“Space race goes to sea,” blared the curious headline on CNN’s online
story last week.

The Associated Press referred, as well, to “the commercial space
race” heading to sea.

These were preview stories to Saturday’s successful launch of a dummy
payload from an ocean platform — a first for a joint venture called
Sea Launch,
which plans to put six to 12 satellites into orbit every year.

But who’s racing whom? Sea Launch is a multinational venture,
spearheaded by Boeing, but in partnership with RSC Energia, a Russian
company controlled from its formation by Moscow’s intelligence agents,
as well as companies from Ukraine and Norway.

While CNN gave the impression there’s still some sort of national
competition for the high ground of space, multinational corporations
such as Boeing and Loral are eagerly sharing their technology with
countries such as Russia and China — for a price, of course.

While the multinationals are seeing dollar signs in the technology
that helps our enemies target us with nuclear ballistic missiles, the
real cost to U.S. taxpayers, who have long subsidized these aerospace
firms, is to national security.

Saturday’s test launch was treated by the establishment press simply
as a technological breakthrough. None of the controversy involved in the
Sea Launch program over the last two years was even mentioned.

For instance, even the security-unconscious Clinton administration
withdrew Sea Launch’s license to operate last July 27, following a
disclosure that Boeing had transferred technical information to its
foreign partners without proper approval. As part of the settlement
arranged by the State Department, Boeing agreed to pay a fine, with a
portion to be used over the next three years to shore up Sea Launch’s
export compliance measures.

On Sept. 30, 1998, the State Department terminated the suspension of
the Boeing Company’s export license on Sea Launch as part of that civil
settlement. That cleared the way for Saturday’s test launch.

Yet, as someone who has investigated Sea Launch for the last two
years, I can tell you there is no way the project can prevent such
transfers of technology in the future. Think about it. If you form a
business partnership with an individual or a group of individuals, can
you realistically expect that partnership to flourish and prosper by
keeping secrets directly related to your business plan?

This is the fundamental flaw in all such multinational ventures, but
especially those that involve phony front companies for hostile foreign
intelligence services and military arms. We’ve seen them try and fail in
record numbers during the six years of the Clinton administration.
Boeing’s business partnership with the successor to the KGB is one
example. Loral Corp.’s business partnership with the Chinese military is
another example.

These are partnerships designed for short-term profits and long-term
national security threats. And when you factor in little details such as
the Russian-Chinese military alliance and strategic agreement to share
intelligence data that could help them overcome their “common enemy” —
the USA — you begin to understand just how dangerous and shortsighted
such projects are.

The Sea Launch project is indeed a technological wonder. It involves
a floating launch pad converted from an oil drilling platform loaded
with 3,000 tons of automated rocket handling equipment, a 650-foot-long
command ship that serves as a floating rocket assembly plant and mission
control center, blastoffs from equatorial waters that offer advantages
over land-based liftoffs in the United States. