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  • Updating the Outer Space Treaty - a US perspective

    Paper number



    Mr. Stephen Day, Management consulting, United States



    Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, repeated his country’s plea to ban space weapons, at a U.N. sponsored forum, February 2008. Both Russia and China are on the same page on this issue. The U.S. is not. 
    In a nutshell, the U.S. administration (and much of Congress) perceives that the U. S. has a technological advantage in space-based weapons - so why give up that advantage in such uncertain times? A variation on this theme, from the U.S. Administration perspective, is that there is no space weapons race.
    The World relies on a treaty banning certain space-based weapons that is over forty years old, when lasers, particle beam technologies, and other dual-use technologies were in their infancy. As a reminder, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, eventually signed by 189 countries, 1) contains an undertaking not to place in orbit around the Earth, install on the moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise station in outer space, nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction, and 2) limits the use of the moon and other celestial bodies exclusively to peaceful purposes and expressly prohibits their use for establishing military bases, installation, or fortifications; testing weapons of any kind; or conducting military maneuvers.
    These are eminently sensible rules regarding the non-proliferation of weapons of mass (or even moderate) destruction in outer Space, however, times have changed and the devil in once again in the details. The 1967 treaty was principally aimed at nuclear non-proliferation. At the time non nuclear space-based weapons such as high powered lasers were not practical. However, they these technologies are becoming increasingly so, now - particularly in the U.S.
    The time has come for us in the U. S. to take an enlightened leadership position, and support a new international treaty to ban weapons in space – and nip in the bud a space-based arms race that has already begun. This paper will explore the merits and obstacles involved in proposing and implementing an enlightened but practical approach, by the next US Administration, to update the 1967 (international) Outer Space Treaty for the benefit of humankind.
    Abstract document


    Manuscript document

    IAC-08.E8.3.3.pdf (🔒 authorized access only).

    To get the manuscript, please contact IAF Secretariat.