New Zealand – Peacekeeper On The Final Frontier?
Press Release – Auckland Peace Action and Rocket Lab Monitor
Peace and disarmament researchers in New Zealand say the Government should take a global leadership role to protect Earth by ensuring Outer Space is not the focus of a new arms race.
This week the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research hosted a conference on Outer Space Security. Participants heard from global experts who universally expressed concern with the accelerating arms race in Space. Presenters reiterated the failure of the Outer Space Treaty to ensure Space is used solely for peaceful purposes and the problem of Space now being referred to as a war-fighting domain (along with land, air and sea).
Experts also called attention to the problem of regulating Space activities now that private interests instead of state agencies have become the dominant actors in Space launches over the past ten years.
“New Zealand is one of the few countries with Space launching capabilities due to Rocket Lab, and the New Zealand Government approving these satellite launches” said Eliana Darroch from Auckland Peace Action.
“The risk is that New Zealand has aligned itself with a global superpower that sees Space as the final frontier for war, so they are racing to put the odds in their favour by getting as much military technology into Space as quickly as possible.”
“There are opportunities for New Zealand to take a moral position at the United Nations as we have with the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, but that means at home we need to ensure launches are only used for peaceful purposes.”
Shares in Rocket Lab jumped this week with the announcement the company has secured another major contract with the US military.
“If Rocket Lab wants to serve US military interests then they should do that in the United States” said Sonya Smith from Rocket Lab Monitor, a research group of residents based on the East Coast near the Mahia launch site.
“Space launches from Mahia for the US military are reminiscent of nuclear weapons tests by the US and France in the South Pacific. New Zealand has a strong record of promoting peace on the global stage but that is impossible if we are enabling the weaponisation of Space from New Zealand” said Ms Smith
“Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta has referred to New Zealand policy for Outer Space as being based on the principle of ‘Kaitiakitanga’ – that is an awesome idea but at present our Space policy is literally enabling a new arms race which is the antithesis of being kaitiaki for Space and the inhabitants of Earth.”
Based on the assessments shared at the UN conference, the peace groups say demilitarisation of Space is a goal that the New Zealand Government should take a lead on as other countries like China and the United States rush to control Space and establish settlements on the moon.
Rocket Lab is due to launch another military satellite, with the next launch expected early October, the first in a rapid succession of scheduled launches over the next month that represent the company’s fastest launch turnarounds to date. The launches are for BlackSky Corporation and Infrastructure Inc, both US military contractors.
In March Rocket Lab announced it has signed a deal with Spaceflight Infrastructure Inc. to deploy satellites for BlackSky that includes a U.S. Army program focused on ‘tactical geospatial intelligence‘.
MilSat Magazine, an industry publication covering military satellite developments says:
“By combining geospatial information with a variety of sources, sensor data and IoT feeds as well as leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques, BlackSky’s Spectra AI platform provides an unprecedented level of data depth and analysis for customers at almost instantaneous speeds… The TacGEO program is designed to support the [US Department of Defense]’s needs for responsive, space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) for tactical applications.
In May the launch of BlackSky satellites failed with the rocket crashing back to Earth. BlackSky at the time said it was still committed to the deployment of a massive constellation of satellites that are part of a trend Space experts have criticised as creating a dangerous amount of objects and debris in orbit around Earth.
The peace groups are calling on Ministers Nanaia Mahuta and Stuart Nash to ensure the New Zealand public and Māori have the opportunity to participate in an upcoming review of the Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Act, and to ensure New Zealand is not granting permission to launches involved in the militarisation of Space.
“We also urge concerned citizens to contact their MP and the Ministers to let them know New Zealand needs to uphold our position as a global leader in nonproliferation and stop approving further military payloads being launched from New Zealand soil” said Ms Darroch who is collecting signatures in an Action Station petition from people concerned about the situation.