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US Finally Backs International Space "Code of Conduct" 116

Posted by samzenpus
from the space-rules dept.
coondoggie writes "Perhaps it was the concern that the nearly 14 ton Russian Mars probe would land smack-dab on the White House or maybe they just came to their senses, but the U.S. State Department today said it would indeed work with the European Union and other countries to develop a formal space code of conduct. Of particular concern is the growing amount of space trash and how the world can go about eliminating or controlling the problem. There is also the desire to keep space free of military weaponry."
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US Finally Backs International Space "Code of Conduct"

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  • "There is also the desire to keep space free of military weaponry"

    BOUAHAHAHA

    Sorry, had to catch my breath from laughing

    • by cbope (130292)

      Yeah, I nearly snorted my coffee through my nose when I read that. Who are they kidding?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, they only missed out a couple of words. Insert "anybody else's" between "of" and "military".

        • by wisty (1335733)

          Would anybody else include China?

          • Probably just China and Russia. The rest of the world is either on good terms with the US and will be for the forseeable future, or doesn't have the technological capability just yet for space weaponry. Though I'm sure they'll catch up.
    • by azalin (67640) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @07:16AM (#38746596)

      "There is also the desire to keep space free of other nations military weaponry"

      BOUAHAHAHA

      Sorry, had to catch my breath from laughing

      Fixed that for you

    • I mean we've all seen Golden Eye, but apart from that one, is there some strong indication, that the US have allready deployed permanent weapons in space?

      Thanks for any pointers!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SuricouRaven (1897204)
        If they did, do you think we'd know about it? They put up classified payloads all the time. Like all good conspiracy theories, it may or may not be true... but you can't prove it isn't.

        The DoD did express some interest years back in hypervelocity rods. Streamlined rods of titanium or such that could be dropped from orbit with precise aim, for when you want to blow up a target without the political problems of sending aricraft or missiles through neutral airspace.
        • by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @08:26AM (#38746820) Homepage
          Project Thor [wikipedia.org], it's hardly rocket science. I mean, it is rocket science, but it's not brain surgery. Unless they hit you in the head.
          • by necro81 (917438)

            ...but it's not brain surgery. Unless they hit you in the head.

            I think they call that vaporization.

          • by jgtg32a (1173373)
            9.5 tons of tungsten traveling at mach 10 will hurt a lot. If my math is right looks like the air force want to deliver 49.57 gigajoules strikes on targets. I love wolfram alpha.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              I don't think it would hurt at all, actually.

            • Why don't they use this tech to eliminate the space trash?
          • by dragonhunter21 (1815102) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @09:29AM (#38747122) Journal

            Problem is, Thor is hilariously expensive. Doing some basic calculations, each kinetic rod strike (given the figures listed on Wikipedia) has an impact energy of around 10 tons of TNT. For the same cost of launching that amount of tungsten into orbit on the cheapest launcher available, you could buy 10 KT worth of JDAM with GPS guidance packages. Plus, the instant you launch it, everybody knows you have it- that plasma sheath is not exactly subtle, and radars would pick it up. Hard to pass off an object arriving at Mach 10 as "stealth bomber" without admitting that A) Project Thor is a Thing, or B) Aurora never got retired.

            • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @10:26AM (#38747508)
              The appeal is in political considerations. No need to worry about getting your bomber or missile through neutral airspace. No need to maintain airfields or missile sites, or keep a ship or submarine on station. You want a place to go boom, it goes boom. Wherever it is. And other than your target, no-one else need care. It'd also be a lot faster than missile or bomber, which is good on targets of opportunity - if intel says you that a terrorist cell leader or enemy general is in a particular building, you can make it Not Be There within minutes and without warning. If you had to send in a bomber, the target will have left by the time you get there.
              • by phorm (591458)

                Only if you've actually got the ordinance in an orbital location where it could be used, and I would imagine that accuracy when dropping such things from space - unlike sci-fi - isn't exactly great.

            • by fahlesr1 (1910982)

              Not that hard to pass off.

              "Its raining rocks? Strange weather we're having!"

            • by lgw (121541)

              Plus, the instant you launch it, everybody knows you have it- that plasma sheath is not exactly subtle, and radars would pick it up. Hard to pass off an object arriving at Mach 10 as "stealth bomber" without admitting that A) Project Thor is a Thing, or B) Aurora never got retired.

