(Archived document, may contain errors)
RED HORIZONS: THE U.S. RESPONSE TO SOVIET MILITARY GAINS IN SPACE
By Robin Ranger
The continuing shortfall in U.S. military space capabilities was
accurately summarized by Vice President George Bush in his
introduction to the recent Global Strategy Counc il study, Space
Support of U.S. National Security: As I discovered first hand
during my time as the Director of Central Intelligence, the Soviets
have been active for years in seeking the military dominance of
space. It would be a fatal mistake for Americ ans to be naive about
this serious threat.
We must improve our heavy-lift launch capability. We must get our
Space Shuttle program back on schedule. We need the flexibility
these programs can afford us. It is also important that we improve
the survivabilit y of our satellites against Soviet ASATs. And we
must have a manned presence in space. Most importantly, we must
sustain the pace of the critical research on the Strategic Defense
Initiative that our Administration has launched....
Our national security d epends upon keeping our space-orientated
programs strong. We cannot afford to be second in space. 1
Unfortunately, Moscows slow but steady gains in military space
activities mean that the U.S. is now, and will be for some time to
come, second in military s pace terms. This shortfall is
particularly serious in the area of space launch capabilities for
military, as well as for commercial and scientific, purposes. Since
the tragic January 28, 1986, loss of the space shuttle Challenger
and its crew, the U.S. ha s not had the space launch capabilities
to meet its military objectives in space. This adverse situation
will farther deteriorate, sharply, if the U.S. loses another manned
space shuttle. Such a loss is, for reasons which I will explain
below, all too like ly.
I Vice President George Bush, Introductory Letter, November 23,
1987, to U.S. Global Strategy Council, Space Support of U.S.
National Security, Washington, D.C., 1988. Dr. Ranger spoke on May
3, 1988, during his appointment as a Bradley Resident Scholar at
The Heritage Foundation. Currently, he is a Peace Fellow at the
U.S. Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. ISSN 0272-1155. 01988 by
The Heritage Foundation.
This lecture thus outlines a U.S. military space policy that would
reverse these dangerous, d estabilizing Soviet gains and provide
the U.S. with a coherent, affordable, and politically supportable
space program meeting its legitimate national security objectives.
U.S. MILITARY SPACE POLICY: THREE OBJECTIVES
ne U.S. needs such a policy because i t must no longer confront
Moscow only on land, at sea, and in the air. Space too is now a
military front, and here the U.S. has no coherent or consistent
policy. Yet the U.S. has become increasingly dependent on
space-based systems, mainly satellites, to s upport its military
operations in the areas of command, control and communications
(&), early warning of a Soviet ballistic missile attack,
electronic warfare, navigation, reconnaissance, and targeting. For
example, all four U.S. military services rely on satellite
navigation systems to locate the positions of their units.
Redesigning for Wartime. The U.S. relies on such space-based
systems to support the operations of both its conventional military
forces, on which it spends some 80 percent of its defense budget,
and its nuclear forces. If the Soviets disabled some, or all, of
the satellites on which the U.S. military relies they could render
the U.S. military blind, deaf, and speechless - unable to see or
hear what the Soviet military machine is doing and unable to
communicate with U.S. forces. The U.S. thus needs to redesign its
military satellite systems for wartime survivability and
functioning. The U.S. also depends much more heavily than does
Moscow on reconnaissance satellites for arms control verifi c ation
because, despite claims of glasnost, the Soviet Union remains a
tightly closed, secretive society regarding military activities.
Indeed, U.S. dependence on space-based systems is such that Moscow
might well be tempted to start an attack on the U.S. in space, to
gain a potentially decisive advantage.
The U.S. must thus establish a military space policy with three
1) Development and deployment of space-based systems adequate to
support conventional and nuclear force operations, gather inte
lligence, and verify Soviet compliance with arms control agreements
in peacetime; 2) Development and deployment of space-based systems
that can, in major crises or conflicts, provide the necessary
additional support to U.S. military operations while deter r ing or
defeating Soviet attempts, including use of Soviet anti-satellite
(ASAT) systems, to deny such support; 3) Deployment of space-based
subsystems of a strategic defense system, such as space-based
interceptors to destroy ballistic missiles launched b y the
Soviets, or by other countries.
