer Space
Treaty, which prohibits stationing weapons of mass destruction in space.