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Arms Regulations Damaging US Space Industry 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the law-of-unintended-consequences dept.
athe!st writes "International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) are a major headache for companies trying to put their satellites into space, so much so that some companies are using 'ITAR-free' (aka free of US technology) as a selling point. The European Space Agency is trying to reduce its dependence on ITAR components, and the regulations are also threatening the nascent space tourism industry."
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Arms Regulations Damaging US Space Industry

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  • by Tekfactory (937086) on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:38AM (#33534462) Homepage

    Reminds me how the Arms Controls stifled innovation and adoption in the Crypto field back in the 1990s.

  • Sounds like... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by HateBreeder (656491) on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:41AM (#33534514)

    Some space technology company lobbying against ITAR as they would've otherwise made more money...

    Sorry, I don't buy that.
    There's a reason for why technology exports are regulated. If that comes at the cost of a bit less money to the aerospace companies then so be it.

    However, if it's really a dumb regulation - then it should be rethought. I don't think this is the case though.

  • by sunking2 (521698) on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:49AM (#33534600)
    But ITAR is responsible for keeping a lot more US jobs than it loses thanks to it's prohibitions. In a lot of places it's the only thing keeping engineering and manufacturing from being outsourced.
  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:51AM (#33534624)

    There's a reason for why technology exports are regulated.

    And what is that? I mean aside from weapons technology that is? The down side is that it shrinks the market available to US producers. Eventually they are driven out of business when faced by foreign competitors who are free to sell to anyone. Then we (the US) have to buy from these foreign suppliers. So, what's the up side?

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:51AM (#33534634)

    Sometimes the policy is good and sometimes it is bad. Do you really want Iran getting a hold of the blueprints for the shuttles solid rocket boosters? Obviously not, they could be adapted in a matter of months to nefarious purposes. But then there is technology that is by no means cutting edge, in the US or anywhere, that remains on the ITAR restricted lists out of inertia, it doesn't stop enemies from getting a hold of technology, all it does is make US companies less competitive in the global marketplace.

  • by Tekfactory (937086) on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:57AM (#33534680) Homepage

    Well if you'd read the article, it's from the Institute of Engineering Technology (what Aerospace company is that?) and the article is about electronics components, computer chips made mostly by US based manufacturers.

    Now foreign governments are backing competing companies outside the US to source the same type of components in what is a growing market. The first papagraph talks about how many more sats will be launched in the next decade over the previous one.

    Since most of the folks mentioned are launching outside the US anyway, no US aerospace company is losing a dime.

    In the article they also say the US based components are better, so we have a market that's growing, where US based companies have the best product and people are going somewhere else because of this regulation.

    If I owned a big chip company I'd move my HQ outside the US immediately if staying meant I missed out on 10 years of growth.

    Do you read the headlines, do you know what growth for businesses in the US is projected to be for the next 10 years, it's not 50% more like sat launches and their electronics components are.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:59AM (#33534708)

    You jest, but the fact that the entire civilized world is on pins and needles to see if Muslims will fly off the handle over a freaking book burning speaks volumes.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Burnhard (1031106) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:00PM (#33534718)
    I think there's an alternative line of reasoning: if you don't export these technologies to other countries, they will either get it from your competitors or develop it themselves. So your choice is not between whether they have the technology or whether they don't, it's between whether you control their access to the technology or whether you don't.
  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snookerhog (1835110) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:01PM (#33534732)
    from my own experience working for a big tech company, the definitions of what is restricted are antiquated and needlessly broad. technology that was at one time almost exclusively military, is now cheap enough to be applied in numerous other ways. Take "Night vision" for example. IR cameras are now used in a myriad of applications that go way beyond seeing bad guys in the dark: automated food inspection, automotive sensors, etc.

    you may find this recent article [arstechnica.com] enlightening. From the article:

    The impact of export controls on the high-tech industry have caused problems for everyone from browser makers—who once ran up against restrictions on their encryption software, despite its wide availability outside the US—to hardware makers; Apple once advertised that its G4 processor fell under export control due to outdated definitions of what constituted a supercomputer. But they also affect more mundane items. In the announcement that outlines the reform efforts, the White House notes that the brake pads for the army's M1A1 tank are essentially identical to those used in fire trucks, but only the former ends up under export controls; "Under our current system, we devote the same resources to protecting the brake pad as we do to protecting the M1A1 tank itself."

  • by zill (1690130) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:05PM (#33534772)
    Unfortunately, for most of the world, that "someone" is the United States military.
  • by HateBreeder (656491) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:07PM (#33534796)

    Sounds like you're making my argument for me.

    Firstly, you clearly don't know how lobbying works: You pay someone who is perceived to be objective to represent your point of view. A research grant comes to mind.

    All your arguments are about how companies are losing money... or could potential grow. but you ignore the reason the regulations are there: to verify that no classified technology or weapons get in to the wrong hands.

