The Politics of Space Security: Strategic Restraint and the Pursuit of National Interests

By James Clay Moltz | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWO
Space and Environmental Security

One of the more contentious debates in the space security field has been over what different experts mean by the term “space weapon.” Some analysts argue that space was weaponized beginning with the German army’s use of V-2 rockets during World War II, because these early ballistic missiles passed through space.1 However, the V-2 missile made no use of the unique characteristics of space, lacked orbital speed, did not release weapons into the new environment, and was intended to accomplish an existing military mission rather than initiate a fundamentally new, space-driven and space-oriented military objective.2 Other experts make the case that space has never been weaponized, since no nuclear, kinetic-kill, or laser weapons have ever been stationed in orbit.3 While this is true, the past testing of nuclear weapons and conventional anti-satellite systems (ASATs) in space and of lasers against space objects seems to stretch such purist definitions beyond reasonable credulity. Still others throw up their hands and say there is no way to define a space weapon because virtually any

1 On these points, see Baker Spring, “Slipping the Surly Bonds of the Real World: The Unworkable Effort to Prevent the Weaponization of Space,” Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 877, available on the Heritage Foundation Web site at (accessed September 16, 2006).

2 A perhaps more relevant German effort to develop space-related weapons was the Luftwaffe’s research on a suborbital, rocket-powered “skip” bomber for possible use against the United States. But the program was eventually cancelled because of both technical and financial constraints. For descriptions of the German “Sanger bomber” project, see Clayton K. S. Chun, “Expanding the High Frontier: Space Weapons in History,” Astropolitics, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring 2004), pp. 64–67; also Michael J. Neufeld, The Rocket and Reich: Peenemunde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995), pp. 61–63.

3 “Space Security or Space Weapons? A Guide to the Issue,” Space Security Project, Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, D.C., 2005, online at (accessed July 20, 2006).

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