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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton   (Source:
Hillary Clinton assures that the code of conduct will not keep the military busy or compromise national security

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday that the United States will begin working on an international code of conduct for outer space with other nations around the world.

An international code of conduct would put concrete space-related rules in place for all participating nations. According to Clinton, the main threats that the rules would address are space junk and "irresponsible actors."

There are currently more than 500,000 pieces of space junk debris surrounding Earth, according to NASA, and about 22,000 of these pieces are as large as a softball. Only about 1,100 are active satellites. Space junk is the collection of objects created by humans that are left in orbit, but are no longer useful.

Clinton sees this space junk as potentially harmful, and for good reason. Just last month, a Siberian man escaped death as a Russian satellite fragment crashed right through his roof. The fragment was about the size of a 5 kg titanium ball.

In addition, Russa's Mars probe Phobos-Grunt finally crashed back to Earth on January 15 after floating around in space aimlessly for two months.

The new code of conduct announcement also addressed "irresponsible actors," which likely indirectly referred to China's space behavior back in 2007 when it destroyed a dead weather satellite with a rocket. In late 2011, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) released a report that warned the U.S. of China's plans to attack U.S. space defenses. This has since worried the U.S., and raised questions regarding the potential need for a space military.

"The threats to the space environment will increase as more nations and non-state actors develop and deploy counter-space systems," said the State Department's fact sheet. "Today, space systems and their supporting infrastructure face a range of man-made threats that may deny, degrade, deceive, disrupt or destroy assets."

The U.S. also noted that the European Union has developed a space code, which it has been working on for many years, but that the U.S. isn't quite ready to agree to it yet.

"A code of conduct will help maintain the long-term sustainability, safety, stability and security of space by establishing guidelines for the responsible use of space," said Clinton. "As we begin this work, the United States has made clear to our partners that we will not enter into a code of conduct that in any way constrains our national security-related activities in space or our ability to protect the United States and our allies."


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Obscure comparison
By lightfoot on 1/19/2012 12:35:31 PM , Rating: 5
The fragment was about the size of a 5 kg titanium ball.

Isn't a comparison designed to make the information more relatable to the average audience?

I don't know about any of you, but I don't exactly play with a 5 kg titanium ball very often. How big is it? I don't even know what one would be used for. Is it a solid ball, or hollow? Would you use it for bowling, or basketball or tennis... ping-pong maybe??

It is one thing to say the fragment is a 5 Kg Titanium ball, but to say that it is the size of a 5 Kg Titanium ball is fairly meaningless. It would be better to say that the fragment was a 5 Kg piece of titanium that was the size of a grapefruit. That would have meaning.

RE: Obscure comparison
By Solandri on 1/19/2012 1:06:16 PM , Rating: 2
It's a bad example, since the real danger isn't to people on the ground. The atmosphere burns up most space debris before it can hit the ground (or a person), and people just don't cover a significant fraction of the earth's surface for it to be a high risk.

The real danger is up in space. To be in orbit, you have to be moving at 7-10 km/sec. Any orbiting space junk is also moving at 7-10 km/sec, but in a different direction. If the two collide, the relative velocities and therefore kinetic energies are huge even for a small piece of debris.

At the rate we're producing orbiting junk, in 50-100 years we won't be able to put satellites or spacecraft in orbit with the expectation that they'll survive. This is a crater in one of the space shuttle's windows caused by an impact with a 0.2mm fleck of paint. It penetrated about halfway through the window's thickness.

This is the hole left in one of the shuttle's cargo bay doors after an impact with an unknown piece of space debris.

Both of these pieces of debris were way too small to be tracked by NORAD, so they're not included in the half million pieces of debris mentioned in the article.

RE: Obscure comparison
By The Raven on 1/19/2012 1:13:18 PM , Rating: 2
So what you are saying is that we can defend space from our enemies if we put enough junk up there, right?

RE: Obscure comparison
By PReiger99 on 1/19/2012 2:41:24 PM , Rating: 2
In the same line of thought, an enemy not as dependent on satellites could just detonate a missile loaded with small ball bearings and make the space unusable for quite some time.

RE: Obscure comparison
By UnauthorisedAccess on 1/19/2012 6:50:43 PM , Rating: 4
I, for one, welcome our new ball bearing overlords.

RE: Obscure comparison
By lightfoot on 1/19/2012 8:30:34 PM , Rating: 2
What if they are over bearing ball-lords??

RE: Obscure comparison
By The Raven on 1/19/2012 1:10:57 PM , Rating: 4
Yeah my balls are of steel, so unfortunately I can't relate.

RE: Obscure comparison
By Trisped on 1/19/2012 5:04:56 PM , Rating: 2
I figured it meant that a 5 kg spherical object with the mass to volume ration of titanium (which I understand to be light and rigid)crashed into someone's house.

