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Laura Grego (Union of Concerned Scientists)

Date: Thu. September 13th, 2018, 4:00 pm-5:00 pm
Location: Rockefeller 301

Missile Defense and Space Weapons

Missile defenses and space weapons have been pursued at modest levels for many decades, but both are poised to see an enormous increase in funding and scope in the United States. Developments in North Korean nuclear and missile programs are providing justification to build more of existing missile defense systems as well as new types of systems.  And recent policy directs the Pentagon to create a Space Force and to begin building both offensive and defensive space systems.

Missile defense and space weapons are also closely related technologically. Defense systems designed to target ballistic missiles have inherent capabilities as anti-satellite weapons. The existing US ground- and sea-based missile defense systems are projected to grow significantly, and will in theory be able hold at risk nearly all Chinese and Russian satellites in low-earth orbits. China, Russia, and other countries are also developing their own missile defense systems and other means to interfere with satellites.

Additionally, Congress has directed the Pentagon to begin development of a space-based missile defense system, though it has yet to provide funds to do so. Such a system, requiring hundreds of orbiting interceptors to target a few launching missiles, would be extremely costly and inherently fragile. It would also be strategically disastrous, justifying adversaries to develop new nuclear weapons and delivery systems and damaging prospects for future arms control agreements. Space-based interceptors would have powerful anti-satellite capabilities, as they could reach geosynchronous orbits. This talk will explain the relevant technologies and their policy and strategic implications.

Page last modified: August 17, 2018