Microsatellites in the sky

Friday, July 20, 2007

Nanotechnology enabled the creation of cheaper and smaller satellites: microsatellites. These satellites weighed less than 100kg, GPS-nav, weather predictions, and Earth observation just like normal satellites, it cost as little as 10 million and so far around 400 have been launched for various purposes.

But because they are small, they can be use to spy on other spacecraft or other space structure:

"If someone interferes with another satellite, or even if the interference is caused accidentally by a piece of debris, this kind of event is likely to start a war, because this can be confused for a satellite attack."

"We really would like to see is a law against satellite destruction, any testing and usable weapon that does that. It is really time to regulate what is going on in space, the regulation that we have is pretty rusty."

The legal principles regulating peaceful uses of outer-space is actually already in place. Take for example, Article III of the Space Treaty:
States Parties to the Treaty shall carry on activities in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international co-operation and understanding.
The treaty does not mention anything about satellites or space structures. Nuclear weaponry and other form of WMD is strictly prohibited in space. Howbout nano-weapon? Well, as long as they are not categorized as WMD, it can be OK. There could be a loophole here.