In essence weighs as much as a cannon ball(about 5 kg) and is 35cm in diameter. Or, if you prefer, a 11 lbs ball, 1 foot in diameter.

Density of titanium:
Formulas for converting volume to radius:

RE: Obscure comparison
By lightfoot on 1/19/2012 6:22:40 PM , Rating: 4
That may well be what Tiffany meant, but that is not what she said.

She said that the fragment was the size of a 5 Kg titanium ball, not that it was made out of titanium, nor that it weighed 5 Kg.

This is basic technical writing stuff. That sentence was horribly flawed to the point of meaning something entirely different from what was intended.

Just because a bird is the size of a baseball, does not mean that the bird IS a baseball.

RE: Obscure comparison
By AnnihilatorX on 1/21/2012 8:02:04 AM , Rating: 2
Indeed, but the original sentence is not that confusing.
she's using the density of 5kg titanium to convey the size. One can only assume the shape but you can work out the volume pretty easily.

Titanium density = 4.506 g·cm-3
That just mean the object is 5000/4.506 = 1109 cm^3
If it's a cube, the dimension is therefore roughly 10cm x 10cm x 10cm
If it's a sphere, the diameter is about 12cm.

Weapons in space
By Rasputin814 on 1/19/2012 11:23:20 AM , Rating: 3
Weapons in space is inevitable.

RE: Weapons in space
By FITCamaro on 1/19/12, Rating: 0
RE: Weapons in space
By MrBlastman on 1/19/2012 12:48:04 PM , Rating: 2
What about the flaming poopoids on re-entry. Hmm. On second thought maybe we shouldn't be discussing re-entry in the context of poop. Yuck.

There will be a policy for it though, yep, there probably will.

RE: Weapons in space
By JediJeb on 1/20/2012 3:34:11 PM , Rating: 2
Piiiggggssss innnnn SSppppaaaccceeeee!

RE: Weapons in space
By Solandri on 1/19/2012 12:48:18 PM , Rating: 2
Putting something into low earth orbit costs about $3,000-$10,000 per pound. Almost any weapon can be delivered more cheaply via ground, sea, or air. Even the satellite killing missiles are cheaper launched from a plane into a ballistic trajectory (so they don't have to reach orbital velocity), rather than parking them in orbit.

RE: Weapons in space
By bh192012 on 1/19/2012 1:30:47 PM , Rating: 2
That depends on a few things, like how you're going to disable other satellites. A "weather satellite," that just so happens to have a lot of solar panels, big batteries and a big laser could buy you some plausible deniability that a direct missile could not. Also it can have multiple shots. It would also make less of a mess than a missile shot.

RE: Weapons in space
By tastyratz on 1/19/2012 2:10:16 PM , Rating: 3
GDI had it right when developing the ion canon. All fear.

RE: Weapons in space
By TSS on 1/20/2012 11:15:34 AM , Rating: 2
Thing is though you can kill anything on the sea/ground/air from the sea/ground/air.

Put a laser point-defence sattelite in orbit and you're not going to shoot it down from the ground. Such systems already exist for on the ground, and in space atmospheric disturbance and fuel (atleast electricity) are far smaller problems then they are on the ground.

Then it's just a matter of choosing your method of destruction for on the ground. Personally i would go for a massive railgun. You could make a UAV resupply drone for the ammunition. Long range energy weapons are still too far away.

RE: Weapons in space
By Paj on 1/23/2012 7:32:10 AM , Rating: 3
Theres problem with that approach though. How would you test it? Would be difficult to test a massive space to ground laser without anyone noticing.

How would you maintain it? The US would struggle, having no reusable spaceborne vessel anymore. Same problem with kinetic ammunition if that's what it would use. Maintenance/refuelling would be frightfully expensive.

They're struggling enough trying to build a new plane. Easier/cheaper to just launch a cruise missile.

Well they finally did it.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/19/2012 12:15:15 PM , Rating: 2
This Administration truly HAS gone where no man has gone before. They've finally even Liberalized outer space lol.

RE: Well they finally did it.
By Etsp on 1/19/2012 12:26:30 PM , Rating: 1
What does that even mean?

RE: Well they finally did it.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/19/2012 12:41:58 PM , Rating: 2
Hillary Clinton in space!!!! C'mon lighten up. You see nothing at all funny about this?

RE: Well they finally did it.
By MrBlastman on 1/19/2012 12:45:23 PM , Rating: 2
Not really--that is, unless they televised her screaming while strapped to the back of a comet.

