While it is quite clear that there is an ongoing military arms race on Earth, the militarization/weaponization of outer space remains contentious.
Superficially, it would appear that East and West are in conflict about how to proceed with space-based weaponry. The Moscow Times has noted that Russia, China and Syria remain vehemently opposed, while the U.S. and Israel, most prominently, have urged the United Nations not to issue a ban on the weaponization of space.
Given the current web of satellite-based surveillance, however, one would be correct in assuming that we are already at least half-way there. The debate currently settles around the conflicting definitions of what militarization means versus weaponization. It can be defined thusly:
Militarization of outer space: Space has been militarized since the earliest communication satellites were launched. Today, militaries all over the world rely on satellites for command and control, communication, monitoring, early warning, and navigation with the Global Positioning System. Therefore, “peaceful uses” of outer space include military uses, even those which are not at all peaceful—such as using satellites to direct bombing raids or to orchestrate a “prompt global strike” capability, which is “the ability to control any situation or defeat any adversary across the range of military operations.”
Weaponization of outer space: Space weaponization is generally understood to refer to the placement in orbit of space-based devices that have a destructive capacity. Many experts argue that ground-based systems designed or used to attack space-based assets also constitute space weapons, though are not technically part of the “weaponization of outer space” since they are not placed in orbit. Some also argue that weapons that travel through space in order to reach their targets, such as hypersonic technology vehicles, also contribute to the weaponization of space. Many elements of the US ballistic “missile defense” system currently being developed or planned could constitute space weapons as well, as many possess “dual-use” characteristics, allowing them to destroy space assets as well as ballistic missiles.
So it appears that what we are really witnessing is a more overt discussion of rolling out new systems that could encourage a race toward the total domination of space by a nation’s military. In this light, some of the new announcements coming from the U.S. indicate that it’s indeed full-steam ahead to at least be ready if and when the approval arrives for next generation space weapons deployment – whether by treaty or in response to a “national security threat.”
DARPA is slowly revealing the development of its unmanned Experimental Spaceplane program called XS-1 (read: excess? – Ed.), which can be viewed in the video below. DARPA just announced that it has received funding from the Obama Administration to commence the next phase of its mission to develop what is essentially a lower-cost satellite launching system. One of the stated aims is to decentralize the way satellites currently function by enabling a daily deployment mechanism that will offer flexibility while reducing the ability for enemies to target communications.
It doesn’t take much imagination after watching this video to see that not only satellites could be launched from such a vehicle. In this vein, Phase 1 funding included studies commissioned by leading defense contractors Boeing and Northrop Grumman. It is for this reason that we might want to evaluate what is meant when more pedestrian descriptions of the program include nebulous language such as “other applications” and “superfast point-to-point transportation around the world” as well as “commercial applications.” Directly on DARPA’s website we find a better indicator of the breadth of planning.
In an era of declining budgets and proliferating foreign threats to U.S. air and space assets, routine, affordable and responsive access to space is essential to enabling new military space capabilities and rapid reconstitution of space systems during crisis.
The XS-1 program aims to mature and transition key technologies, systems and operational processes to the military and commercial sectors supporting both next-generation launch and global-reach aircraft. Missions performed by such aircraft could include responsive launch, hypersonic flight test, and global-reach intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).
At this point it is worth remembering that any time different agencies of the U.S. government align to propagandize the public about a given mission, it’s a red flag for what already might exist, but still needs the proper marketing strategy to seal the deal.
Jake Anderson, writing for Anti-Media, recently detailed NASA’s campaign to get the public intensely interested in space exploration once again through its “Visions of the Future” messaging as well as notable Hollywood tie-ins such as The Martian. Anderson cites a series of posters that certainly seem to possess the requisite propagandistic feel. However, he convincingly argues that given what we know about dual-use programs of the U.S. military, the public is most likely being sold far more than the promise of reaching new frontiers in purely benign exploration:
There is certainly no denying that while these posters have an altruistic goal of getting a new generation interested in space travel, they are also greasing the wheels for new NASA budget proposals and the new age of the space-industrial complex. The agency, which many mistakenly believe has been on essential furlough since the moon landings, has actually been prolific in recent years, with unmanned missions to Jupiter, Pluto, and Mars.
The release of both the “Visions of the Future” series and The Martian coincided with NASA’s request of $19 billion to fund a manned mission to Mars. The request comes at a time when NASA is increasingly partnering with private companies to bolster the United States space apparatus. Earlier this year, the agency issued massive contracts to three companies — SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and Sierra Nevada Corporation — that will complete six cargo resupply missions for International Space Station (ISS) by 2024.
Anderson goes on to highlight that some of the companies listed above have much less do with legitimate space exploration and everything to do with the Military-Industrial Complex:
Orbital ATK is an American aerospace manufacturer and defense industry company that produces tactical missiles, defense electronics, and medium and large-caliber ammunition.
Sierra Nevada Corporation is an electronic systems provider and systems integrator specializing in microsatellites, telemedicine, and commercial orbital transportation services. In addition to the NASA contract, the United States Army contracted them to manufacture Mobile Tower Systems (MOTS) and help fund Gorgon Stare, a remotely controlled, aircraft-based Wide-Area Persistent Surveillance (WAPS) system. Since 2006, the United States military has awarded the company 65 contracts, totaling nearly $3 trillion.
Whether or not space-based systems are more advanced than what is being revealed, it is always worth paying attention to what is being rolled out to the public, as well as how it is being rolled out. Combining this knowledge with unfolding geopolitical events we can better synthesize the true direction in which we are headed.
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