To secure these objectives, the U.S. has to have a capability to
launch military space systems into orbit and to replace space
systems lost to Soviet ASAT attacks.
These U.S. military objectives in space are, in principle,
similar to U.S. naval objectives at sea: to use a particular
environment (space, the sea) to protect and advance its national
security interests. In major crises or conflicts the U.S. also has
to b e able to deny the use of space (and the sea) to hostile
powers, most important to the Soviet Union. This similarity was
summarized by the Commander-in-Chief of the North American
Aerospace Defense Command and the United States Space Command,
General John L Piotrowski: Space control is analogous to sea
control. Included are those actions that ensure we can operate
freely in space, and actions that counter or negate hostile space
systems, forces or operations. 2
Space Launch Capabilities The greatest obstac le to the U.S.
achieving its military space objectives is the absence of adequate
space launch capabilities. Without such capabilities the U.S.
cannot launch the military space systems it needs and it cannot
replace systems lost to Soviet anti-satellite ( A SAT) systems. In
sharp contrast, Moscow can launch all the military space systems it
needs to launch in peacetime or in major crises and does not risk
losing any of these systems to U.S. ASAT systems, because none
currently exist. Indeed, congressional li m itations on testing of
the only U.S. ASAT program near operational capability, the F-15
fighter-launched Miniature Homing Vehicle, almost forced the
termination of this program early in 1988. It was saved by the
Reagan Administration's persuasive explanat ion of the need for a
U.S. ASAT system to deter Soviet ASAT attacks on those space-based
systems on which the U.S. military depend so heavily.
U.S. Behind Soviets. The best indication of how far behind the
Soviets the U.S. has fallen is given by a comparis on of their
current and projected medium and heavy space launch systems. The
U.S. has only two medium systems and no heavy ones. One U.S. medium
space launch system is the manned space shuttle which, with
modifications made after the Challenger loss, can p lace into low
earth orbit (200-1,000 miles from earth) payloads of just under
40,000 pounds. The other U.S. system is the Titan series (Titan 2,
3, 34D, and 4) of medium Expendable Launch Vehicles, which can
place into this orbit payloads of about 30,000 p ounds. Expendable
Launch Vehicles (ELVs) are unmanned rocket boosters which, after
launching their payloads into space, are destroyed when they
reenter the earth's atmosphere. The relatively small extra payload
which the manned space shuttle can place int o orbit, as compared
with the unmanned Titan Expendable Launch Vehicles, reflects the
heavy penalties imposed by the requirement that the shuttle system
be man-rated - approved for
2 General John L Piotrowski, "V1. Current U.S. Military Space
Operations," in Space Suppoit of U.S. National Secuifty, opcit., p.
operation by human crew members. These penalties led the noted
physicist and author Freeman Dyson to cite the shuttle as an
example of what one reviewer called: ... our cultural obsession
with large-scale overly complex solutions to problems that require
cheap and simple things.... the Challenger explosion need never
have occurred since the payload required a simple booster rocket,
not a manned shuttle.3 And, as Dyson wrote "The insistence that
Shuttle be the sole [U.S. space] launch system was directly
responsible for the disaster ...... 4
What, then, are the chances for another shuttle disaster?
Manned Shuttle Reliability Problems The widespread misperception
that the manned space shuttle cou ld be the U.S. space truck -
safe, cheap, and reliable - is a false image created by the NASA
public relations campaign that sold the executive and legislative
branches, and the public, on the shuttle. This misperception was
restated recently in a Washing t on Post editorial that rightly
stressed that the U.S. space infrastructure required ". . . a
dependable transportation system into space and back" and then
wrongly claimed that this system should be the shuttle. To compound
this error, the Post added that "There may be extra strain on the
space transportation system, which will have to do more with
less.',5 Inherent Unreliability. Unfortunately, the technical facts
about the shuttle do not support such facile optimism. The clearest
and most chilling explan a tion of the inherent unreliability of
the complex shuttle system was given by another physicist, the late
Richard P. Feynman, a Nobel laureate and a member of the commission
set up to investigate the cause of the Challenger loss. The root
cause of the los s was that:
3 Curt Suplee:, "Reflecting on the Universe," a review of
Freeman Dyson, Infinite in All Directions (New York: Harper and
Row, 1988), The Washington Post Book World, April 17, 1988, p. 5. 4
Dyson ,as quoted in Suplee, op.cit. 5 "The Space Budget ," 7he
Washington Post, May 19,1988, p. A24.
... after going to the Moon, NASA had all these people together,
all these institutions and so on [and, I would add, budgets]. You
don't want to fire people [or cut budgets] .... So the problem is
what to do.
You have to convince Congress that there exists a project this
organization [NASA] can do. In order to do so, it is necessary ...
to exaggerate - to exaggerate how economical the shuttle was going
to be .... So NASA exaggerated how littl e the shuttle would cost,
they exaggerated how often it could fly, to such a pitch that it
was obviously incorrect....
... although the engineers down in the works knew NASA!s claims
were impossible, and the guys at the top knew that somehow they had
exag gerated, the guys at the top didn't want to hear that they had
exaggerated.... It's better if they don't hear it, so they can be
much more "honest" when they're trying to get Congress to OK their
[shuttle] project. 6 More specifically, Professor Feynman s u
ggested some realistic estimates by NASA engineers of the chances
of a catastrophic failure - that is, a failure involving the loss
of the shuttle and possibly its crew. These engineers estimated
that the probability of a catastrophic failure caused solel y by a
failure in the shuttle's liquid-fuelled rocket motors was " 1 in
about NO." Other NASA technicians estimated the probability of a
total failure as "about 1 in 100."
Chances of Catastrophe. A representative failure rate on the
order of 1 in 100 would mean that there is a 10 percent chance of
at least one loss of a shuttle for each 10 launches and a 26
percent chance of at least one shuttle loss for each 30 launches.
In addition, the shuttle loss could occur at any time, starting
with the first launch , and more than one shuttle could be lost.
And the U.S. will have only three shuttles (Atlantis, Columbia, and
Discovery) until the replacement for Challenger is completed.
6 Richard P. Feymnan,"An Outsider's Inside View of the Challenger
Inquiry,"Physics T oday, February 1988, p. 37, author's emphasis.
As one obituary put it "Before your eyes Feymnan chilled a small
neoprene 0 ring [of Challenge?s solid fuel booster rocket] in ice
water to turn it hard and inflexible; thus one of the proximate
causes of the disaster became a homely experience sifted out of the
engineering complexities." "An old friend," Scientific Anzefican,
June 1988, pp. 41-2. Feymnan's comment (p. 31) on the 0 ring
failure is damning-."Although it was known from the beginning that
the joi n t was not working as it was designed to, [Morton] Thiokol
[its makers] kept struggling with the device.... Of course, it
wasn't enough. The joint still leaked, and they were thinking how
to fix it, and the shuttle kept flying. That is one of the things
yo u have to understand: The program kept going, no matter what." 7
Feymnan, op. cit., p.32.
These p .robabilities of failure are not significantly different
from those associated with comparable systems. For example, the
failure rate of solid-fuelled Exp endable Launch Vehicles (ELVs)
similar to the shuttle's booster rockets (whose failure destroyed
Challenger) has been between 1 in 25 and 1 in 35. 8 Such failures
are expensive but not disastrous, because the ELVs and their
payload can be replaced and no human lives would be lost. The loss
of another manned space shuttle would be a disaster for the U.S.
military space program and a double disaster if the crew also were
THE REAL SPACE TRUCKS: EXPENDABLE ]LAUNCH VEHICLES
The shuttle is thus the revers e of the U.S. space truck. It is a
dangerous, expensive, and unreliable space launch system that
should be used only for absolutely vital military missions and the
few scientific missions that warrant risking the lives of the
shuttle crew. The true U.S. s p ace trucks are its Expendable
Launch Vehicles. The most important of these will be the projected
heavy ELVs, the Advanced Launch System family of ELVs, which should
put into low earth orbit payloads of about 150,000 pounds (75 tons)
and do so at only 10 p e rcent of the costs of current ELVs. The
snag is that this heavy ELV system is not scheduled to be
operational until 1998. But twenty years ago the U.S. had a heavy
launch system, the Saturn V, the space truck of the Apollo moon
landing program, which oper a ted reliably from 1967 to 1975 and
was then dumped by NASA. If the Saturn V had been kept in service
it would now be able, with evolutionary improvements, to put
250,000 pounds into orbit. Hence the bitter but accurate comment by
the respected U.S. space expert, Dr. Robert Jastrow, that it will
take the U.S. ten years to get back to where it was in space launch
capabilities twenty years ago. 9 Meanwhile, the Soviets have now
caught up to where the U.S. was in military space launch
SOVIET SPACE LAUNCH AND ASAT CAPABILITIES
Moscow's space launch program is basically a military one which
also launches non-military payloads as and when military needs
permit. Because Soviet satellites are less sophisticated than U.S.