  • Sums it up (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:18PM (#33534932)

    Pretty much sums up the US government in general...useless regulations that make every-day life a PITA for law abiding citizens and don't really stop criminals from doing anything. Like the way we have to have drivers license, birth certificate, and a note from mom to buy an allergy tablet, yet you can go pretty much anywhere and still buy meth.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:42PM (#33535272)
    Which is why our current foreign policy is complete bullshit. Rather than maintaining honest friendships and alliances, we instead seek to keep other countries in the stone age and use diplomacy only when they gain equal technology.

    Rather than encouraging the development of technologies, we try to hoard them based on a stupid belief that if we do this we will prevent other countries from developing weapon technologies, instead we cripple ourselves and are a laughingstock in front of other countries.

    Think of how much more we as humanity could do when artificial barriers to trade are eliminated. It doesn't make us safer, it alienates us from the rest of the world and prevents us from doing beneficial things. Rather than having an unsustainable foreign policy of making sure that no one else other than the US gets technology, we need to have alliances and diplomatic principles that make it so when countries -do- get advanced technology they won't use it against us.
  • by hedwards (940851) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:44PM (#33535298)
    More than that, exporting all those manufacturing jobs to places like China and India has definitely had a negative impact on our security. The Chinese government has no real incentive to cut down on industrial spying on foreign companies producing in China. Hell, they've got a huge incentive to look the other way and cover it up.
  • Backwards! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FranTaylor (164577) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:05PM (#33535540)

    Engineering and manufacturing are being outsourced PRECISELY so they don't run afoul of iTAR!

    We are LOSING sales and LOSING jobs and LOSING technology due to this stupidity.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by radtea (464814) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:29PM (#33535838)

    mean aside from weapons technology that is?

    What exactly is "weapons technology"?

    About 20 years ago I developed what is still the fastest, most robust image registration algorithm there is. It was the first algorithm based on sampled pixels, and predated mutual-information and other similar techniques by about three years.

    I developed it for a medical application. When I realized how well it worked, I also realized it was perfectly suited to the terminal phase guidance system of a cruise missile. It ran fast enough on the commodity hardware of the time (33 Mhz 386) that it put it nicely in the price range of your average "credit card terrorist."

    So far as I know, the organs of the security-industrial complex are still studiosly ignoring this reality: most technology can be adapted for to build weapons. IEDs and the like are proof of this. Never-the-less, no one suggests that cell phones and digital watches be banned, presumably because the kind of asshole that works in the security-industrial complex isn't about to give up their cell phone and digital watch, or even pay more for them.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by radtea (464814) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:36PM (#33535960)

    Do you really want Iran getting a hold of the blueprints for the shuttles solid rocket boosters?

    Your "logic" makes no sense.

    The SRBs are 35 year old tech NOW and one day they will be even more "by no means cutting edge", which you apparently have no problem publishing. Which is a good thing, because information wants to be free: one leak and the genie can never be put back in the bottle.

    Everyone knows how to build nuclear weapons today. Anyone who is trying to restrict the spread of technology is pushing water uphill.

    So you'd better be prepared to be safe in a world where everyone has every nasty kind of tech you can imagine. History suggests that conventional military thuggery is not the right way to go there.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:39PM (#33536004)

    Rather than encouraging the development of technologies, we try to hoard them based on a stupid belief that if we do this we will prevent other countries from developing weapon technologies, instead we cripple ourselves and are a laughingstock in front of other countries.

    You misunderstand the belief. The first part is not that other countries will not be able to build the same technologies, simply that some countries will not be able to build those technologies without significant resource expenditures. Do you really want North Korea to be able to build F-117s the same day that the US can?

    The second part is that we don't want our enemies to be able to learn our technologies' weaknesses. For example, how do you detect an incoming F117? If there's an effective way, do you want North Korea to know? Would it be better (and for whom) if the US is able to manufacture a new stealth system that isn't affected by detecting the F117?

    It doesn't make us safer,

    Again, you misunderstand. Having technology that makes your military more effective *does* make you safer, after a fashion. Look back at the interaction between the Spanish conquistadors and the Incas. The conquistadors had metal armor and guns. The Incas had wooden/hide armor, spears and arrows. A single conquistador was a more effective military weapon than a single Incan soldier.

  • by EdZ (755139) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:06PM (#33536448)
    No, Blu-Ray and DVD (or any other form of DRM) cannot have unbreakable encryption because it would be a literal impossibility. You posses both the ciphertext and the key at the same time.
  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:43PM (#33537044) Homepage

    "Again, you misunderstand. Having technology that makes your military more effective *does* make you safer, after a fashion. Look back at the interaction between the Spanish conquistadors and the Incas. The conquistadors had metal armor and guns. The Incas had wooden/hide armor, spears and arrows. A single conquistador was a more effective military weapon than a single Incan soldier."

