Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Against the militarization of space

RocketLab is a cool company. Its right there in the title: "rocket". As someone who loves space exploration and the knowledge it brings, I love the fact that they're launching from New Zealand, and I love the fact that they're planning to send probes to the Moon and Venus (and now Mars) to learn more about those places. But like many kiwis, I'm also deeply uncomfortable with their work for the US military and the use of New Zealand to launch payloads which aren't just for technological research, but which are actively part of the US military intelligence system and part of its kill chain. Fortunately, the Greens are now speaking up for us, and pushing a members bill to ensure that New Zealand isn't used as a launchpad for weaponising space:

The Green Party has drafted a member's bill that would stop companies like Rocket Lab launching "military hardware" into space.

Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono​, the party’s security and intelligence spokesman, announced the proposed legisation and attended a protest outside Rocket Lab’s Auckland headquarters on Monday.

Tuiono said, in a statement, that New Zealand’s space industry should not be “used by military actors to launch weaponry”, and the existing Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill had “so many gaps and grey areas”.

“Foreign military powers are literally launching rockets through it ... Launches from Mahia have carried at least 13 payloads for US military or intelligence agencies.

“The Government has a responsibility to make sure technologies sent into orbit from New Zealand soil do not assist other countries' armies to wage war.”

The bill is here, and bans any launch of "military hardware", defined as "weapons, equipment, machinery, or any other thing intended for use for military purposes by any armed force, paramilitary force, police force, or militia". A lot hangs on that term "military purposes", but it would seem to obviously include communications and intelligence collection, not just weapons. Note that there's no exclusion for New Zealand; NZDF is treated the same as the CIA. Which is fair enough: space should be used for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all humanity, not as a military base. And while other countries have based plenty of military hardware in space already, we can refuse to be part of the problem, and encourage other countries to join us in that commitment.