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Code of Conduct: Key Questions

in Program

Q. What are the key elements of the Code of

A. To prevent interference with another nation’s space
objects, the harmful use of lasers against space objects, and to prevent
activities, experiments, or tests that result in the deliberate
generation of persistent space debris. The Code also promotes
information exchanges, consultation, and sound traffic management
practices in space.


Q. Why
is a Code of Conduct for space-faring nations needed?

A. Because
having agreed rules that define responsible behavior promotes national
security and global commerce.


Q. But rules don’t matter to bad actors.

A. And laws are
frequently broken. That doesn’t make the laws irrelevant, or
unimportant. Rules still matter. They make it easier to take action
against rule breakers.


But we can’t send police into outer space.

A. The United States
has the means to punish rule breakers, especially countries that mess
with our satellites.


Don’t we need space weapons and anti-satellite weapons to punish bad

A. We have plenty of ways to punish wrong-doers where they
live. We don’t need to go into space to punish them. But we also have
many ways to punish them in space, too, using weapons designed for other
purposes. We don’t have to specifically design new space weapons or
anti-satellite weapons to punish wrong-doers.


Q. Does the Code define and prohibit space

A. Our Code is all about responsible and irresponsible
activities. It’s hard to agree on what is a space weapon, but we can all
agree that blowing up a satellite and creating lethal space debris is
irresponsible behavior. An agreed definition of space weapons isn’t
needed for a Code of Conduct.


Q. What kind of ways do we already have to mess up satellites?

We can use jammers, lasers, ballistic missiles and missile defense
interceptors, to name a few.


If these means to engage in space warfare already exist, aren’t rules
of the road obsolete or immaterial?

A. Just the opposite: Because
these capabilities already exist, we need rules of the road to prevent
their use to damage essential satellites. Despite their value, no
satellites have been destroyed during war. We need to strengthen this
norm by codifying and reinforcing existing restraints.


Q. Would the Code of Conduct impair our
ability to harm another nation’s satellites if that nation attacks ours?

Rules can be different in warfare than in peacetime. The United States
will still have the means to mess up the satellites of another country
under our Code of Conduct. But it is still very much in our national
security interest for satellites to remain off of targeting lists, even
during warfare. That’s how valuable they are to our war-fighters.


Q. Why should we limit our freedom of action
in the event of a war?

A. There are rules of warfare, too. We
abide by them because we believe in the rule of law, and because the
rules support our troops in harm’s way. If we reject rules in favor of
freedom of action in space, we are likely to increase the dangers facing
our troops. They – and we – will be better off if satellites remain


Q. If the
United States and other nations already have the ability to destroy
satellites, what is so bad about specifically designing, flight-testing,
and deploying new anti-satellite weapons?

A. Because if we lead
the way, others will surely follow. And if anti-satellite weapons and
space mines trail our satellites in space, we can’t have confidence that
our satellites will be there when we need them.


Q. But can’t we out-build and out-design the

A. We can build more and better space weapons than
the competition. But their space weapons don’t have to be sophisticated
to be lethal. They can be rudimentary and cheap and still create havoc
for our commercial and military satellites.


Q. Why don’t we launch our space weapons
first and demand that others play by our rules?

A. By launching
space weapons first, we set the rules that others will follow. And if we
don’t want company, we will have to shoot down the competition before
it joins us. And we have to be able to do this without creating lethal
debris fields that can destroy our own satellites. In other words,
“successful” space warfare requires having perfect intelligence, and
being able to dictate war-fighting strategy and tactics against an
adversary engaging in asymmetric warfare.


Q. Doesn’t the US national security strategy
expressly permit preventive war and preemption in land warfare? Why
shouldn’t we also follow this doctrine in space?

A. Waging a
preventive war against a major power in space can easily be as difficult
as waging preventive, asymmetric warfare on the ground.


Q. What’s the alternative to preemption? If
we don’t stop others from launching space weapons through preemptive
strikes, then their space weapons will be trailing ours.

A. Which
will result in a hair-trigger situation in space, just like the
hair-trigger situation we were plagued with during the Cold War. The
alternative is to establish a Code of Conduct that helps to prevent
dangerous activities in space.


Q. But if we exercise restraint, how can we be sure that other
countries will play by our rules?

A. Nothing is certain except
death and taxes. But we don’t depend on the good faith of others. We
have the world’s best space monitoring capabilities and we enjoy
dominant military capabilities – which makes it all the more important
to take the lead in setting rules of the road for space that support our
economic and national security interests.


Q: What does the United States have to lose
from space warfare?

A: Since 1959 the United States has invested
well over one trillion dollars in space.


Q. Why shouldn’t we protect our investments
in space with firepower? If we don’t our military superiority will be

A. Space weapons won’t change the outcome of a war with
the United States: we still win. But the costs of war are greater for
everyone. The burdens on U.S. ground forces, which are already very
great, become even heavier. US casualty counts will mount. And since US
attacks will be less precise without satellites, others will suffer
more, too. Everybody pays the price if space becomes a shooting gallery.


Q. Since the US has clear military dominance
on the ground, shouldn’t we expect a surprise attack in space?

This can’t be ruled out, but as we have sadly realized, surprise
attacks are much easier to carry out on the ground than in space.


Q: How will the flight testing and
deployment of space weapons effect insurance rates for commercial
activity in space?

A: Rates will rise precipitously.


Q. What does this mean for consumers?

Bad news.


Q. Will space
weapons affect my life?

A. We rely on satellites everyday, to keep
our soldiers safe in the field, to help first responders make emergency
calls, to conduct bank transactions…the list goes on and on. If
satellites are targeted, we will put those satellites and the services
they provide at great risk.


Isn’t the deployment of space weapons inevitable?

A. If it were,
it would have happened during the Cold War. We avoided space warfare
then, and we can avoid it now, too.


Q. Isn’t the threat of space warfare greater now than during the
Cold War?

A. No. Soviet space warfare capabilities were far
greater in the past than the combined space warfare capabilities of all
potential adversaries today.


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