              That would be the entire point. "We can kill you, anywhere, any time, and there's nothing you can do about it." However, to paraphrase Dr Strangelove: what's the point of deterrence weapons if no one knows you have them! I can see this weapon system being worth the cost, but only if it wasn't a secret.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            A) It was a concept, not implemented.
            B) the AF now talks about it being crow bar sized
            3) It's the military's job to think these things up.
            $) Just because it's thought up doesn't mean it's implemented.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Yes.
          There are certain requirements for any weapons system. We don't have anything large enough in space to have any useful weapon.

          Like all conspiracy theories, there pretty easy to point out and explain why they aren't real.
          Also, people who believe them ignore hard facts.

          • Nothing that we know of. Classified payload, perhaps? Maybe it is disguised as a communications, weather or science sat? It's highly unlikely, but can't be absolutly disproven. That makes it a great conspiracy theory.

            It's possible to have a conspiracy theory that survives even if it can be disproven beyond all doubt too, if it has a good enough narative that believers want it desperatly to be true. The moon landing hoax, for example, or anti-vax claims of a global coverup.
            • by lgw (121541)

              The point is that the mass of classified payloads is still known (because the lift capacity of the rockets is known, give or take), and you can absolutely disprove that we've secretly launched anything big enough to be useful. Just like the basic laws of physics absolutely disprove vapor trails, and most other conspiracy theories.

              The moon landings, OTOH, everyone knows those were shot in a soundstage on Mars.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Reality is the might be realising one of the greatest consequences of weaponise earth orbits, forget space.

        The more crowded earth orbits become the greater the reality of a impact chain reaction. One major satellite destroyed and it's orbit correcting reaction fuel source detonated and those very high speed debris could go on to take out more satellites and the idiot monkey chain reaction would go on from there.

        Humanity is getting in the position where it could deny itself access for centuries to space

        • by dragonhunter21 (1815102) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @09:31AM (#38747138) Journal

          The type of laser you'd put up in orbit to get rid of orbital debris would only be good for taking out objects in orbit. It wouldn't have any utility in attacking ground-based installations, because the beam would scatter.

          Now, it *could* be used against space stations and space vehicles, I'll grant that.

          • by lgw (121541)

            We certainly have the ability to keep a (very high power) laser beam from scattering through many miles of atmosphere - check out the ABL program some time. The tech is very cool - a dynamically shaped lens, constantly changing, to compensate for the optical effects of atmospherice turbulance as measured in real time.

        • ...idiot monkey chain reaction

          I saw one of these on C-SPAN.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Nope. We do have a lot of people who won't look at the history of US involvement in space and the constant push to not put weapon into space.

        But, hey lets not let facts spoil some of these jackasses delusions.

    • by AB3A (192265)

      I agree with the sentiments, and I acknowledge that someone will try it. However, others have figured out how easy it is to defeat this Anti-satellite weapons have already been tested and it would be foolish to think that they do not exist in anyone's arsenal. The end result is lots of debris in orbits that may last hundreds of years..

      A treaty of this sort would have to acknowledge this problem and put long term concerns over short term tactical needs. The answer is probably the hypersonic scram-jets they'r

      • by rtb61 (674572) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @09:12AM (#38747006) Homepage

        The best anti-satellite weapon, a non-targeted rocket carrying high explosive and ten of thousands of titanium flechettes. Can't afford a high tech satellite weapons program, simply deny anyone else access to space. Fire off rocket after rocket until earth orbits are flooded with tens of millions flechettes all randomly orbiting until they take out 'all' available targets.

        This weapon is readily accessible to the most primitive space program, once deployed it can not currently be removed and is the ultimate leveller, as all countries space programs will be levelled at zero. Only way past it anti-gravity drive and heavily armoured space craft, quite the technology leap. Quite a few countries could already threaten all the worlds access in this manner, space blackmail a veritable earth orbit doomsday weapon.

        • by Baloroth (2370816)

          Well, the thing is, any country with the ability to get a rocket that high (and there aren't all that many of them) generally has that ability because they are interested in their own space program. Plus, any country that tried that kind of blackmail would suddenly be looking at dozens of other, very powerful, very pissed-off countries which have very large military forces.