    Well, it was guns, *germs*, and steel (see the book with that title). And it was other things as well, like the Inca seeing the invaders as gods, and also being highly centralized and vulnerable to a centralized attack, otherwise millions of Inca would have wiped out a few hundred men with musketts, even on horseback. It's sort of like by the fourth airplane on 9/11 the strategy of the terrorists wasn't working anymore as the people began to fight back (and so that plane crashed in a field). Eventually, the Inca did fight back more, but by then the (mostly unintended) germs were wiping them out. There was also a civil war at the time the Spanish took advantage of, and other factors:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_conquest_of_the_Inca_Empire [wikipedia.org]
    "The situation went quickly downhill. As things began to fall apart, many parts of the Inca Empire revolted, some of them joining with the Spanish against their own rulers. Many kingdoms and tribes had been conquered or persuaded to join the Inca empire. They thought that by joining the Spaniards, they could gain their own freedom. But these native people never foresaw the massive waves of Spaniard immigrants coming to their land and the tragedy that they would bring upon their people."

    So the Inca empire itself was unstable... If the Inca empire has been more stable, and had (unintentional) disease not been a major factor, I'd suggest the Inca would have easily kicked out the Conquistadors, despite guns and steel.

    Columbus' destruction of the Arawaks on Haiti might be a better example of what you say... And a very sad one... They offered him gifts and friendship amd a better way of life, and he repaid them in death, justified in part by religion as well as his business obligations...
        http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinncol1.html [historyisaweapon.com]
    But is that what you want to hold up as an ideal? Columbus only lived to age 54; might he have lived to age 100 if he and his men had just settled in Haiti and never gone back to Europe? All that violence must have been stressful for him, and what did that genocide for profit against the Arawaks get him? Beyond being remembered for it (plus being the last person to discover America)?

    If you see my other reply, you'll see that all this military technology is ironic and, essentially, making us less secure in the 21st century because it is designed from the wrong paradigm of extrinisic unilateral security (not intrinsic mututal security). For example, having a loaded self-propelled Howitzer cannon in your suburban backyard does not make you safer from home intrusion in a small community (or cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabestes, the real killers of most US Americans) -- it makes you seen as a nutcase and your neighbors start talking about how to deal with you and get rid of it in case it went off accidentally or kids took it for a "joyride". But if you insulate your house to keep it warm at low cost, use the savings to put solar panels of the roof to power a fridge full of cool beers for passerbys, and then grown an organic garden producing abundant veggies you share with your neighbors, then you are going to have a lot more security and health and prosperity for both yourself and your community for a lot less cost than buying and maintaining a Howitzer in your backyard.

    And that's basically the previous poster's point.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... t ['etz' in gap]> on Saturday September 11, 2010 @04:04AM (#33543110) Homepage Journal

    It is a mistaken notion that you can use the technology for an ICBM for orbital spaceflight and the other way around. They are not quite the same engineering domain, and from my experience when you try to design a rocket for one domain (building an ICBM) then apply it to orbital flight, the costs involved skyrocket to the point that the rocket is unusable for anybody but a government entity anyway.

    It gets even worse for the use of orbital spacecraft being fit into use as a ICBM, as most orbital spacecraft are explicitly designed so that the general thrust is controlled in such a way that the stress on the payload is kept to a minimum. Most modern launchers will only do an average acceleration of about 5-7 "g's", but ICBMs typically do about 15-30 "g's". A nuclear warhead is usually a pretty sturdy thing that can handle those stresses. This is a critical factor as the spacecraft going up on a more leisurely pace is going to be tracked longer, and can be much more easily intercepted. In addition, other characteristics of the flight profile will make it painfully obvious that the object of the flight is to make it to orbit.... something easy to detect and distinguish from a purely ballistic trajectory.

    Another distinguishing feature about an ICBM is that it must be ready to fly in a short notice (mostly on the order of about a half hour or less) and must either be fueled very rapidly or have something like a solid rocket motor that is explicitly designed to spend years or even decades in a "ready" state. A spacecraft on the other hand has no ned to be concerned with long-terms anti-corrosion measures, and if it takes an hour or two for the launch to happen it isn't that big of a deal. Solid fuel engines are generally discouraged for spaceflight and are only used for auxillary purposes... mostly because of cost. The Space Shuttle is quite unusual in this aspect and it should be pointed out that the Shuttle is considered overly complicated and not really cost effective either.

    My point is that if a "terrorist group" somehow was able to get the plans for a SpaceX Falcon 9 and decides to use that rocket as an ICBM..... my hat is off to them both for getting the money together necessary to reproduce the efforts that SpaceX has made, overcome the quality assurance problems found with any sort of new rocket project, and even once it gets into the air it will be a cinch for the U.S. Air Force to shoot the thing down with existing technology like the Patriot missiles. In short I say "bring it on" in terms of any terrorist group wanting to build such a missile and good luck with that. They certainly aren't going to be building such a rocket covertly or without the express permission of whatever country they happen to be in. In short, orbital launch rockets are not a threat to national security at all.

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