Friday 14th of June 2024

the third detritus depot from the sun...

Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX recently secured a classified contract to build an extensive network of “spy satellites” for an undisclosed U.S. intelligence agency, with one source telling Reuters that “no one can hide” under the prospective network’s reach.


By Stavroula Pabst Responsible Statecraft


While the deal suggests the space company, which currently operates over half the active satellites orbiting Earth, has warmed to U.S. national security agencies, it’s not the first Washington investment in conflict-forward space machinery. Rather, the U.S. is funding or otherwise supporting a range of defense contractors and startups working to create a new generation of space-bound weapons, surveillance systems, and adjacent technologies.

In other words, America is hell-bent on a new arms race — in space.

Space arms, then and now

Attempts to regulate weapons’ presence and use in space span decades. Responding to an intense, Cold War-era arms race between the U.S. and Soviet Union, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty established that space, while free for all countries to explore and use, was limited to peaceful endeavors. Almost 60 years later, the Outer Space Treaty’s vague language regarding military limitations in space, as space policy experts Michelle L.D. Hanlon and Greg Autry highlight, “leave more than enough room for interpretation to result in conflict.”

Stonewalling subsequent international efforts to limit the militarization of space (though the U.S. is participating in a new U.N. working group on the subject), Washington’s interest in space exploration and adjacent weapons technologies also goes back decades. Many may recall President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which was established to develop land-, air-, and space-based missile defense systems to deter missile or nuclear weapons attacks against the U.S. Cynically referred to by critics as the “Star Wars” program, many SDI initiatives were ultimately canned due to prohibitive costs and technological limitations.

And while the Pentagon established Space Command in 1985, the Space Force, an entirely new branch of the military “focused solely on pursuing superiority in the space domain,” was launched in 2019, signaling renewed emphasis on space militarization as U.S. policy.

Weapons contractors cash in 

Long-term American interest in space war tech now manifests in ambitious projects, where defense companies and startups are lining up for military contracts to create a new generation of space weaponry and adjacent tech, including space vehicles, hypersonic rockets, and extensive surveillance and communications projects.

For starters, Space Force’s Space Development Agency recently granted defense contractors L3Harris and Lockheed Martin and space company Sierra Space contracts worth $2.5 billion to build satellites for the U.S. military’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA), a constellation of hundreds of satellites, built out on tranches, that provide various warfighting capabilities, including the collection and transmission of critical wartime communications, into low-Earth orbit.

The PWSA will serve as the backbone of the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control project, an effort to bolster warfighting capacities and decision-making processes by facilitating “information advantage at the speed of relevance.”

Other efforts are just as sci-fi-esque. Zoning in on hypersonic weapons systems and parts, for example, RTX (formerly Raytheon) and Northrop Grumman have collaborated to secure a DARPA contract for a Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapons Concept, where scramjet-powered missiles can travel at hypersonic speeds (Mach 5 or faster) for offensive purposes.

And Aerospace startup True Anomaly, which was founded by military officers and has received funding from the U.S. Space Force to the tune of over $17 million, is developing space weapons and adjacent conflict-forward tools. An example is True Anomaly’s Jackal Autonomous Orbital Vehicle, an imaging satellite able to take on, according to True Anomaly CEO Even Rogers, “rendezvous and proximity operations missions” with “uncooperative” targets.

As True Anomaly finds fiscal success, accruing over $100 million in a December 2023 series B fundraising round from venture capitalists including Eclipse Ventures and ACME Capital, other aerospace start-ups are flooding the market with the assistance of the U.S. government, both in funding and other critical partnerships.

Take how Firehawk Aerospace — which wants to “create the rocket system of the future” to “enab[le] the next generation of aerospace and defense systems” — partnered with NASA in 2021 to test rocket engines at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. It recently secured Army Applications Laboratory and U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research Awards to advance developments in its rocket motors and engines.

And data and satellite-focused American space tech company Capella Space, a contractor for federal agencies including the Air and Space Forces, specializes in reconnaissance and powerful surveillance tools, including geospatial intelligence and Synthetic Aperture Radar monitoring that help national security officials identify myriad security risks. In early 2023, Capella Space even formed a subsidiary, Capella Federal, to provide federal clients with additional access to Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery services.

We need diplomacy, not space superiority

The funding of expensive, futuristic space surveillance and weapons projects indicates the U.S.’s eagerness to maintain superiority, where military personnel posit such advancements are critical within the context of both a “space race” and an increasingly tumultuous geopolitical climate, if not the possibility of war in space outright.

As Space Force General Chance Saltzman declared at the recent Mitchell Institute Spacepower Security Forum: “if we do not have space, we lose.” Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in late February, U.S. Space Force General Stephen N. Whiting explained that the U.S. Space Command must bolster its military capacities through increased personnel training and investments in relevant technologies so that the U.S. is “ready if deterrence fails.”

While upping its own military capacities, however, Washington is simultaneously pushing against other countries’ anti-satellite weapons testing, a capability the U.S. already has.

What’s more, the U.S. recently accused Russia of developing possibly nuclear anti-satellite weaponry in violation of the Outer Space Treaty. But the accusations, which Russia denies, are vague. And, as Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and Clayton Swope of the Center for Strategic and International Studies posit, Russia’s use of such a weapon seems unlikely as it is “effectively [a] kamikaze attack,” and would likely take out many of Russia’s own satellites while prompting major retaliation from adversaries.

In any case, such pointing fingers, when coupled with ongoing space deterrence and weapons proliferation efforts, does little to advance genuine diplomacy, where states could instead discuss, on equal terms, how space should be used and shared amongst nations.

