Castellón de la Plana workshop on Preserving the Non-Weaponization of Space

On 22-24 May 2003, Pugwash Meeting no. 283 was held in Castellón de la Plana, Spain.

Pugwash Workshop on Preserving the Non-Weaponization of Space

Workshop Report by Robert Schingler, Will Marshall, George Whitesides and Bojan Pecnik

This first in a planned series of Pugwash workshops on space weapons was hosted by the Bancaixa fundacío Caixa Castelló at the Centro Internacional Bancaja para la Paz y el Desarrollo in Castellón de la Plana, Spain. Particular thanks are due to Prof. Federico García-Moliner and the Spanish Pugwash Group for their assistance and hospitality in organizing the meeting.

Thirty one people (including a large number of International Student/Young Pugwash participants) from 17 countries attended the workshop, by invitation and in their personal capacity. This report of the workshop is the sole responsibility of the rapporteurs, and while it reflects the broad array of issues discussed, does not necessarily represent consensus on all points.


The workshop focused on understanding the current legal, technical and geopolitical issues surrounding the prospects of space weaponisation. The motivation of these discussions is to ensure space security: that is, to enable space to have secure and equitable access and use, and for space to be secure from threats. As the meeting progressed, the participants discussed policy initiatives that could increase the visibility and international debate on space weapons. The meeting closed with discussion of ways forward toward the goal of maintaining the non-weaponisation of space, including increasing the knowledge base on the topic, and greater international collaboration on the issue, including the potential role of Pugwash in that process.

A window of opportunity

The workshop was held during a period when there is a near-term prospect of deploying weapons in space for the very first time. As part of its National Missile Defense (NMD) program, the US administration has stated its intent to launch a space-based interceptor test bed by 2008. Participants were concerned that this test bed would set a dangerous precedent and open the door to further testing, development and deployment of space weapons. This potential link between missile defense and space weapons – with NMD serving as the justification for space weapons deployment — was raised repeatedly during the workshop.

The United States and former Soviet Union spent many billions of dollars seeking to develop space weapons over the past four decades. Other nations with access to space, including India and China, have the capability to deploy limited but effective space weapons as well. Multiple potential systems were discussed, including space-deployed kinetic weapons, earth- and space-based anti-satellite (ASAT) systems, and Earth- and space-deployed laser weapons. From the discussions, it was clear that certain types of basic space weapons could be deployed in the near-term.

Legal regimes governing space were discussed, including the Outer Space Treaty, the ABM treaty, and the Treaty on Conventional Weapons in Europe. With the UN Conference of Disarmament deadlocked on the issue of space weapons, the participants felt an urgency to approach this issue from many different angles and involving many different constituencies, including industry, NGOs, the scientific community, the military, the general public and governments. Creative approaches to the legal issues involving space activities will be called for, and are discussed below.

Many participants remarked on the unique situation that space weaponisation presents to organizations like Pugwash. Unlike previous nuclear arms control efforts, the challenge (and opportunity) of space weapons is to prevent them from being deployed in the first place and to maintain the non-weaponised status of space. This is important both because of the short term ramifications of weaponising space, and because once such weapons are deployed, it will be difficult if not impossible to return space to a zone free of weapons deployment. The uniqueness of this situation (the only comparable analogue is the Antarctic) calls for considered dialogue among all the parties utilizing space on the full ramifications of deploying space weapons.

US Congress and space weapons

In order to allow sufficient time for fully analyzing the ramifications of deploying space weapons, a critical task will be to slow the funding for space weapons programs. Citing the adage, “follow the money,” participants noted the importance of US Congressional oversight of budgets relating to space weapons development, particularly as it relates to Bush administration plans for deploying national missile defense.

While NMD plans project the deployment of a space interceptor test bed by 2008, current funding for this program is relatively small. Congress can strongly influence the pace at which space weapons are developed over the next several years. Workshop participants felt that informed dialogue with members of Congress and their staff will be critical for developing a more informed knowledge base on the issue and for coordinating efforts to fully evaluate the military, political and economic ramifications of deploying space weapons.

Building a knowledge base and consensus-building

Increasing the knowledge base on how space weapons could impact current and future uses of space was seen as an immediate next step by workshop participants. Recent and forthcoming analyses from the RAND Corporation, the Stimson Center, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Monterey Institute/ Mountbatten Centre for International Studies will need to be augmented by additional informed analysis covering a broad array of scientific, economic, military, commercial, and governmental perspectives from the entire international community which has become so dependent on space activities.