          Also, it would be a technical nightmare. Most of the flechettes aren't going to end up in stable orbits unless you have a very specific

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            It is a simple numbers game, thanks to the explosive method of distribution, the spread becomes quite large affecting all possible orbits, even large ellipse orbits, a straight up random distribution. A large percentage falling back to earth who cares, a typical artillery shell can pack 15,000 flechettes in there, a single large ballistic rocket and your talking millions, then ramp up the number of rockets and space is locked out for quite some time. Keep in mind it's not about missing once, it's about mis

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Quite a few countries could already threaten all the worlds access in this manner, space blackmail a veritable earth orbit doomsday weapon.

          They could, but why would they? Most countries want access to space, after all it is the best way to deliver nukes to their enemies. In fact it's the only way, and nukes are the only things that can keep countries like the US in check because their conventional armies are so big.

          • by jamstar7 (694492) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:01PM (#38748536)

            They could, but why would they? Most countries want access to space, after all it is the best way to deliver nukes to their enemies. In fact it's the only way, and nukes are the only things that can keep countries like the US in check because their conventional armies are so big.

            Smuggling works, too. If you have a channel in place to bring in 350 kilos of cocaine, bringing in a nuke is a piece of cake.

            Downside of course is the blackmail from the smuggler, but hey, all those drug cartels have gang wars all the time, right? Who'd notice one more body? Especially when DHS tells the cops to go grab a donut, this is NATIONAL SECURITY again.

            • by AmiMoJo (196126)

              Smuggling isn't a deterrent. It has to be something almost guaranteed to work and which can be used at a moments notice.

        • by SDF-7 (556604)

          Why anti-grav? I would think a reasonably heavily armored (which a lot of it has to be anyway) Orion drive craft would suffice. Yeah, you'd get whining about the emissions in the atmosphere on the way up -- but balanced against all space programs shut down and presumably loss of the existing satellite capabilities, you could credibly believe that at least one country would get over it and just do it.

    • by qbast (1265706)
      I don't have problem believing it. I just guess it will be interpreted like non-proliferation treaties concerning WMDs - we can have it, but others will be invaded for trying.
    • by hedwards (940851) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @09:28AM (#38747114)

      This sounds like an expansion of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty [wikipedia.org] which the US and most of the world has already signed onto.

      The bigger issue though is that with the Chinese blowing up satellites to puff up their defense it's gotten quite crowded up there, and I'm guessing that there will be limits to that sort of behavior in the future. At least until such time as somebody finds an efficient way of removing the shrapnel from space.

    • Like anyone would trust the Americans to follow a "code of conduct". Rules are for chumps.
    • I could see someone simply redefining 'space' at a convenient time. "It's not in space, it's in orbit within Earth's magnetosphere"
  • Define "space trash"

  • space honor (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Chivalry is dead. In the middle ages to high Renaissance, there was real honor among space, a probe would hold orbit at a respectable distance, a satellite would orbit the Earth in endless revolutions, all for the love of a woman. Now, what do we have. A woman President, and space probes beaming GPS data at commoners. Chivalry is dead.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2012 @07:53AM (#38746722)

    "There is also the desire to keep space free of military weaponry."

    'Desire' is such a vague word. In contrast with the last part from the statement made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
    you can create your own interpretation of what that means.

    "As we begin this work, the United States has made clear to our partners that we will not enter into a code of conduct that in any way constrains our national security-related activities in space or our ability to protect the United States and our allies."

  • So now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by delta98 (619010) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @08:16AM (#38746784)
    is a good time to decide that shitting in the same bowl we eat out of is a bad idea?
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Just because it took forever to come to the idea, doesn't mean you shouldn't bother with it. Yes, now is a good a time as ever.

  • Well, here I am, right on time. I don't see Barney "Let's crash the rocket into the White House and kill the President Gumble..

  • by Max_W (812974) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @10:23AM (#38747482)
    Signing a treaty is not enough.

    The International Committee of Red Cross http://www.icrc.org/ [icrc.org] conducts large scale games in Switzerland where ICRC's voluntaries work together with school students in the field. One part of students are military, another part is POW (prisoners of war), yet another civilians.

