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Guest: Michael Listner; Topics: National Space Council meeting, Russian ASAT Test, weapons including nuclear weapons in space, space policy, Chinese hypersonic weaponry, and much more.
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We welcomed Michael Listner back to the show for an end of the year space law and policy review though we mostly focused on the recent Russian ASAT test, the recently held first meeting of the National Space Council, and a multitude of concerns regarding China and Russia with weapons in space. Please see the tags/key words for a summary of the topics discussed on the show. I will also mention some of the other topics which were discussed in detail and which caught my interest.
Tags/key words: Michael Listner, National Space Council meeting, Space Solar Power, long term funding studies, Russian ASAT test, National Security Forum at the Regan Library, Russian ASAT a test or demo, UK space habitat norms for responsible space behavior, economic sanctions, fossil fuel as a force multiplier, space policy is geopolitical, lack of consequences, Ukraine policy, space debris, Russia and China debris concerns, ASAT threat, U.S. ASAT tests, space control, general population awareness, Starship direct to the Moon, bypassing Artemis, Artemis accords, Poland and France with Artemis, space as a commons, China's hypersonic missile weapon, FOBS, FOBS and the OST, OST and nuclear weapons in space, X-rays lasers in space, Program 439, LBJ program called Sentinel, space weapons pushback, commercial space debris concerns, U.S. Space Force, NEPA and space development, space development and commerce regarding space policy, "Space Thoughts" by Michael Listner.
We started our discussion talking about the recently held National Space Council meeting chaired by Vice President Harris as well as the recent Russian ASAT test which created a significant LEO debris field. Another topic I brought up very early in the discussion was space solar power, asking for Bob's opinion on it making its way to active space policy making its way into Green New Deal policies as many listeners and callers on The Space Show want and seem to think may actually happen. Bob had much to say on SSP but the bottom line was that it was far off into the future but we might start seeing some economic longer fun studies undertaken and financed by government money.
We promptly turned our attention to the ASAT tests. Be sure to see the two videos Michael posted to our blog as they were part of our discussion. Our conversation with Michael was involved and thorough covering every aspect of what happened including treaty obligations and infractions, the various nations that have launched ASAT tests over the years, UK space habitat norms being negotiated, weapons in space including nuclear weapons. provisions in the Outer Space Treaty governing these issues plus lots more. I strongly suggest you listen carefully to what Michael had to say on these and other topics (see the tags) as he provided us with a high level discussion on the ASAT test or demo.
Todd was the first to send in a question which dealt with realizing just how important space has been and will continue to be as a geopolitical platform. He inquired about space and its geopolitical status plus he asked about any possible consequences to the Russians for what they did re creating significant amounts of LEO debris. Skipping forward a bit, we took a call from Ft. Worth John who once again (he did this on a previous show he called in on) wanted to talk about negotiating from strength, the U.S. position with Russia, Ukraine what he thought our policy should be. Eventually I suggested he move on as we are not a Russian-Ukrainian foreign policy show but John makes some good sense. That said, I was surprised John did not bring up the treaty agreement entered into in the 90's by Pres. Clinton, Russia, and the UK to defend the independence of Ukraine providing they gave up their nuclear weapons which they did. The agreement known as The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances dates from 1994. It was far more involved than my short description but not being a foreign policy expert, I would think it applies to the current stressful situation with Ukraine. As next week is Open Lines, perhaps Ft. Wroth John can do a bit of research and see how that agreement, which I believe is still in force today, works with his commentary he has been making on recent Space Show programs given his recommendations on what our behavior toward Russia should include. Should you decide to look it up for yourself, you will find lots of great articles and information on it from the UN to the Brookings Institute plus other very credible sources. Check this article out from 2014 with Brookings, www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2019/12/05/why-care-about-ukraine-and-the-budapest-memorandum. While this is most likely a side track from space, I am bringing it up given John's continuation of making it a Space Show topic with this Sunday being the final Open Lines show of the year and a plausible space for John and others interested in it to have a brief discussion on it and the current Russian-Ukrainian situation. By the way, here is a copy of the agreement: www.pircenter.org/media/content/files/12/13943175580.pdf.
Moving on, debris and what to do about it was a big part of the discussion. War, holding a party responsible for debris, consequences, legal issues and more. Michael provided us with a good amount of information on these topics which will certainly serve as a guide for years to come given most likely a lack of progress in changing the status quo. Michael, in his commentary, several times made a point of saying that the Russians and Chinese don't see nuclear weapons or a nuclear war the way we do. Listen to all of what he said to understand what Michael was talking about. Post your comments about this on our blog as we would like to know what you think about these matters, including weapons in space. The MAD policy from the Cold War got attention, so did deterrence.
Artemis came up when a listener asked Michael about the idea to bypass the Gateway with Starship and go directly to the Moon. As part of the response to this line of questioning by our guest, he talked about Artemis and new members to it, plus what the government may be doing in terms of signing up new participants with the Accords. After this discussion, Michael zoomed in on the Chinese hypersonic nuclear missile in the news of late.
Michael, in talking about this weapon, said it was a big deal. He described it as a fractional orbital bombardment system first developed by the Soviet Union for the Cold War. We spent lots of time on the subject, explaining the technology, the place of the FOB in UN space treaties and agreements, in the context of putting nukes in space or weaponing space. Listen carefully to what our guest had to say because you might be surprised by some of his conclusions and comments. Michael brought up other types of weapons including X-ray lasers in space plus he referenced Program 439 referring to a space weapons acquisition program. Michael mentioned other programs that had been pushed but not realized, including an old LBJ program called Sentinel.
Coming up at the end of the program, Linda sent in a note asking about commercial space and debris plus the role of the Dept. of Commerce as compared to the Dept. of Transportation. Randy wanted updates on our Space Force and then Michael brought up the concern over applying NEPA to space. He believed this would be settled in early 2022 though it might end up going to the Supreme Court. As our guest was he concluding, he offered a few opinions on the National Space Council and if they would issue Space Policy Directives as was done with the last administration. Finally, Michael pointed us to his blog "Space Thoughts" which you can find at https://spacethoughtsblog.wordpress.com/author/michlis.
Please post your comments/questions for Michael Listner on our blog. You can reach him through me or his website, https://www.spacelawsolutions.com. Don't forget his excellent newsletter which we discussed at the end of the show. You can find it on the website in the line above on the upper menu, the Precis.