While the technical feasibility of kinetic energy and other types of space weapons is very likely within the reach of many space-faring nations, a more important question is their utility when compared with earth or air-based alternatives. As an example, space-based kinetic weapons would take longer to destroy their intended earth-based targets than would strategically-located earth-based missile alternatives, with no significant additional energy or destructive power.

Moreover, there are divisions within the US military on issues such as weapons utility and cost-effectiveness, particularly as counter-measures against space weapons will be cheaper and technically simpler than the weapons they are designed to destroy. Detailed analyses of several different types of space weapons and counter-measures are available in the workshop papers.

Finally, however, the primary argument against the deployment of space weapons remains that of their potential for igniting a destabilizing arms race in space. To that end, several participants proposed that space-capable nations adopt a ‘no first deployment’ pledge regarding space weapons.

In the discussion of how to move the debate forward, particularly with national governments, it was noted that a key early step in the Ottawa Process (the campaign to ban landmines) was one of NGOs doing much of the research and information gathering. In that vein, participants discussed ways compiling and sharing documents, for use by both the expert community and the general public, through websites, listservs, and other means.

Once this information is compiled, and a mechanism is in place to collect new information, the creation of documents needs to be aimed at specific target audiences to raise awareness, promote dialogue and improve the knowledge base. Various documents and analyses will not only have differing levels of technical arguments, but will cover different arguments and motivations important to the debate over weaponising space. Especially important will be studies on the critical importance of civilian space assets to many countries and regions, especially in the developing world, in the areas of resource management, education, telecommunication, agricultural production, climate/disaster forecasting, etc., and how these could be affected by the destabilizing consequences of deploying space weapons.

Legal options

Workshop participants engaged in extended discussion of potential legal avenues for a treaty covering all non-nuclear space weapons (the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 already prohibits any space deployment of weapons of mass destruction, and also prohibits all other weapons from being deployed on the Moon and other celestial bodies). Intermediate steps were discussed which could build confidence between nations while creating the context for a common viewpoint on space weapons.

One topic of vigorous debate was whether the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) was a potential venue for such a treaty. The US has blocked discussion of such an agreement for several years, and has yet to indicate any public willingness to change its position. Many workshop participants felt that the CD would not be helpful in this context, while others felt attempts should be made. Overall, the following options were raised:

  1. General Assembly Resolution:One avenue through which to gain international support and momentum – while not a formal treaty – would be the UN General Assembly. A non-binding UNGA resolution endorsing a non-interference policy with all satellites currently in space could logically be followed later by a UNGA resolution prohibiting ASAT testing.
  2. Moratorium:An additional legal option to explore would be national moratoria on space weapons. Under such a moratorium, states would pledge their intent not to be the first to deploy space weapons or to further test destructive anti-satellite weapons. Space-faring nations initiating this pledge could invite other states to join. Such states could then decide to formalize this intent into a treaty in the future.

iii. Debris Management: Space debris management is a real concern to current and future space activities, and could be a means of encouraging cooperation on legal space issues with the US, which already provides substantial leadership in this area.

  1. Protocol to the Outer Space Treaty:A protocol to the OST explicitly banning space weapons would be preferable to a treaty amendment, which would risk opening a ‘Pandora’s box’ of other treaty issues. It was also recommended that Pugwash and other NGOs seek to increase the number of signatories to the OST in order to universalize OST adherence. Mention was made as well of seeking to build on obligations not to interfere with national technical means of verification, as contained in agreements such as the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, of which the US and 29 other countries are signatories.
  2. Space Weapons Treaty:Most difficult in the current climate would be the drafting and adoption of a stand-alone treaty banning the development and deployment of space weapons. Major stumbling blocks identified were those of crafting effective compliance mechanisms and being able to update the Treaty in light of changing technologies. While the positive experience of the Chemical Weapons Convention was mentioned in both regards, participants acknowledged the difficulties involved, especially in terms of dual-use weapons systems (e.g., missile defense and anti-satellite).

It was emphasized that legal steps to ban space weapons should not be taken without the direct involvement of particularly those nations, such as the US, able to deploy such weapons. Unlike the Ottawa landmines treaty, which served a useful purpose even though rejected by the US, any space weapons treaty not drafted with direct US involvement will be useless.

