Defining Space Security

By Rose, Frank A. | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Defining Space Security


Rose, Frank A., Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


Frank A. Rose is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. This contribution is based on his remarks before the Space Security Through the Transatlantic Partnership Conference hosted by the European Space Policy Institute and Prague Security Studies Institute in Prague, Czech Republic, on June 13, 2011. Introduction My hope today is that our discussion will help to inform the efforts we in the United States are pursuing to enhance stability and thereby strengthen security in space. Defining "Space Security" Today, space systems are vital to enhancing, for example, our national security, foreign policy, and global economic interests, as well as expanding scientific knowledge. Yet space is becoming increasingly contested meaning, space systems and their supporting infrastructure confront a range of natural and man-made threats that could potentially deny, degrade, deceive, disrupt, or destroy them. As more nations and non-state actors develop counterspace capabilities over the next decade, threats to U.S. and other nation's space systems will increase. The interconnected nature of space capabilities and the world's growing dependence on them mean that irresponsible acts in space have damaging consequences not only for the United States but also for all nations.

Measures that enhance stability include providing prior notifications of launches of space launch vehicles, establishing "best practices guidelines," and warning of risks of collisions between space objects enhance stability and thus our mutual security interests.

Based on the U.S. National Space Policy and other Presidential guidance, as well as our obligations under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and other international law, we associate "security" as it relates to space with the pursuit of those activities that ensure the sustainability, stability, and free access to, and use of, outer space in support of a nation's vital interests. This is reinforced by several other related principles in the new U.S. National Space policy: It is in the shared interest of all nations to help prevent mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust.

All nations have the right to explore and use space for peaceful purposes, and for the benefit of all humanity, in accordance with international law. Consistent with this principle, "peaceful purposes" allows for space to be used for national and homeland security activities.

The United States considers the space systems of all nations to have the rights of passage through, and conduct of operations in, space without interference. Purposeful interference with space systems, including supporting infrastructure, will be considered, in the U.S. view, an infringement of a nation's rights.

Through Stability: Security in Space

I will limit my remarks to U.S. policy and the "tools" we are considering, if not already employing, to enhance our individual national and collective security by preventing mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust. In our efforts to implement our principles to enhance space stability and security, we are pursuing near-term, pragmatic, constructive steps in other words, transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) that we can take, both unilaterally and multilaterally, to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, space and to conduct our activities in an open and transparent manner. Specifically, the United States is:

Acquiring the capabilities for improved information collection and sharing for space object collision avoidance;

Improving the protection of critical space systems and supporting infrastructures; and

Seeking to strengthen measures to mitigate orbital debris.

While the Department of Defense, NASA, and the other U.S. government agencies that conduct space operations provide the capabilities and technical expertise to advance these above- mentioned efforts, the Department of State as chartered in the President's 2010 National Space Policy plays the leading role in coordinating aspects of international cooperation. …

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