Anti-Satellite Weapons, Space Debris, and Canada

David WrightLast week our campaign to promote space security received a boost from a visit to Ottawa by Cambridge-based Dr. David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists. We invited Dr. Wright to come to Canada and to speak to Members of Parliament about the growing international danger posed to space security by anti-satellite weapons.

Dr. Wright wrote about that Chinese anti-satellite test earlier this year, and our folks around the Rideau Institute and our colleagues at the Secure World Foundation thought that Dr. Wright would be a good person to get some discussions kick-started in Canada’s Parliament.

As the article in the Ottawa Citizen reported, Dr. Wright brought with him an open letter on space debris to Prime Minister Stephen Harper outlining the need to bring about an international ban on destructive and space debris-creating anti-satellite weapons.

Wright Press ConferenceDr. Wright, our senior advisor on space security and former UN Ambassador for Disarmament Peggy Mason, and the Rideau Institute’s Program Director and Secure World Foundation consultant Anthony Salloum held a press conference to release the letter.

In part, the letter said,

The January 2007 Chinese test was conducted against a relatively small, defunct weather satellite, and yet that test resulted in a 20 percent increase in low earth orbit debris with size greater than one centimeter. Because it was created at high altitude (850 kilometers), more than half of the debris created in that test will remain in orbit for several decades.

Banning destructive anti-satellite weapons would also have important implications for international security by reducing the chance that the failure of a satellite during a time of tension would be interpreted as a deliberate attack—an interpretation that could result in a further escalation of tensions or lead to retaliation.

Because many aspects of modern life—civil, economic, scientific, and military—rely heavily on satellites, ensuring the sustainable use of space must be a high international priority. One of the most important steps in this direction is developing a legal regime that bans the testing and use of debris-creating anti-satellite weapons. International leadership is urgently needed to put such a regime in place. Canada, with significant space assets to protect and an international reputation for promoting space security, is in an excellent position to provide such leadership.

I appreciate your attention to this issue.


David Wright, PhD

Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program

Union of Concerned Scientists

David Wright and Bonnie Brown at MPs’ briefingLater, Dr. Wright and our team gave a lunch-time breifing on space debris for Members of Parliament that was hosted by our freind Bonnie Brown (Liberal, Oakville). Ms. Brown is a long-time peace advocate, and she was one of the group of MPs we worked with to keep Canada out of missile defence.

We hope to build a multi-party network of MPs interested in this issue, and we were very pleased that MPs from all four of the parties accepted our invitation (but Francine Lalonde from the Bloc Quebecois was unable to attend at the last minute). The MPs who attended, in addition to Bonnie Brown, were Larry Bagnall (Liberal, Yukon), Borys Werzesnewskyj (Liberal, Etobicoke Centre), Bill Casey (Conservative, Cumberland- Colchester-Musquodoboit River), Alexa McDonough (NDP, Halifax), and Paul Dewar (NDP, Ottawa Centre).

CPAC Interview with Wright and MasonDespite the fact that our day on the Hill was overshadowed by the unexpected result of the Quebec election, we did garner some media attention in the CanWest chain and this indepth interview on CPAC (starts 50 minutes into the program) with David Wright and Peggy Mason.


Tags: Space