Prior to such efforts, it is essential now to increase international appreciation of the concept of space security that derives from the cooperative uses of space and not the deployment of space weapons. Other states must take the initiative and bring the US into discussions on these issues. As noted above, space debris is one avenue to instigate these discussions, as the United States has taken leadership in this area. Given that many industry players are also defense providers, the issue of space debris is a direct way to involve them as well. These discussions could evolve into other shared concerns in space, such as satellite crowding and collisions, and might lead to the establishment of more regulation beyond ‘rules of the road.’ Efforts to identify shared concerns will be necessary if industry and the military are to be effectively brought into the debate on space weapons.

A timely, consolidated effort

The international community must be ready if and when the US becomes open for a discussion of a treaty on space weapons. This must start with a dissemination of appropriate information globally to make the international community well informed. Bringing together interested parties was thought to be one potential early role for Pugwash.

The international community also needs to be more vocal on this issue, but they must take a practical approach to be heard. It was thought particularly important for the European Union to develop its own position on this important subject. While there is some interest about space weaponisation within the European Parliament, the European Commission has yet to state its position. The current EU Green Paper on “European space policy”, now undergoing public consultation prior to its finalization before the end of 2003, represents an ideal opportunity to address this gap.

The international scientific community also has a key role to play in exploring the effects of space weapons on space science, exploration, and research. Finally, the general public could be an important resource for the overall process at the appropriate time. As the experience of the Ottawa Process demonstrated, a well-known international spokesperson on the dangers of space weaponisation could help galvanize public opinion and inspire grassroots action on these issues.

The role of Pugwash

There was a general consensus that Pugwash can play a valuable role in the process leading to guaranteeing ‘space security’, in particular in improving the knowledge base through timely, well researched reports given to the right authorities, and through meetings and discussions engaging policy makers.

A draft strategy for the steps that Pugwash and the wider community might take on this issue was drafted at the workshop and is attached as an appendix. There is much work to be done in the next year, starting with expanding and disseminating timely information about the current status of space weapons development and the implications of space weapons deployment on current and future international uses of space. National governments, in addition to the US Congress and administration, need to be involved in debating the pros and cons of space weaponisation.

As for Pugwash, there will be a working group on the Weaponisation of Space and Missile Defense during the 53rd Pugwash Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia in July 2003, with further plans for workshops and perhaps the convening of an international space summit on how the prospect of space weapons would unalterably change the character of the space environment for the global community.

Appendix A: The Way Forward for Pugwash

  1. Engage the US Congress in dialogue to reduce spending on space weapons development prior to a critical debate.
  2. Build analytic knowledge base on space weapons
  • Utility of space weapons
    · ASAT-DSAT and countermeasures
    · Effect of space weapons, pro and con, on US conventional military missions
    · Effect of space weapons on civil uses of space (debris management, orbital slots, liability, etc.)
  1. Increase attention of public/media/policymakers
  • Use existing reports and increase their visibility
    · Describe nature of problem and possible solutions for assuring space security for all space users
    · High-profile spokesperson for public attention
    · International space security summit
  1. Target Audiences
  • US Military, Congress and the Bush administration
    · International space/scientific community
    · National Governments and the European Union
    · NGOs
    · Space Providers (telecom industry)
    · Space consumers (those dependent on space for agriculture, resource management, education, environmental protection, mapping, GPS)
    · General Public

A timeline for political/legal initiatives

  • On-going work on CBMs (debris management, compliance issues, etc.)
    · Track II initiatives
    · Increase number of states parties (universal adherence) to the OST
    · UNGA resolution on non-interference with space assets, building on provisions currently in the CFE Treaty
    · UNGA Resolution prohibiting ASAT testing and deployment
    · Negotiate OST protocol prohibiting space weapons



The Consequences of a Space War by Li Bin

Weapons in Space: The Urgent Need For Arms Control – Three Reasons Why We Can’t Wait by Philip E. Coyle and John B. Rhinelander

Space Weapons: Not Yet by Richard L. Garwin

Making Progress: Opportunities for Improving Space Security by Theresa Hitchens

Space Weapons: The Urgent Debate by William Marshall, George Whitesides, Robert Schingler, and Andre Nilsen

Space Benefit Security by U.R. Rao

Russia’s Approaches to Strengthening the International  Legal Regime Prohibiting the Weaponization of Outer Space and Efforts for Building an International Coalition in This Sphere By Andrey Vinnik



Participant List
[Affiliations listed are for information only.  All participants to Pugwash meetings take part in their personal capacity.]

Dr. Jeffrey Boutwell, Executive Director, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, Washington, DC, USA [formerly: Associate Executive Officer, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge; Staff Aide, National Security Council, Washington, DC]

Prof. Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Secretary-General, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs; Professor of Mathematical Physics, University of Milan, Italy; Director, Program on Disarmament and International Security, Landau Network – Centro Volta, Como, Italy [formerly: Secretary General, Union of Italian Scientists for Disarmament (USPID)]

Hon. Philip E. Coyle III, Senior Advisor, Center for Defense Information [formerly: Assistant Secretary of Defense, & Director, Operation Text and Evaluation, US Department of Defense (1994-2001); Associate Director, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory]

Mr. Fernando Davara, Director, European Union Satellite Centre, Madrid, Spain

Mr. José Monserrat Filho, Editor of Journal of Science, a journal of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Prof. Richard Garwin, Senior Fellow for Science and Technology, Council on Foreign Relations, New York, NY, USA ; IBM Fellow Emeritus ; Adjunct Professor of Physics, Columbia University [formerly : Chairman, US Department of State’s Arms Control and Nonproliferation Advisory Board (ACNAB) (1993-2001); Member of Committee and Panel on Nuclear and Radiological Issues]

Dr. Jozef Goldblat (Sweden/Switzerland), Vice President, Geneva International Peace Research Institute (GIPRI), Geneva, Switzerland; Consultant, United Nations, Geneva [formerly: Director, Arms Control & Disarmament Programme, SIPRI (1969-89)]

Dr. Laura Grego, Postdoctoral Fellow, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge, MA, USA [formerly : Scientist, High Energy Astrophysics Division, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics]

Ms. Theresa Hitchens, Vice President, Center for Defense Information, Washington, DC, USA

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director, The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, London, UK; Board Member, Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists); Publisher, Disarmament Diplomacy

Mr. Ian Kenyon, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Mountbatten Centre for International Studies, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, UK [formerly: Executive Secretary, Preparatory Commission for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW PrepCom), The Hague, The Netherlands; HM Diplomatic Service]

Mr. Bob Lawson, Senior Policy Advisor, Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada

Mr. Errol Levy, Seconded National Expert, European Commission (DG Research), Brussels, Belgium [formerly: UK Institutional Marketing Manager, Astrium Ltd., UK]

Dr. Yasunori Matogawa, The Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Japan

Prof. Federico García-Moliner, Professor of Contemporary Science, University “Jaume I”, Castellón de la Plana, Spain; Member, Academic Board, European Peace University, Castellón Branch; Vice-President, IUPAP [formerly: Associate Professor, University of Illinois; Professor, Autonomous University of Madrid; Research Professor, Spanish Research Council]

Dr. Götz Neuneck, Senior Fellow, IFSH, Hamburg, Germany; Member, Pugwash Council [formerly: Max-Planck-Society, Working group Starnberg]

Dr. Xavier Pasco, Strategic Research Foundation, Paris, France

Hon. John B. Rhinelander, Senior Counsel, Shaw Pittman, Washington, DC, USA; President, Lawyers Alliance for World Security (LAWS); Director, Arms Control Association (ACA) [formerly: Legal Adviser, US SALT I Delegation]

Amb.Walter Jürgen Schmid, Commissioner of the Federal Republic of Germany for Arms Control and Disarmament, Federal Foreign Office, Berlin, Germany

Mr. Andrey Vinnik, Second Secretary, Department for Security Affairs and Disarmament, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Moscow

Student/Young Student Participants

Mr. William Marshall, PhD Student, Department of Physics, University of Oxford, UK; Founder, Oxford Student Pugwash; Member, Institute of Physics

Mr. Yuri Takaya, LL.M. of space law, PhD Candidate (from Sept. 2003), Faculté Jean Monnet a Sceauz, Université Paris Sud-XI, Paris, France [formerly: Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Japan]

Mr. George T. Whitesides, Project Director, Permission to Dream Institution, Venice, CA, USA; Board of Directors, Space Generation Foundation; Co-founder, Yuri’s Night [formerly: Board of Trustees, Princeton University; Vice President of Marketing, Zero Gravity Corporation; Special Assistant to the President, Orbital Sciences Corporation; MPhil., remote sensing and GIS, Cambridge University


Hon. Martha Krebs, Ph.D., President, Science Strategies, a consulting firm; Member, Board of Trustees, Institute for Defense Analyses; Member, National Research Council¹s Board on Energy and Environmental Systems [formerly: Associate Vice Chancellor for Research UCLA; Founding Director, California NanoSystems Institute, UCLA & UC Santa Barbara; Assistant Secretary of Energy and Director of the Office of Science (1993-2000); Associate Director for Planning and Development, DOE¹s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1983-1993)]

Claudia Vaughn, Pugwash Conferences