Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 77, May/June 2004
A Model Code of Conduct for Space Assurance
Michael Krepon and Michael Heller
The flight testing and prospective deployment of anti-satellite (ASAT) and other space weapons would have significantly adverse consequences for national security, global commerce, and scientific endeavour. If the United States took the lead in such efforts, other nations would surely respond in kind. Similarly, the flight testing and deployment of space weapons by other countries would prompt a vigorous response by the United States.
A situation in which satellites orbiting the earth are trailed by objects designed to destroy or disable them is inherently destabilising, given the vulnerability of satellites and the ease with which they could be harmed. Potential adversaries in space would be faced with the dilemma of shooting first or risking the loss of critical satellites. The quest to secure dominion over space would therefore elevate into the heavens the hair-trigger postures that plagued humankind during the Cold War.
The flight testing and deployment of ASATs would also poison relations between major powers and further weaken America's ties with its allies. If advocates of space power are right, and if military conflict follows commerce, then there would be no sanctuary in deep space for revenue-generating satellites. Debris resulting from warfare in space would exponentially increase hazards to satellites. Subsequently, insurance rates would skyrocket, and consumers would pay more for services that could easily be disrupted.
Satellite warfare would not change the outcome of battle with the United States. Given the preponderant military dominance Washington enjoys, US forces will still prevail in war. But the devastating effects of warfare would rise on all sides. Conflict in space would impose even heavier burdens on soldiers on the ground, who depend on the unfettered use of satellites to win quickly, and with minimum collateral damage. All states that derive benefits from satellites stand to be punished by space warfare, but none more so than the United States, which is the primary beneficiary of the twin revolutions of military affairs and space-aided commerce.
No satellite has been destroyed in the multitude of wars that have been waged over the last four and one-half decades since Sputnik was launched. The first loss of a satellite in warfare would therefore be an historic act, and could have catastrophic effects in space, as well as on the ground. It is essential, therefore, to ask whether the flight testing and deployment of ASAT weapons would make space warfare more or less likely.
During the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and the United States flight tested rudimentary ASATs fifty three times. During short periods of time, both superpowers actually deployed a small number of ASAT launchers. The strategic balance was not affected by these modest activities, nor did they lead to an arms race in space. Mutual deterrence between the superpowers had a chastening effect in space, as with the avoidance of direct confrontation on the ground. These two realms were, of course, inextricably linked: Both superpowers knew that to engage in space warfare would unleash devastating, assured destruction from nuclear arsenals that depended on space assets for the execution of war-fighting plans.
Today, advocates of space warfare capabilities in the United States believe in dominance, not mutual deterrence. The rejection of mutual deterrence in space has profoundly destabilising prospects. In order to seize dominion in space, those who deploy ASAT weapons or weapons designed to strike targets on earth would need to prevent potential adversaries from responding in kind. This would require preemptive strikes against the facilities of a state believed to be preparing an ASAT launch, or killing the launch vehicle or its payload en route to space. This hard logic is driven by cold facts: Dominion in space cannot be achieved if a potential adversary's ASATs are trailing satellites that are essential for the execution of war plans. Nor can dominion be established if anti-satellite warfare produces debris fields.
Consequently, choices become rather stark: The rejection of mutual deterrence in space and the pursuit of dominion require not only the initiation of ASAT flight tests and deployments, but also the initiation of acts of war. The alternative of accepting the mutual deployment of space weapons would be to risk losing dominion in space. Space warriors cannot have it both ways: If they choose space weapons, they cannot retain assurance that satellites required for national security and commerce will be available when needed. The fundamental choice is between space weapons and space assurance.
The last flight test of an ASAT during the Cold War occurred nineteen years ago. Rudimentary ASAT systems that were once deployed have long ago been dismantled or mothballed. No military establishment other than the Pentagon appears eager to resume ASAT testing. A simulated ASAT test, the XSS-11, is scheduled for this fall, and another ASAT program, NFIRE, has tests scheduled for early 2006. The door would then be open for other nations to follow suit. Space Assurance would be severely impaired by the flight testing and deployment of ASATs.