ones the Soviets have to condu ct more frequent launches and so
have developed a large family of space launch vehicles. As the
latest edition of the authoritative Department of Defense
publication Soviet Military Power puts it:
8 ]bid, and additional information provided by Milton Copul os.
An excellent, informed account of the inevitable risks associated
with the use of manned and unmanned rocket launch vehicles is given
by former astronaut Michael Collins in his new book Liftoff.-The
Story ofArnerica's Adventure in Space (New York: Gro ve Press,
1988). 9 This point is developed in Professor Jastrov/s account of
the U.S. manned space program, 77te Search (New York, New York:
Bantam Books, forthcoming).
The Soviet space program's success is due largely to its
versatile and reliable inv entory of space launch vehicles (SLVs)
and its space launch and support facilities. The Soviets send a
satellite aloft every three or four days, using one of eight types
of operational SLVs. The USSR's impressive ability to launch
various spacecraft quick l y gives the Soviets a distinct
operational advantage in any crisis. Most malfunctioning satellites
could be rapidly replaced, and additional satellites could be
launched to cover new or expanding areas in a crisis. In fact, if
all Soviet satellites were d estroyed, the Soviets have sufficient
standby capability to replace them within two to three months....
The Soviets have two medium and one heavy Expendable Launch
Vehicles, the proven SL-13 and the new SL-16 medium ELVs, plus the
new SLX-17 Energiya he avy-lift ELV. To quote Soviet Military Power
again: The deployment of the medium-lift Titan IHC-Class SL-16 and
the heavy-lift Saturn V-Class SL-X-17 will increase the payload
weight of satellites the Soviets will be able to orbit.
... The SLA-17 [Energiya]... will be able to place payloads of
over 100,000 kilograms into low-earth orbit, a figure comparable to
that carried by the discontinued US Saturn V rocket. Potential
payloads for the SL_X-17 include... directed-energy ASAT [ant
i-satellite] and ballistic-missile defense weapons and other
space-based components of the Soviet strategic defense program.
The Soviets are also about to conduct the first test flight of
their manned space shuttle, built with the help of illegally
acquired U.S. designs, materials, and technology. 12
In addition, Moscow has the world's only operational ASAT, a
co-orbital, kinetic-kill vehicle, direct ascent ASAT. This vehicle
is launched into the same orbit as the satellite it is attacking by
a modified Soviet SS-9 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and
destroys its target by exploding close to it, destroying it by the
impact (kinetic energy) of the resulting cloud of fragments.
1 0 U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power.- An
Assessment of the 77treat (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government
Printing Office, 1988), p. 65.
12 kid., p. 66.
Threatening U.S. Satellites. The Soviets could also use as ASAT
systems their Galosh Anti-Ballistic Missile and other modified
ballistic missiles besid es the SS-9. These missiles could carry
conventional or nuclear warheads. Moscow is also developing
ground-based lasers, such as the massive Soviet laser facility
under construction at Dushanbe, and space-based ASAT systems,
including lasers. All of these systems could threaten U.S.
These ASAT systems are part of the massive Soviet Red Shield
strategic defense program which, as Mikhail Gorbachev has admitted,
is being energetically pursued. This Red Shield program is
significantly larger than t he congressionally constrained U.S. SDI
program and includes deployed systems such as ASATs, while SDI
remains a research program. 13
A DESTABILIZING IMBALANCE IN SPACE
The net effect of the imbalance between the U.S. and Soviet ability
to use space for military purposes, and to deny its use to the
opposing superpower, is now so great as to be a serious threat to
stability. During a major crisis or conflict Moscow would have an
overwhelming incentive to initiate an attack on U.S. satellites to
render Was h ington militarily blind, deaf, and speechless. Such an
attack would not put Moscow's space-based systems at risk because
the U.S. has no ASAT system with which to threaten them. In
addition, the Soviets could replace such systems rapidly unless the
U.S. c ould mount the kind of large scale ASAT attack that Moscow
has positioned itself to launch.
To reduce this threat to crisis stability the U.S.needs to
formulate and implement an effective military space policy.
A U.S. MILITARY SPACE POLICY
This policy sh ould be based on the principle underlying the Reagan
Administration's 1988 National Space Policy: the Department of
Defense should be given the primary responsibility for implementing
military space policy. Building on this principle and on the
Administra t ion's Space Recovery Program, the next administration
should take the following four steps: 1) Establish a cabinet-level
National Space Council, chaired by the President; 2) Make the U.S.
Air Force responsible for all U.S. government space launches; 3) Ac
celerate procurement of the Titan series of Expendable Launch
Vehicles (ELVs), of the Advanced Launch System family of ELVs, and
of the National Aerospace Plane;
13 A useful recent summary was 7he Wall Street Joumal editorial
"'Red Shield' Risingr (March 15, 1988, p. 34) which noted President
Reagan's comment that "This Soviet defense effort, which some
call'Red Shield,' is now over 15 years old and they've spent over
$200 billion on it." This means, the President added, that Moscow
has spent about 15 times what the U.S. has spent on strategic
4) Use the Manned Space Station project to build support for the
acquisition of the space systems it needs for military, commercial,
and scientific purposes; None of these four steps is likely to
require significant funding increases, especially not since the
House and Senate appear likely to approve a substantial increase in
NASA!s budget, largely to begin fu n ding the Manned Space Station.
14 Each of these four steps can now be considered in more detail.
1) Establish a National Space Council. Existing budgetary levels
and organizational and technical bases are generally adequate to
support an effective, afford a ble U.S. military space policy. But
coordinating these resources to implement this policy will require
the next President to establish a cabinet-level National Space
Council under his chairmanship. Its members should include, at a
minimum, the President, h is National Security and Science
Advisors, the Secretaries of Defense and Transportation, the
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Administrator
of NASA. Other members could include the Secretaries of Commerce
and the Treasury, and the Cha i rman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Compliance with National Space Council Directives would be
monitored by the President's National Security and Science
Advisor's staffs. The Council should prepare options for a
presidential directive establishing a compr e hensive U.S. space
strategy to include military and civilian as well as offensive and
defensive uses of space. The Council should direct the Office of
the Secretary of Defense to develop the doctrine - the specific
goals and the technical means of achievi n g them - to implement
this strategy, including implementation of the Strategic Defense
Initiative (SDI). 2) Give the U.S. Air Force control over all U.S.
government space launches. NASA!s control over manned and
scientific space launches is the biggest si n gle obstacle to an
effective U.S. military space policy. Yet the majority of ftiture
government space launches will be military as a result of the
Challenger loss and the Reagan Administration's privatization of
commercial space launches. Military space l aunches have special
requirements, including strict security and the ability to conduct
launches under threat of attack or under attack.
Thus, the National Space Council should direct that the U.S. Air
Force Space Command become the sole agency for conduct ing
government space launches. Space Command would acquire control over
the necessary NASA assets, including personnel, and employ them
14 Since this lecture was delivered the Senate has engaged in a
complex series of legislative actions on funding fo r the Manned
Space Station. At present, it seems likely to fund this program by
transferring $600 million from the Department of Defense
appropriations Bill to the HUD-Independent Agencies bill, to
provide total funding for the station of $800 million in f iscal
1989. The reasons for this action were set out by the Chairman of
the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology, Senator
Ernest F. Hollings, in a letter to the editor, 7he Washington
711mes, July 25, 1988, p. D2. In it, Senator Hollings s t resses
the need for the U.S. ". . . to maintain its leadership in space by
approving the space station program. . . . " If the Department of
Defense is to fund three-quarters of the space station's costs,
this would powerfully reinforce the arguments made in this lecture
for giving the Department much greater responsibility for U.S,
tnirhary, and militarily related, space programs.
a contractual basis. Other government agencies, like NASA, could
purchase launch facilities from the cheapest source, the private
sector or the Air Force. Government agencies and private companies
needing to purchase heavy space launch capabilities available only
from the Air Force, initially the manned shuttle, would be able to
do so only after priority military payloads, e ssential to national
security, bad been launched.
