chapter  2
43 Pages

The evolution of national space policies

As is inevitably the case, in order to understand a contemporary phenomenon, one must appreciate the contribution of its formative history. This chapter concisely examines the historical, political, and economic evolution of national space policies at the beginning of the space age, as a basis for understanding, categorizing, and comparing the space policies of developing countries. For emerging space actors (EMSAs), their path into space and space policy has been largely paved by the space-faring states that came before them, which established the practices, norms, and legal environment of space activities today. This chapter examines the genesis of space policy in the modern state system and analyzes how space programs evolved and assumed a place of policy prominence during the Cold War-first among the competing superpowers, and then among other significant developed states. This chapter also provides a reflection on the concurrent development of missile and nuclear programs by these same powers, which is appropriate and necessary because of the dual-use nature of these technologies. A technological and political maxim that materialized during the space age is that there has been an inexorable and symbiotic relationship between space programs, missile technology, and nuclear programs, whenever technologically and politically feasible. This interlocking triad goes a long way in explaining the impetus for the creation of national space programs among the larger and wealthier countries of the developing world. The explanation for this symbiosis is straightforward: the same technology that can put satellites in space can also launch weapon payloads at an enemy, and in the post-World War II period, the ultimate expression of national security for larger states has been the development, or at least the threat of development, of rocketry and nuclear weapons. Thus, a recurrent theme herein is the extent to which national security considerations, in terms of strategic and tactical gains as well as

propaganda value, shaped and impelled the various stages of these first space programs. Socioeconomic benefits were frequently secondary considerations at best. These security benefits have also been argued as the rationale for the development of nuclear weapons.1 The present study suggests that this motivation also largely prevails among the larger and more developed EMSAs today. While there have been many important achievements in space research for the purpose of “pure science” (e.g., the Hubble Space Telescope, the three Mars rovers, the Cassini probe, etc.) and a number of noteworthy international agreements to promote cooperation in space, the historical evidence patently demonstrates that the sustained peaceful and cooperative exploration of space was never considered a viable or even desirable option by the largest and most capable states during the space race, an outlook that persists on some level to this day among the larger emerging economic powers.2 When scientific spacerelated research has been carried out, the impetus for it has tended to be either to provide the foundation for future military space endeavors or to match the scientific and propaganda efforts of others, thereby buttressing the realist argument that a balance-of-power mentality has imbued national space policies. The scope and the budgets of non-security-related space research have traditionally paled in comparison to the nationalsecurity-oriented efforts of the larger and more capable emerging space actors. In short, much of the history of space exploration during the formative years of national space programs has been essentially that of the attempted control and, occasionally, the militarization of space. This established paradigm continues to influence the development of many, though not all, emerging space programs of the developing world, though these have the added motivation of economic and social development through improved communications and remote-sensing technologies.