There is a near-term alternative to this mistaken course. It will take many, many years for an international convention banning space warfare activities to be negotiated and to enter into force. In the mean time, construction is needed to raise barriers against the flight testing and deployment of ASATs and other space warfare devices.
One approach advocated by the Henry L. Stimson Center's Space Security Project is the negotiation of a code of conduct between space-faring nations to prevent incidents and dangerous military activities in space. Key activities to be covered under such a code of conduct include avoiding collisions and simulated attacks; creating special caution and safety areas around satellites; developing safer traffic management practices; prohibiting anti-satellite tests in space; providing reassurance through information exchanges, transparency and notification measures; and adopting more stringent space debris mitigation measures.
Codes of conduct are widely accepted in international relations. They have gained new currency to deal with the threats posed by proliferation and terrorism. During the Cold War, the United States entered into executive agreements with the Soviet Union to prevent dangerous military practices at sea, on the ground, and in the air.
The 1972 US-Soviet Incidents at Sea Agreement has served as an effective model for comparable agreements signed by more than thirty other navies. The 1989 Prevention of Dangerous Military Practices Agreement signed by Washington and Moscow continues to have great value. Space also deserves "rules of the road" to help prevent incidents and dangerous military practices.
If we are to choose space assurance instead of space weapons, space-faring nations might well consider negotiating a code of conduct that allows everyone to continue to reap the national security, civil, commercial and scientific benefits that space now provides.
Model Code of Conduct for the Prevention of Incidents and Dangerous Military Practices in Outer Space
The States Party to this Agreement,
Reaffirming the common interest of all humankind in furthering the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes,
Recognizing that outer space is an indispensable medium for civil, scientific, and commercial endeavor, technological advancement, and national security,
Recognizing that incidents and dangerous military practices in outer space would impair national, regional and international security,
Recognizing that incidents and dangerous military practices in outer space would impair civil, scientific, and commercial endeavor as well as technological advancement,
Appreciating that weapons are not in space and that the flight testing of anti-satellite weapons and space weapons is not being undertaken,
Recognizing that the flight testing or deployment of space weapons would impair international cooperation,
Desiring to prevent outer space from becoming an arena of conflict,
Recognizing the fragility of the outer space environment and the necessity of international cooperation for the mitigation of space debris,
Recognizing the value of satellites in orbit to humankind and the necessity of international cooperation for space traffic management,
Recalling the promotion of the peaceful uses of outer space in the Treaty Banning Nuclear Tests in the Atmosphere, Outer Space and Under Water; the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies; the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space; the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects; the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space; and the Agreement Governing Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,
Recognizing the value of codes of conduct as reflected in agreements for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas; the Agreement on the Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities; the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation; and UN Security Council Resolution 1540 on Non-Proliferation,
Recognizing the linkage between avoiding incidents and dangerous military activities in space and avoiding incidents and dangerous military activities on Earth,
Recognizing the need to elaborate effective international norms and procedures to prevent incidents and dangerous military activities in outer space,
Believing that the strengthening of norms and procedures to promote international cooperation in outer space will serve the betterment of all humankind,
Have agreed on the following:
Article I [Definitions]
For the purpose of this Agreement, the following definitions shall apply:
1. "Space debris" means all man-made objects in Earth orbit, including their fragments and parts, that are non-functional with no reasonable expectation of assuming or resuming their intended functions.
2. "Satellite" means a man-made body that revolves around the Earth, that transmits or receives an electromagnetic signal or that previously has transmitted or received an electromagnetic signal.
3. "Directed energy" means technologies that relate to the production of a beam of concentrated electromagnetic energy or atomic or subatomic particles.
4. "Laser" means any device that can amplify optical radiation by the process of stimulated emission.
5. "Anti-satellite weapon" means any device or component of a system specifically designed, tested or deployed to disrupt, degrade, impair or destroy a satellite.
6. "Space weapon" means any device or component of a system specifically designed, tested, or deployed to disrupt, degrade, impair or destroy a satellite, and any device in space specifically designed, tested, or deployed to disrupt, degrade, impair or destroy a satellite in space or an object on Earth.
