Spacefarers take note: an attack on the spacecraft of one nation is an attack on all spacecraft.
That's the message the US National Security Space Strategy is using to promote peace in space. Published last week, the NSSS report is the first time that the US military and intelligence community have agreed on an approach to the threat posed by space weapons.
Many nations rely on GPS and communications satellites, but these are vulnerable to damage if another spacecraft is attacked. For example, satellites are still at risk from the thousands of shards that were produced when a Chinese missile destroyed a weather satellite in 2007.
So the US intelligence agencies and Pentagon will "encourage other countries to act responsibly in space", says Gregory Schulte, US deputy secretary of defence for space policy. That means forming international alliances that promote "norms" of behaviour in orbit that are designed to prevent deliberate or accidental debris creation.
Attack one, attack all
Laura Grego, a specialist in space security at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, welcomes the new strategy.
"It's a thoughtful and carefully written document with a lot of really positive things in it," she says. Grego also approves of highlighting the negative impacts of aggressive behaviour in orbit.
Establishing coalitions also makes sense, says security commentator John Pike of defence think tank GlobalSecurity.org. "Creating partnerships means an attack on one is an attack on all," he says. The norms will get across the message that "it is not nice to shoot at satellites", Pike adds.
But while Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington DC says that "the government deserves a bit of credit for addressing these delicate issues in a public way", he would like more detail on how exactly the strategy will be implemented.
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