3) Accelerate procurement of Expendable Launch Vehicles (ELVs). The
next Secretary of Defense should place a senior special assistant
in charge of an accelerated ELV program under the control of the
U.S. Ai r Force Space Command. This Special Assistant for ELV
Programs must have the regular access to the Secretary needed to
assure these programs sufficient budgetary and bureaucratic
The National Space Council should direct the Office of the Secretar
y of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Air
Force Space Command to review the planned procurement of ELV
systems to ensure it is sufficient to meet U.S. military and arms
control verificaiion needs; needs include the replacement of sat
ellites lost in crises or conflicts to attacks by Soviet ASAT
Assessing NASA's Role. The National Space Council should direct the
U.S. Air Force, the primary manager of the Advanced Launch System
heavy ELV program, to accelerate deployment. Ile Co uncil should
also require the Air Force to assess whether it is appropriate for
NASA to be the deputy manager of the Advanced Launch System. In the
past, NASA has strongly opposed the building of ELVs, seeing them
as competing with its manned space shuttl e . The National
Aerospace Plane (NASP) would bridge the gap between aircraft and
space orbital systems: it would take off and land at airfields but
would fly outside the atmosphere at speeds up to Mach 25 -
twenty-five times the speed of sound. For this re ason development
of the NASP re ,gently has been endorsed by a lengthy report from
Congress's General Accounting Office. 1
The NASP, also known as the Orient Ekpress in its civilian version,
would have many military applications: launching satellites into
orbit, repairing damaged satellites, and retrieving payloads from
space. A modified NASP could fly into a low earth orbit with a very
heavy surveillance payload for arms control verification or crisis
management purposes. The NASP's ability to take off an d land from
ordinary airfields would give the U.S. multiple satellite launching
bases. Today, only the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and
Vandenberg Air Force Base in California can be used to launch
satellites using ELVs, while only Kennedy can launch th e shuttle.
Reliance on only these two bases invites a Soviet attack, including
by clandestine means such as Spetznaz Special Forces.
15 See U.S. General Accounting Office, Report to Congressional
Committees, NationalAero-Space Plane: A Technology Development and
Demonstration Program to Build Lhe X-30 (Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office, April 1988.)
Furthermore, th e NASP program involves basic technology
developments that are applicable in other vital military systems.
The next Secretary of Defense thus should devise a plan to keep the
NASP program on schedule to make its first flight no later than
1995. To achieve this goal will require that existing funding be
maintained at its projected total cost of roughly $3 billion and
that the U.S. avoid such occurrences as the recent 20 percent cut
in NASP funding. 16
4) Accelerate and safeguard the Manned Space Station pro gram.
The Manned Space Station that NASA has been authorized to build has
been estimated by the independent National Research Council to cost
(in 1984 dollars) $14 billion, plus $7 billion for deployment
costs, for a total of $21 billion, and is to be ope r ational by
1997. 17 This space station will enable the Department of Defense
to carry out a wide range of activities, including experiments in
space surveillance. But the costs and complexity of this project,
plus its dependence on the space shuttle, make the Manned Space
Station vulnerable to delays and congressional cuts in funding that
could terminate it. Because manned space projects have always
attracted popular and political support, the National Space Council
should use the Manned Space Station to s y mbolize the American
determination once again to be first in space, the new frontier. In
addition, the Council should stress that the station and its
supporting systems are all part of the infrastructure the U.S. will
need to exploit space for all purpose s, including military
The National Space Council should thus direct NASA and the
Pentagon to review ways of accelerating and safeguarding the Manned
Space Station program. In particular, heavy lift ELV systems would
permit accelerated construction of the Manned Space Station at much
Unless the U.S. quickly develops an effective military space policy
it will not only remain second to the Soviets in space but fall
increasingly far behind in its ability to use space for militar y
and other purposes. The U.S. also will find itself increasingly
unable to verify Soviet compliance with existing arms control
agreement, including the recently ratified Intermediate-Range
Nuclear Forces Treaty. The U.S. will not be able to verify Soviet
compliance with the more far-reaching arms control agreements it is
currently negotiating, such as the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty
(START) which is intended to reduce U.S. and Soviet strategic
nuclear forces by 50 percent.
