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US Presidents and the Militarization of Space, 1946-1967

Sean N. Kalic

Publication Year: 2012

In the clash of ideologies represented by the Cold War, even the heavens were not immune to militarization. Satellites and space programs became critical elements among the national security objectives of both the United States and the Soviet Union. According to US Presidents and the Militarization of Space, 1946–1967, three American presidents in succession shared a fundamental objective of preserving space as a weapons-free frontier for the benefit of all humanity. Between 1953 and 1967 Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson all saw nonaggressive military satellite development, as well as the civilian space program, as means to favorably shape the international community’s opinion of the scientific, technological, and military capabilities of the United States. Sean N. Kalic’s reinterpretation of the development of US space policy, based on documents declassified in the past decade, demonstrates that a single vision for the appropriate uses of space characterized American strategies across parties and administrations during this period. Significantly, Kalic’s findings contradict the popular opinion that the United States sought to weaponize space and calls into question the traditional interpretation of the space race as a simple action/reaction paradigm. Indeed, beyond serving as a symbol and ambassador of US technological capability, its satellite program provided the United States with advanced, nonaggressive military intelligence-gathering platforms that proved critical in assessing the strategic nuclear balance between the United States and the Soviet Union. It also aided the three administrations in countering the Soviet Union’s increasing international prestige after its series of space firsts, beginning with the launch of Sputnik in 1957.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Centennial of Flight Series


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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List of Charts

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p. viii

List of Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Satellite Names

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The completion of this book project brings with it the need to thank a diverse group of people who have assisted me along the way. First and foremost, I need to offer a hearty thank you to Donald J. Mrozek, who served as my mentor. In addition to providing advice, words of encouragement, and guidance, he always made...

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pp. 1-6

The spectacular shooting down of a nonresponsive spy satellite by the US Navy’s USS Lake Erie on February 19, 2008, and the Chinese interception of a Fengyun-1C weather satellite on January 11, 2007, focused the attention of the American public, space experts, and the US military on the strategic importance of outer space. These...

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Chapter 1: Establishing the Foundation for the Militarization of Space, 1945–1952

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pp. 7-25

The years 1945–1952 are not usually considered part of the space age, yet these years witnessed the intellectual beginning of the US military space program and the origin of US policy to promote space as a peaceful place for nations to explore. In fall 1945 through spring 1946, the US Navy (USN), the US Army Air Force (AAF), and...

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Chapter 2: Embracing the Militarization of Space, 1953–1960

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pp. 26-59

Military space activity dramatically increased during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration. Unlike his predecessor, Eisenhower took an active and direct interest in space- related issues and, more specifically, he firmly embraced the use of satellites for military and peaceful missions. Building upon the research done on satellites by the RAND...

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Chapter 3: Kennedy, Disarmament, and FOBS

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pp. 60-88

While maintaining the key military space programs begun during Eisenhower’s presidency, John F. Kennedy strove to demonstrate the US commitment to peaceful exploration and non- aggressive military uses of space and built on Eisenhower’s pledge to keep space free of weapons. To demonstrate, Kennedy capitalized on the Soviet Union’s expressed interest in orbital bombardment satellites by fundamentally shifting...

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Chapter 4: Lyndon Johnson and Space as a Weapons-Free Frontier, 1963–1967

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pp. 89-118

Under the leadership of Lyndon B. Johnson, the United States solidified its commitment to the military use of space and at the same time presided over the fulfillment of the objective of securing space as a weapons- free frontier by signing the Outer Space Treaty (OST) in 1967. Johnson also furthered US commitments to the use of ground- based ASAT and BMD systems to maintain national security. Like his immediate...

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Chapter 5: Continuity and Variation, 1946–1967

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pp. 119-131

From the onset of the Cold War, satellites and space programs evolved to become critical elements used to further the national security objectives of the United States. The early history of US efforts to build military satellites and militarize space has received far less attention than the history of the civilian programs of NASA. This disparity slights the fact that both the military and civilian space efforts served...

Appendix A: Chronology of Significant Events, 1946–1967

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pp. 133-138

Appendix B: US Space Spending

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pp. 139-142


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pp. 143-164


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pp. 165-175


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pp. 177-182

Further Reading, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781603446976
E-ISBN-10: 1603446974
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603446914
Print-ISBN-10: 1603446915

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 16 b&w photos. 4 charts. 2 Apps. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Centennial of Flight Series
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OCLC Number: 794239937
MUSE Marc Record: Download for US Presidents and the Militarization of Space, 1946-1967

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Astronautics, Military -- United States.
  • Outer space -- Strategic aspects.
  • Outer space -- Government policy -- United States.
  • Space security.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Decision making -- History -- 20th century.
  • Cold War.
  • United States -- Military policy.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1989.
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