05 March 2001


"As noted in this paper, there are no technical differences between civil and military satellite imaging systems, and like other dual-use technologies, the risks and costs must be included with the economic benefits in assessing policy options. During the Cold War, orbital reconnaissance contributed to stable deterrence and the verification of arms control. However, if used by an aggressive rogue state for targeting and as a reliable and inexpensive source of intelligence in planning an attack, this technology can also prove to be very destabilizing in areas such as the Middle East, South Asia, and other regions.

These dangers and risks are being recognized, beginning in Jerusalem and Washington, but as this dual-use technology spreads, awareness of the destabilizing impacts of high-resolution commercial space imaging will also spread to other capitals. The elements of a satellite imaging limitation regime have already begun to be developed, beginning with unilateral policies in the US, and bilateral limitations involving Israel (with the US and Russia, to date). In the longer term, however, a multilateral approach to an international limitation regime, specifying limitations on resolution and image distribution, will provide the most efficient means for reducing the risks and maximizing the benefits of high-resolution commercial imaging technology. In the absence of such limits, states whose vital security interests are being threatened by the unrestricted availability of satellite images will act unilaterally to defend their security, and in some cases, this could even lead to technological measures, including the use of lasers and anti-satellite systems, to interfere with this imaging. When forced to choose between these options, the providers are likely to pursue a multilateral limitation regime. " Gerald Steinberg IX. The Alternatives to Regulation


Dual Use Aspects of Commercial High-Resolution Imaging Satellites

Gerald Steinberg

Mideast Security and Policy Studies, No. 37, February 1998

Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies Bar-Ilan University


Table of Contents

I. Background: Reconnaissance Satellites during the Cold War

II. Satellite Imaging Policies of the US and USSR

III. The Changing Rules Among the Major Space Powers

IV. The Emerging Space Imaging Providers

V. Security Related Implications of Commercial Satellite Imaging

VI. Changes In The Regulation of High-Resolution Imaging

VII. US-Israeli Negotiations on Limitations

VIII. Policy Options for the Future

IX. The Alternatives to Regulation