PUMA
Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie dell'Informazione     
Anselmo L. Security in space. In: International workshop on Paolo Farinella (1953-2000): the scientist and the man (Dipartimento di Matematica, UniversitÓ di Pisa, June 14-16 2010).
 
 
Abstract
(English)
In addition to his prolific and fecund scientific activity, Paolo Farinella devoted a considerable amount of his time and energies to the political, military and social implications of space activities and research. Most of these interests may be collectively included under the expression "security in space". The aim of this presentation is roughly reviewing the Paolo's ideas and contributions in the field. Paolo was of course well aware of the growing strategic importance of space assets and recognized the positive and stabilizing role, in the context of the arms race between the two superpowers, of the so-called "national technical means of verification", i.e. "spy satellites". But he was also a staunch defender of the outer space preservation for future generations, endorsing the ban of destabilizing orbital arms systems, as space-based bombardment vehicles, anti-satellite weapons and the "star wars" anti-missile battle stations envisaged in the US in the 1980's. In other words, Paolo recognized that space activities, both in the military and in the civilian areas, might become dangerous. In fact, there are circumstances in which space activities may cause significant threats to the security of both nations and people. Well known examples are anti-satellite weapons, space vehicles carrying radioactive material on board, uncontrolled re-entering space objects, and explosions or collisions in space generating swarms of orbiting debris. If dangerous activities were to be carried out by a nation in a region which is "common property of mankind", the adoption of constraints, regulations and monitoring appeared necessary to safeguard the interests of other parties. Paolo strongly believed that, in this area, an internationally agreed regime would be by far superior to purely unilateral moves; likewise, he was convinced that establishing an international system for space surveillance and verification would present significant advantages with respect to the proliferation of "national technical means". Concerning specifically the use of nuclear power in space, widespread concerns prompted the UN General Assembly, in 1992, to approve a resolution establishing criteria for a safe use of such capability. However, these criteria were restricted to non-propulsive systems and to current types of technologies and missions. Paolo believed that while a comprehensive ban on space nuclear systems in general appeared neither feasible nor desirable, additional "rules of the road" were needed to address current and future safety concerns. In such a context, it appeared important to make a clear distinction between nuclear systems operating permanently in low Earth orbit and systems launched from, or assembled near, the Earth, but intended to operate in deep interplanetary space. While the former systems should be forbidden, up to a maximum height taking into account the collision hazard with orbital debris, the latter ones might be allowed, provided suitable safety measures or devices were put in place.
Subject Space surveillance
Safety
Security
Arms race
Orbital debris
Nuclear power systems
J.2 Physical Sciences and Engineering
70M20 Orbital mechanics


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