Submission to the Ministry for the Environment on Regulation of jettisoned material from space launch vehicles

Pacific Ecologist magazine
6 min readSep 30, 2016


Kay Weir, The Pacific Institute of Resource Management, 16 September 2016

Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission on this important issue. The Pacific Institute of Resource Management Inc (PIRM), established in 1984, is dedicated to sustainable use of the Earth’s natural resources, to peace, equity and justice issues. Our objectives are to advocate respect for natural processes, conservation of physical resources, and integrity of life forms. We contribute to establishing Aotearoa/New Zealand as a strong, independent nation promoting a world conservation strategy. We publish the journal Pacific Ecologist.

In the Ministry for the Environment August 2016 discussion document: Proposed regulation of jettisoned material from space launch vehicles, Environment Minister Nick Smith’s message reports: “Space rocket launches are a new activity for New Zealand. The Government wishes to help develop a peaceful, safe, responsible, and secure space industry that meets New Zealand’s international obligations.” He continues: “We are proposing to make this activity permitted subject to conditions. This is similar to the approach we take to regulating the environmental effects of seismic surveying, marine scientific research, and prospecting and exploration for petroleum (excluding exploration drilling).”

We support the Government’s wishes as set out above, but see difficulties in maintaining NZ’s international obligations by permitting the activity itself, which is very different from seismic surveys etc, as it has international military implications through its links with US Defense agencies. This is evident from the fact that Rocket Lab has worked under contract for the Operationally Responsive Space Office,” studying “a low-cost space launcher to place nano-satellites into orbit. “ A browse of the ORSO site declares it “…focuses on providing quick-response tactical space-based capabilities to the warfighter utilising smaller satellites such as the Tactical satellite Program and smaller launch vehicles.” Organisations involved with ORSO activities include the US Army, the US NAVY, DARPA, the (US) National Reconnaissance Office, the (US) Missile Defense Agency and NASA.

Space vehicles link to ongoing wars

Our concern is that Space, that vast, mysterious region beyond Earth’s atmosphere, has tragically become a region from which human beings are directing wars. The U.S. space programme has been meshed with the US military and weapons corporations since 2003, when 70% of the weaponry used in the illegal invasion of Iraq was directed using space-based technology. Attacks on many other countries since have used drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and GPS-guided bombs, directed by space satellites and remotely controlled far from the battlefield, causing huge civilian casualties.

This new activity is of great concern because the proposed activity will principally benefit the perpetrators of the many egregious and ill-advised wars going on in the world today. These wars have caused the deaths of millons of people and great suffering for millions more, including refugees, forced to leave war-torn countries. The wars have increased violence and instability in the world, rather then improving the situation. For example, the UK Chilcott report this year on the Iraq war states that despite contrary claims in 2003 by then Prime Minister Tony Blair, Saddam Hussein was not an urgent threat to British interests, also that intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction was presented with unwarranted certainty, that peaceful alternatives to war had not been exhausted, that the United Kingdom and United States had undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council in waging the war, that the process of identifying the legal basis for war was “far from satisfactory,” and that the war in 2003 was unnecessary and has not achieved its aims. Over a million people died in Iraq during the war, according to respected British medical journal The Lancet and many more afterwards. They would be alive today if the war had not been waged.

Another scathing UK report in September 2016 on the UK’s war in Libya, from the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee heavily criticised former Prime Minister, David Cameron for turning a limited intervention intended to protect civilians into an “opportunist policy of regime change” based on inadequate intelligence. It said his failure to develop a coherent strategy to support Libya following the overthrow of Gaddafi had led to political and economic collapse, internecine warfare, a humanitarian crisis and the rise of Islamic State (IS) in north Africa.

Bearing all this in mind, there is no reasonable case for New Zealand to support the ability of America, which is leading these wars, to wage war more effectively through more efficient rocketry. If New Zealand does this we are contributing to the psychosis of endless wars that cause enormous misery and prevent peaceful co-operation in the world and within the United Nations. New Zealand’s great gift to the world lies in taking an independent stance, not agreeing with the Iraq war, having an independent nuclear-free policy, etc.

Another consideration: Russia & China work to ban space weapons

The Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS), is a UN resolution advocating a ban on the weaponization of space. In 1981, debate over weaponization of outer space led the Conference on Disarmament, CD, to begin talks on the PAROS treaty. America is the only country to vote against the resolution, with Israel abstaining, America argues PAROS is unnecessary because there are no weapons, thus no arms race in outer space at this time. Russia and China, which America depicts as threats to its supremacy, have been calling for a global ban on weapons in space since 1981. In July 2003 they delivered their pleas for this ban again at a session of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Both countries were worried that former US President Bush’s call for early deployment of National Missile Defense (NMD) would create a new, costly arms race in space that would be difficult to stop. The U.S. refused to discuss a moratorium or banning weapons in space then, again saying there was no problem, therefore no need for negotiations.

At last on 8 December 2015, a UN Resolution, sponsored by Russia banning weapons in space was passed at the General Assembly with 126 votes in favour and 4 votes against: the US, and its allies, Georgia, Israel, Ukraine. The US again refused to enter into negotiations banning weapons in space, claiming there was “no problem in space.” Yet a Dominon-Post article on 29/1/2016, US ill-prepared for warfare in the new frontierspace, (republished from the Washington Post with the title Space warfare with Russia and China? — Pentagon) stated that the Pentagon relies on space with the military technology it keeps there. The article did not mention the important fact that a UN Resolution banning weapons in Space (ratified by both Russia and China), was passed a few weeks earlier, as stated above, which America had refused to sign, saying there was no problem in space. Why was this article then indicating there was a problem for America in Space, unless it is that America was trying to make a case for keeping its “military technology” in space.

Surely the Pentagon’s military technology should not be in space, when so many countries want weapons to be banned in space and for space to be used only for peaceful purposes, for scientific research and the benefit of all humanity, rather than the private benefit of corporations and for one country, America to threaten and kill people.

Ban launch of Space vehicles in NZ, etc

It’s clear that America sees Space as another region for its “full spectrum dominance” policies. It is actually using space vehicles now to pitilessly kill people. Can New Zealand’s involvement in launching space vehicles in association with the American military really be termed peaceful?

The Pacific Institute of Resource Management, rejects the idea that it is in New Zealand or the world’s interests, or international obligations for our country to be involved in launching space vehicles in association with the US war-fighting machinery. It is certainly not in the interests of peace and security in the world to do this and can only lead to worsening violence and accelerate dangers of space warfare that could speedily wipe out all life on Earth.

We call for a ban on launching space vehicles from New Zealand, and a ban on weapons in space. Space vehicles are being used for war-mongering purposes by America and are causing instability around the world. We call for an end to the sickness and inhumanity of the west’s wars.

The appalling amounts of money spent on weapons, including nuclear weapons, and money spent on space stations for military purposes must be diverted to remediating the damage done by these wars to the people and countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc.

We call on the New Zealand government, to request that the US government transform its foreign and domestic policies away from endless wars, to cultivate real security in America and worldwide, addressing inequity/ injustice concerns and the increasing problems of global warming which worsen yearly, even as military budgets increase. A new culture of co-operation around peaceful initiatives to build security for all is urgently needed.