7. "Special caution zone" means an area in space, designated mutually by the Parties, in which satellites are present and in which special measures shall be undertaken in accordance with this Agreement.
Article II [General Obligation]
Each Party shall conduct military, scientific and commercial exploration and use of outer space in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international co-operation and understanding.
Article III [General Obligation]
In accordance with the provisions of this Agreement, each Party shall seek to promote the peaceful uses of outer space by avoiding incidents and refraining from dangerous military practices in space, including:
Simulating an attack on a satellite;
Engaging in actions that increase the risk of collision and actions that fail to reduce the risk of collision in space;
Using a directed energy device, including a laser, to disrupt, degrade, impair, or destroy a satellite;
Flight testing or deploying an anti-satellite weapon or a space weapon.
Article IV [Collisions]
The satellites of each Party shall be controlled in a manner as to avoid the risk of collision.
The satellites of each Party shall avoid executing maneuvers that could result in the risk of a collision with a satellite of another Party.
In the event that a Party plans to approach a satellite for purposes not prohibited under this Agreement, the Party shall provide notification 100 hours prior to such an approach under the communication system established under Article IX.
In the event that a Party carries out a maneuver in space that another Party considers to have increased the risk of collision, the Parties shall consult one another under the provisions established under Article XVIII.
Article V [Special Caution Zones]
Each Party may propose to the other Party or Parties that the Parties agree to designate an area around satellites as a special caution zone.
Special caution zones shall be negotiated under the communication system established in Article IX.
The satellites of each Party shall not maneuver within designated special caution zones for purposes prohibited under this Agreement.
In the event that a Party plans to approach or enter a designated special caution zone for purposes not prohibited under this Agreement, the Party shall provide notification 100 hours prior to such an approach under the communication system established under Article IX.
The designation of a special caution zone around a satellite shall be solely for the purpose of avoiding incidents and refraining from dangerous military practices in space and shall not be considered as a means of appropriating space for national purposes.
Article VI [Dangerous Maneuvers]
Each Party resolves to avoid actions that may be seen as threatening, or posing a risk or a hazard to a satellite of the other Party or Parties.
Maneuvers in space for the purpose of repairing or servicing a satellite, avoiding collisions, debris mitigation, space traffic management or for other peaceful purposes are not prohibited under this Article.
In the event that a Party deems it necessary to engage in a maneuver in space in close proximity to a satellite of the other Party or Parties for the purpose of repairing or servicing a satellite, avoiding collisions, debris mitigation, space traffic management or for other peaceful purposes not prohibited under this Agreement, the Party shall provide notification 100 hours prior to such an activity under the communication system established under Article IX.
In the event that a Party carries out a maneuver in space that another Party considers to be dangerous, the Parties shall consult one another under the provisions established under Article XVIII.
Article VII [Simulated Attacks]
Each Party undertakes not to simulate attacks in space by means of missiles, kinetic kill devices, directed energy devices, lasers, or any other device that could serve as an anti-satellite weapon or a space weapon.
In the event that a Party carries out an activity that another Party considers to be a simulated attack in space, the Parties shall consult one another under the provisions established under Article XVIII.
Article VIII [Lasers and Directed Energy Devices]
Each Party undertakes not to use a laser or any other directed energy device to disrupt, degrade, impair or destroy a satellite in space or an object on Earth.
The use of a laser or any other directed energy device in space for purposes other than to disrupt, degrade, impair or destroy a satellite in space or an object on Earth is not prohibited under this Agreement.
If a Party is concerned that another Party is using a laser or any other directed energy device in a manner prohibited under this Agreement, the concerned Party shall establish communications in accordance with Article IX to seek clarification of such use in accordance with Article XVIII.
Article IX [Communication]
To promote the objectives and implementation of the provisions of this Agreement, the Parties shall resolve to establish a mandatory system of communication of information within forty-five days after this Agreement has entered into force.
Article X [Notification]
To promote the objectives and proper implementation of the provisions of this Agreement, the Parties shall resolve to provide notice of launches into outer space to the other Party or Parties in accordance with the system of communication of information established under Article IX.