    The voluntaries explain students and train them in realistic circumstances (tents, bridges, mountains, etc.) how to keep and question POWs, how to treat civilians during military operations, how to handle wounded, etc. in accordance with the Geneva Convention http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva_Conventions [wikipedia.org]

    It is a very good approach, because kids and teenagers not only learn the right rules, but also how to stick to them in realistic conditions.

    We saw recently many cases how military personnel did not follow the Geneva Convention (to put it mildly), even though a country did sign it. Perhaps, it would be a good idea to teach students at school during such field exercises how to follow it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
      The Geneva convention only applies if BOTH sides agree. In addition, both sides must be nation-states. How does a non-state actor ratify the convention? Answer: they can't. Moreover, under the Geneva convention, what is the proper treatment for a captured terrorist? If you said anything but "immediate battlefield execution", you really need to read the Geneva convention before running your mouth off about it.
      • by Max_W (812974)
        I do not want to single out the USA at all.

        As for the Geneva convention, any law or treaty has letters and spirit. If a native warrior wears banana leaves around his body, it is not a uniform from the point of view of an advanced army, but it may well be sort of a uniform in that part of the world.

        The Geneva convention can be condensed to this: treat people under your control decently, the way you want to be treated yourself in the same circumstances. Certainly, if someone armed approaches with an int
        • by downhole (831621)

          I'm afraid you missed the point entirely. The purpose of the Geneva Convention is not to ensure that people under your control are treated the way you would want yours to be treated; it is to ensure that your captured people are treated well by the enemy. That's why it only applies to soldiers of a nation-state that has signed the convention.

          If your enemy is not a soldier of a nation-state, or if the enemy nation-state has not signed the convention or is violating it, then it does not apply to your nation-s

          • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @04:01PM (#38752148) Journal

            If your enemy is not a soldier of a nation-state ... under the Geneva Convention, terrorists and insurgents have no rights. They are subject to summary execution or torture or pretty much whatever you feel like doing.

            Did you actually read the Third Geneva Convention at all [wikipedia.org]? Pretty much all your points above are outright false. Specifically:

            "Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy: ... Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war."

      • The Geneva convention only applies if BOTH sides agree. In addition, both sides must be nation-states. How does a non-state actor ratify the convention? Answer: they can't.

        The Third Geneva Convention specifically includes provisions for organized militia and other similar resistance movements (4.1.2), as well as for regular military that bears allegiance towards a party not recognized by the opponent (4.1.3), and spontaneously organized resistance from local population on territory being attacked (4.1.6). The only requirement is to have a distinctive uniform or badge, carry arms openly, and comply with the laws and customs of war (and specifically the Geneva convention); and

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The USA followed the Geneva Convection to the letter. The Convection doesn't apply to non-uniformed officers using vehicles without military insignia to accomplish war. AKA fielding plain closed soldiers in a crowd of innocent civilians to get close to uniformed soldiers. Then detonating a bomb that takes out more civilians then enemy soldiers instantly removes you and everyone in that chain of command from the Geneva Convection. You can sign any treaty if you don't follow it or even try to, you can't expec

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Instead of considering it a massive amount of space trash, perhaps we should look at it as an abundant source of refined materials already in orbit. Rather than launching new material, it may be more cost effective to establish a means to gather what's there and assemble basic structures (nothing complex, mind you), just shells that can contain other equipment. A way to get larger hulls in space without the trouble of launching them.

  • A few countries already have anti-satellite weaponry:

    "Currently, only the United States, the former Soviet Union, and the People's Republic of China are known to have developed these weapons." *

    Besides, an agreement like that really means none of the people signing it will actually adhere to it until they get caught.

    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-satellite_weapon [wikipedia.org]

  • Military? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hartree (191324) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @02:24PM (#38750616)

    "There is also the desire to keep space free of military weaponry."

    How about non-military weaponry?

    Having my own private orbiting death ray would be great for salary negotiations.

  • The devil is always in the details...

    There are real problems and dangers that this proposal is (for public consumption, at least) intended to address. However, what comes out at the end of the process worries me. Some of these things, in the past, have ended up with wording to ensure that only goverments and "Big Aerospace" companies under contract to governments are permitted to do anything in space. (Thinking about the "Moon Treaty", for instance.)

    "Big Aerospace" is perfectly happy for cost-to-orbit t

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