Yet there are no alternatives open to the U.S. except to have an
effective military space policy. The Soviet lead in the
militarization of space means that the already dangerous crisis
16 See "X-30 Technology advancing Despite Management
Rift,"Aviation Week and Space Technology, Ma rch 7,1988, pp. 36-43.
17 See The National Research Council, Committee on Space Station,
June 30,1987 Report.. on Space Station and accompanying letter of
transmittal, Washington, D.C.
instability caused by Moscow's potential advantage from striking
fir st in space is increasing. So is the potential for major crises
or conflicts involving the U.S. and the Soviets to escalate and
expand. The euphoria generated by the Moscow summit should not
obscure the dangers of such crises emerging in surprising ways. As
Sir Winston Churchill reminded his readers, the outbreak of World
War I in July and August 1914 was preceded by an Anglo-German
The spring and summer of 1914 were marked in Europe by an
exceptional tranquility.... The personalities who expressed the
foreign policy of Germany seemed for the first time to be men to 18
whom we could talk and with whom common action was possible.
Reversing Reality. To argue, as does Soviet disarmament diplomacy,
that the U.S. is "militarizing" space with "space-str ike weapons"
and that stability should be achieved by banning such U.S. weapons
is, of course, to reverse reality. Space has been irreversibly
militarized by the U.S. and by the Soviets, but it is Moscow that
leads in space-strike weapons. To argue, as di d the Carter
Administration, and as some U.S. arms controllers still do, that
U.S. security could be protected by an agreement "banning"
anti-satellite (ASAT) systems is to argue for a non-existent
altemative.19 Such an agreement would ban only U.S. ASAT s ystems,
since the Soviets already have an operational ASAT system. As
Richard Haass noted:
. . . The failure of the anti-satellite (ASAT) negotiations dur ing
the Carter Administration is in large part attributable to a
fundamental discrepancy: the USSR possessed a demonstrable if
limited capacity to intercept and destroy some low-orbit US
satellites, w h ile the United States did not possess a capacity to
do the same to corresponding Soviet systems. US officials were
largely uninterested in an accord that would preserve the Soviet
advantage: Soviet officials were 20 uninterested in an accord that
would el iminate their advantage.
Such an accord would also fail to prevent Soviet development of
improved versions of this system and of new types of ASAT
systems,.such as lasers, because Moscow could evade
18 Winston S. Churchill, 77ie World Oisis. Vol I (London, Odhams
Press: 1938), p. 143. 19 Nonetheless, this non-existent alternative
remains an appealing one. See, for example, Paul B. Stares Space
and National Security (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution,
1987). A clear statement of the reasons why an ASAT ban is not an
available alternative is Colin S. Gray "Space Warfare:The need for
Doctrine" and "Principles, Weapons and Tactics," National Defense,
January and February 1988, pp. 25-28 and pp. 39-43. 20 Richard N.
Haass "Ripeness and the settlement o f international disputes,"
Survival (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies),
Vol. 30, No.3, May/June, 1988, p. 234.
any limits on their development. The idea of an ASAT ban thus is
not only a nonsense, but a dangerous nonsense.
Thus, the only option available to protect legitimate U.S.
national security interests in space is a coherent military space
policy plus the systems to implement it. The most important of
these systems are the Expendable Launch Vehicles on which the U.S.
has to rely to launch its military (and commercial and scientific)
payloads into space.
Moscow Mars Ploy. Finally, since Mikhail Gorbachev pushed at the
Moscow summit for a joint U.S.-Soviet mission to explore Mars, the
dangers of such joint missions should be s tressed. Moscow uses
them to explore and acquire, without payment, advanced U.S.
technology. The U.S. should thus continue to reject Soviet
proposals for such joint 69scientific" missions.
But it should also recognize that the favorable response to
these proposals in the U.S. and Western Europe reflect the
political appeal of visionary space projects that can be understood
at a popular level. A U.S. project to explore Mars could thus be a
way of building support for the rebuilding of the U.S. space progra
m. The U.S. still has the right stuff to be first in space, but it
needs a military space policy to use the right stuff