THAT would be funny! :)

It'd give a new meaning to the name... "Ice Queen"

RE: Well they finally did it.
By Etsp on 1/20/2012 1:57:56 PM , Rating: 2
I'm asking about the meaning of the word "Liberalized". What does that word mean to you in that context?

I laughed when I read this....
By Souka on 1/19/2012 11:43:39 AM , Rating: 2
A couple of funny rules crossed my mind regarding code-of-conduct

1. You are no longer allowed to "moon" other nations

2. You are not allowed to have sex with the intern. (Clinton scandal)

3. What happens in space, stays in space.

a Siberian man escaped death as a Russian satellite fragment crashed right through his roof. The fragment was about the size of a 5 kg titanium ball.

dang, I'm out of 5kg titanium balls, so I can't remember how big one is.

Have a nice day! :)

RE: I laughed when I read this....
By BadAcid on 1/19/2012 2:42:50 PM , Rating: 2
As per Space Corps Direct 34124, "No officer with false teeth should attempt oral sex in zero gravity."

What is the point?
By The Raven on 1/19/2012 1:04:38 PM , Rating: 2
An international code of conduct would put concrete space-related rules in place for all participating nations.
Do these rules have consequences? Rules with consequences are known as laws, right? If China fires a rocket at our satelite what would we do that we wouldn't do already? Are we going to slap sanctions on them? Why don't we do that already? Don't get me wrong, I am not against such conversations, but it seems like there is no point to setting up rules like this. Is the US trying to set itself up as the policemen of the galaxy instead of just the world?

RE: What is the point?
By geddarkstorm on 1/19/2012 1:21:24 PM , Rating: 2
I am sure they would amend their ways after a stern talking to. And if it really gets serious, a finger wag.

Where did it come from?
By Adam M on 1/19/2012 6:06:40 PM , Rating: 2
This kind of international regulation is a long time coming. I find it kind of ironic though. I am guessing that a great potion of the current space debris originated in the U.S. and we seek legislation as our own space programs seem to be winding down. Would corporations be held to the same rules as the programs run by various governments? I think will be checking if my insurance covers objects from space.

RE: Where did it come from?
By JediJeb on 1/20/2012 3:43:57 PM , Rating: 2
Actually now that space will be shifting towards more private corporations than governments, they want rules in place so that private corporations can not get away with all the lax control of space junk that governments have. Also they could then fine corporations for their junk if left in space.

Sounds more like an "Oh we should have been more careful, now let's make everyone else be more careful" idea.

No More Space program but the Posturing Never Ends
By janvones on 1/22/2012 10:59:39 AM , Rating: 2
NASA can't get a single man or shuttle into space. But the US has a new "Space Policy" for the world to follow? I don't know whether to cry, laugh, scream or spit.

By AssSpelunker on 1/27/2012 4:52:02 PM , Rating: 2
They're developing a "space policy" BECAUSE of NASA's new found impotence. Now the ball is in the private sectors court and, if gone unregulated, its almost a guarantee that this space junk problem will get out of hand

And it shall be named....
By SixSpeedSamurai on 1/19/2012 11:58:52 AM , Rating: 2
The Prime Directive.

By The Raven on 1/19/2012 1:21:58 PM , Rating: 2
The U.S. also noted that the European Union has developed a space code, which it has been working on for many years, but that the U.S. isn't quite ready to agree to it yet.
Why am I not very optomistic about this when the EU and the US can't agree on a CoC? I mean Clinton won't be like, "Oh hey everyone, the group of people most like us just agreed to the CoC!! Now China and Iran will line right up to sign it!!"

And it really takes the EU years to agree to such a thing? Either some people are asking for too much or they are just a bunch of loons. I could come up with something to improve the situation overnight that everyone could agree on. Why don't we start there? I'll begin..."#1. Don't destroy the property of other nations in space. (note: this is completely different than the laws/codes that rule on the ground :-P)"

Wrong context
By Trisped on 1/19/2012 4:51:47 PM , Rating: 2
Clinton sees this space junk as potentially harmful, and for good reason. Just last month, a Siberian man escaped death as a Russian satellite fragment crashed right through his roof. The fragment was about the size of a 5 kg titanium ball.

The Russian satellite fragment was the result of a bad launch. If it had fallen from orbit I doubt anyone but astronomers (and anyone else who looks at the sky regularly) would have even noticed since it would have burned up in the atmosphere. The real "threat" is that the space trash can crash into other objects (satellites, space stations, ships, etc) and destroy or damage them.

The Space Commandments.....
By ARoyalF on 1/21/2012 12:29:30 AM , Rating: 2
Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's satellites.....

Billy Mays here...
By AssSpelunker on 1/27/2012 4:48:49 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like there's a market for an orbital "street sweeper", if anyone is feeling particularly ambitious

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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