Press Release

Resources for Journalists Covering Chinese Anti-Satellite Weapon Launch


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Journalists seeking background information on yesterday’s report of the reported test of a Chinese anti-satellite weapon are encouraged to consult the following resources from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

These materials – all available online – were produced by leading experts working on the Academy’s longstanding Project on Reconsidering the Rules of Space. The project, led by Academy Fellow John D. Steinbruner, professor of public policy and director of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, has produced papers on the following topics:

Chinese Perspectives on Space Weapons by Hui Zhang, January 2007

The Minimum Means of Reprisal: China’s Search for Security in the Nuclear Age by Jeffrey Lewis, Forthcoming: February 2007

Table of Contents and chapter on Chinese space weapons available at:

The Physics of Space Security by David Wright, Laura Grego and Lisbeth Gronlund, May 2005

United States Space Policy: Challenges and Opportunities by George Abbey and Neal Lane, June 2005

All of the above studies are written for a lay reader and provide a historic, political and technical context for major policy issues affecting the commercial, military and scientific uses of space. A summary of each report follows:

Chinese Perspectives on Space Weapons by physicist Hui Zhang examines Chinese security concerns about U.S. missile defense and space policies and how the Chinese government may respond to those concerns, and outlines technical and legal measures the international community might take to protect all countries’ scientific, commercial and military uses of space. A research associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Hui Zhang’s research focuses on nuclear arms control and space security.

The Minimum Means of Reprisal: China’s Search for Security in the Nuclear Age will be published by MIT Press next month. The study examines China’s nuclear defense investments, strategic force deployments, including space weapons, and arms control behavior. The book’s forward, table of contents, and a chapter entitled “A Legal Undertaking to Prevent an Arms Race in Outer Space” are available online at the above link. The author, Jeffrey Lewis, is executive director of the Managing the Atom Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

The Physics of Space Security provides a review for non-specialists of the physics governing a wide variety of space operations. The authors describe the capabilities of anti-satellite weapons and weapons in space and how these capabilities compare, in both effectiveness and cost, to alternative defense systems. They also consider the options open to nations that wish to defend against these capabilities, and explain the various methods for interfering with satellite systems and space-based weapons. The paper offers a clear exposition of physical laws and concepts as they apply to the deployment of weapons in space. The authors are David Wright, co-director and senior scientist; Laura Grego, staff scientist; and Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director and senior scientist, all in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

United States Space Policy: Challenges and Opportunities identifies three important shifts in U.S. plans for space – proposals by the military to place weapons in space, decreased funding for civilian space science, and an unwillingness to collaborate with international partners on space initiatives – as threats to the nation’s long-term scientific interests in space. The authors are George Abbey, former head of the Johnson Space Center; and Neal Lane, former Assistant to the President on Science and Technology Policy.




Reconsidering the Rules of Space

John David Steinbruner