US to launch fleet of missile sensors to space over fears about ‘rogue states’

17 Jan 2019

Image: © vchalup/

Space-based missile sensors are to be launched into orbit by the US as fears about a future nuclear attack grow.

As US president Donald Trump continues to suggest the development of what would become another branch of the US military dubbed the ‘space force’, it is expected that he will present to the Pentagon his plans for an orbital missile sensor system today (17 January).

According to The Guardian, the president wants the expansion of a US network of sensors and interceptors in order to protect the US from ‘rogue states’ such as Iran and North Korea. The last time a review of the country’s defences in space was conducted was in 2010. One official has warned that there has been a “really significant change to the threat environment”.

They added: “What the missile defence review responds to is an environment in which our potential adversaries have been rapidly developing, and fielding, a much more expanded range of new, offensive missiles. These missiles are capable of threatening the US, threatening our allies, our partners and our US forces abroad.”

Right now, the US government has not gone into specifics about what this new roll-out of sensors would look like, but it has commissioned a study for laser technology and space-based interceptors.

‘There is no terrible news there’

Rather than suggesting that this system is designed to counteract potential nuclear missile threats from Russia or China, the official stressed that any expansion of its space-based technology would not be directed at them.

This is because it believes that the policy of nuclear deterrence – whereby a nation has a large enough nuclear weapon stockpile to render another country incapable of response – is enough to prevent such an attack.

A representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Stephen Young, said to The Guardian that he was surprised and pleased to hear this latest news. “I am quite surprised that there is no terrible news there,” he said.

“These are relatively sensible choices. They are not trying to use missile defence to address Russia and China, and they are not pursuing space-based interceptors.”

However, tensions between the US and Russia have increased since the former announced that it rejected Russia’s offer of inspection of a new missile suspected of violating terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987.

As a result, the US has given a six-month notice of complete withdrawal from the treaty, with observance suspended from 2 February.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic