I'd like to know which countries want to weaponize space and are against making a "peaceful space treaty".

To make myself clear:

I know more than 100 countries are parties to the Outer Space Treaty, including the US, Russia, China, India, and so on. Even though all of those countries are signed on this treaty, I still see a lot of articles about countries (such as those stated) testing anti satellite missiles (like this), about China wanting to militarize space (and at the same time about China being concerned about the US militarizing space).

This makes things quite unclear to me: Is the interest of those (and other) to weaponize space? Are countries worried other countries will weaponize space so they try to do so themselves (leading to an arms race)?

I'd like to ask as well, to make my point more clear perhaps, which countries will "be upset" if space militarization was prohibited?

  • 2
    It would seem that military "spy satellites" (or their civilian snooping counterparts) have already weaponized space, so anti-satellite weapons are simply a defense against that.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 22:15
  • @jamesqf What about all other types of weapons? And do you have an answer to this question: "which countries will "be upset" if space militarization was prohibited?"
    – Ariel Yael
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 6:15
  • How would you prohibit the US or PRC or Russa from doing anything? Treaties are paper.
    – acpilot
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 6:44
  • @acpilot But is it in their interest to deploy weaponry there, or do they prefer to keep it weapon-free? Not completely sure, but for example, I think China prefers having military power in space (correct me if I'm wrong)
    – Ariel Yael
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 7:10
  • 7
    Pretty sure the simple answer is that all of them want to have their own weapons up there, but not anyone elses.
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 13:18

1 Answer 1


I believe that the answer to your question will require some very careful estimates of public statements vs. actual policy. Countries do not always do as they say, and what they say changes with what they can do.

  • Both the United States and Russia rely on spaceborne early warning to warn against missile attack. This is part of their military infrastructure, but it could be argued that it is part of a weapons system.
  • Many countries operate military reconnaissance satellites that can be used to plan and execute attacks by terrestrial forces. Again that is arguably part of a weapons system.
  • For that matter, there are GPS-guided weapons, so arguably any GPS constellation is part of a weapons system.

But that's not what many people think about when they talk of "weaponizing space".

  • The Soviets developed the fractional orbit bombardment system early in the Cold War. That is a nuclear weapon which would be parked (briefly) in orbit before it comes down from an unexpected direction.
  • The US, China, Russia and India have tested ASAT technology. Others have bits and pieces of an ASAT program, e.g. in the form of ABM.
  • Finally, nobody who knows what the X-37 is really carrying is allowed to speak.

Keep in mind that any meaningful prohibition of the weaponization of space would either rely on the honor system or involve quite intrusive inspections. Consider how the IAEA tries to limit nuclear weapons -- something like that would have to be done for aerospace technology. And nobody was able to prohibit the North Korean ballistic missile tests ...

My guesstimate (much more of a gut feeling than the section above) is this:

  • The US would like a prohibition to safeguard their communications and intelligence assets in orbit, but it would not allow bilateral inspections to enforce this (and they would not give up ABM for it).
  • China and Russia want to preserve the option of trashing US space infrastructure if it came to a conflict, even if that means their own are at risk.
  • Several countries would not limit their ABM systems or allow inspections of them.

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