The Parties shall agree to notify each other no later than 100 hours after the launch of all satellites from their territory, and the launch from foreign territory of all satellites owned or controlled by nationals or entities resident in their territory.
Article XI [Registration]
Each state shall maintain a register in which the information furnished in accordance with Article X shall be recorded.
Article XII [Data Exchanges]
Each Party shall furnish to the other Party or Parties, no later than 100 hours after the launch of a satellite or satellites, a complete set of orbital elements, which include, but are not limited to, semi-major axis, eccentricity, inclination, and orientation.
Article XIII [Space Debris]
The Parties shall take all appropriate measures to mitigate space debris resulting directly or indirectly from the exploration and use of outer space.
Each Party shall furnish information in accordance with Article IX to the other Party or Parties regarding debris resulting directly or indirectly from national activities in outer space.
The Parties shall adopt and enforce all Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee guidelines to mitigate space debris.
Article XIV [Traffic Management]
Each Party resolves to adopt all International Telecommunications Union recommendations and regulations on space traffic management, including spectrum use and orbital slot allocation.
Article XV [Flight-Testing and Deployment]
Each Party undertakes not to carry out flight tests and deployment of an anti-satellite weapon or a space weapon as defined under this Agreement.
Military capabilities designed and tested for purposes not covered under this Agreement shall not be prohibited by this Agreement.
Article XVI [Monitoring]
For the purpose of providing assurance of proper implementation and compliance with the provisions of this Agreement, each Party shall use national or multinational technical means of verification at its disposal in a manner consistent with generally recognized principles of international law.
For the purpose of providing assurance of proper implementation and compliance with the provisions of this Agreement, all Parties to this Agreement shall not interfere with national or multinational technical means of verification of another Party or Parties to this Agreement operating in a manner consistent with generally recognized principles of international law.
For the purpose of providing assurance of proper implementation and compliance with the provisions of this Agreement, all Parties to this Agreement shall not conceal from national or multinational technical means of verification of another Party or Parties to this Agreement operating in a manner consistent with generally recognized principles of international law.
Article XVII [Cooperative Measures]
To ensure the viability and effectiveness of this Agreement, each Party shall agree from time to time upon additional cooperative measures to enhance reassurance of compliance of the undertakings established under this Agreement.
Article XVIII [Consultation]
To promote the objectives and proper implementation of and compliance with the provisions of this Agreement, the Parties shall resolve to establish a system of consultation for the purpose of resolving expeditiously any incident, ambiguous development, or concern which may arise pertinent to the obligations contained in this Agreement.
Regular consultative meetings shall be held on a semiannual basis. In addition, special consultative meetings shall be held within 100 hours of a request for such a meeting by one of the Parties.
Article XIX [General Obligation]
Parties to this Agreement shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with this Agreement. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the Parties to this Agreement.
Article XX [General Obligation]
To ensure the viability and effectiveness of this Agreement, each Party shall not assume any international obligations or undertakings that would conflict with its provisions.
Article XXI [Entry into Force]
This Agreement shall enter into force on the date of its signature by the Parties.
Article XXII [Withdrawal]
Each Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Agreement if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Agreement have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice of its decision to the other Party or Parties one month prior to withdrawal from this Agreement. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events the notifying Party regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.
Michael Krepon is an author of "Space Assurance or Space Dominance: The Case against Weaponizing Space". He is also co-founder of The Henry L. Stimson Center and Director of the Center's Space Security Project. Michael Heller graduated from the University of Colorado with honors in International Affairs and works as a Research Assistant on the Stimson Center's Space Security Project. The Henry L. Stimson Center has received the help of many experts in drafting this "Model Code of Conduct for the Prevention of Incidents and Dangerous Military Practices in Outer Space". Our Code is still a work in progress. Comments, suggestions, and feedback are welcome. More information about the Code of Conduct and other key elements of the space assurance posture advocated by the Stimson Center's Space Security Project can be accessed at http://www.stimson.org/wos.
© 2004 The Acronym Institute.