Oct. 18, 2006 — -- The White House has quietly put out a new National Space Policy -- a document that, among other things, makes it clear that the Bush administration will not sign any treaty that limits America's ability to put weapons in orbit.
The document, much of which is classified, also promotes the growth of private enterprise in space, and calls on NASA to continue its exploration missions, but those come after a call "to ensure that space capabilities are available in time to further U.S. national security, homeland security and foreign policy objectives."
"Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power," the policy states.
"Consistent with this policy, the United States will preserve its rights, capabilities and freedom of action in space ... and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests."
In other words, analysts say, don't expect the United States to sign any new treaties that try to keep weapons from being launched.
"Star Wars"-type programs, while hotly debated by policy wonks, have mostly been far-off notions. Most Americans have heard about Defense Department experiments with exotic weapons, but it's hardly been a front-burner issue.
Craig Eisendrath, a former State Department official who worked on the first treaty to keep space free of military activity in 1967, says things are changing.
"We're going to be testing weapons toward the end of this year," he says. "Deployment will follow. It's not that far away."
Eisendrath, co-author of a forthcoming book, "War in Heaven: Stopping an Arms Race in Outer Space Before It Is Too Late," says the United States is wasting its time.
"Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says we need to protect against a 'space Pearl Harbor,'" he says. "But we're still the dominant power there."
John Pike, another longtime space analyst who now runs globalsecurity.org, was more charitable.
"Nearly six years into his presidency, the Bush space policy has been long overdue," he says in an e-mail to ABC News. "Despite fears that it would mark a bold new initiative to weaponize space, it largely codifies previously announced changes from Clinton space policies of a decade ago."
Eisendrath says there is really no advantage to putting bombs in orbit.
"The effects of most of these weapons can be gotten through ground-based weaponry at a fraction of the cost," he says.