Ultimately, weapons and aerospace companies’ efforts have launched a new generation of weaponry and adjacent tech — buoyed by consistent support from a “deterrence”-focused U.S. As a result, the military industrial complex has further expanded into the domain of space, where defense companies have new opportunities to score lucrative weapons contracts and theoretically even push for more conflict.


it's time for being earnest.....





our view as well....


Environmental balance: It's possible with the gift of AI


Judging by the extent of environmental destabilisation over the last century, Earth’s productivity needs to be 'rebalanced'. Keith Presnell believes AI is the gift that might get us there.

A BALANCED ENVIRONMENT is a productive environment. The debate about the impact that our species is having on environmental balance incorporates science, politics, guesswork and lies.

Mankind’s many technological advances are at risk of being lost for want of balance. Should we as a species intend to preserve opportunities for future generations, we will need to exhibit a functional appreciation of the mechanics involved. 

Balance buys the time needed for order to emerge from chaos. Order then, fathers synergies, either as natural evolution or as conscious behaviour. Wikipedia describes balance in biomechanics as 'an ability to maintain the line of gravity (vertical line from centre of mass) of a body within the base of support with minimal postural sway.'

Natural balance

Natural balance contains a degree of "postural sway" that enables the environment to absorb change without undue disturbance. The challenge for contemporary society is to recognise the limits imposed by postural sway and to adjust its behaviour accordingly.

The graph below depicts the social equivalent of the economist’s "supply and demand" graph. It incorporates the behavioural fluxes that underpin our civilisation.

Social balance


It will need to resurrect the use of "common sense" as a filter for actions taken and that might well involve engaging artificial intelligence (AI) to audit human behaviour. We must learn to put cooperation before competition, treat education as distinct from manipulation and minimise deceitful communication.

When an individual's voice is discounted, when one is deprived of access to a functional education or left without a challenge, then the outcome for communities will be sub-optimal.

Such individuals become grist for antisocial activities. The holy grail for humanity is to coordinate the potential of every individual to be productive and creative. That will involve universal access to education and a population size regulated to match the demands of evolution.

From diversity comes resilience. Balance is a feature of small communities where everybody knows everybody and natural accountability sponsors equity. Members generally share social responsibilities.

However, since the Industrial Revolution, the bulk of the rural population has emigrated to large cities where the needs of the community are met by "the system". This homogenised service comes at a cost, which not all members of the community either want, or can afford. 

Modern mega-communities have become "commercial operations" at the expense of both cultural and species diversity. Their operation discounts equity and integrity, replacing them with a suite of marketing strategies that serve to channel the bulk of the benefits from environmental plunder and the efforts of the majority into the coffers of a minority.,18527








warming up faster than expected, despite the sceptics....


of free will and a free existential lunch....


caught in the shadow of our own web.....


mimicking human stupidity.....







elon vs kanbra.....

The debate continues to rage over Elon Musk’s refusal to take down videos of the church stabbing from X. Musk claims freedom of speech, and the Government wants to censor the world. Internet law expert Dan Svantesson warns of unintended consequences.

Do Australian courts have the right to decide what foreign citizens located overseas view online on a foreign-owned platform?

Anyone inclined to answer “yes” to this question should perhaps also ask themselves whether they are equally happy for courts in China, Russia and Iran to determine what Australians can see and post online in Australia.

This is the problem with global “take-down orders”, an issue we now must confront in light of the Australian eSafety commissioner demanding that social media platform X (formerly Twitter) remove videos of a violent stabbing at a church in Sydney.

X agreed to prevent access to the content in Australia. However, at an urgent federal court hearing late Monday, the commissioner demanded a full removal, with an interim measure of blocking the posts globally.

Do global take-down orders work?

There can be no doubt that a global take-down order can be justified in some instances. For example, child abuse materials and so-called revenge porn are clear examples of content that should be removed with global effect.

But it is far too simplistic to seek to justify a global take-down order just by saying that any platform operating in Australia must comply with Australian law, as shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham said in a Sky News interview this morning.

After all, international law imposes limitations on what demands Australian law can place on foreigners acting outside Australia.

It is also too simplistic to just focus on efficiency, as was done in the context of so-called geo-blocking – the use of geo-location technologies to block users from a specific location. Attempts to block online piracy sites, for example, have famously been ineffective.

Of course, a court order requiring X to take down certain content globally is more effective than a court order requiring X to geo-block such content so that users in Australia cannot access it.

But that efficiency argument applies equally to Iran’s draconian blasphemy laws or the Chinese laws that make it an offence to compare Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh.

Even if X removed the content on a global basis, those Australians who are hell-bent on viewing the footage in question would be able to find it somewhere else online.

In other words, there is no realistic way to fully ensure the content cannot be accessed at all.

Ordering X to use geo-location technologies to block Australians from viewing the content would be sufficient to prevent the general Australian public from coming into contact with the video. Doing so would also show respect for the fact that different countries have different laws.

An unusually poor ‘test case’ for free speech

Elon Musk, the American billionaire owner of X, has chosen to approach the matter as a fight for free speech in the face of “censorship”. Such a move would no doubt gain support among the conspiracy theorists and online trolls in his audience. But for the broader Australian public, this must appear like an odd occasion to fight for free speech.

There can sometimes be real tension between free speech and the suppression of violent imagery. For example, some news reporting from military conflicts may be deemed too graphic by some, while others view it as a necessary tool to illustrate the level of violence being committed.

Here, there are no such complex considerations. There is simply no arguable value in keeping the videos online.

Consequently, while removing the content can be described as censorship, it is hard to understand why anyone would object to this censorship.

After all, not even the staunchest free speech advocates would be able to credibly object to all censorship. (For example, consider the publication of child abuse materials or Musk’s credit card details.)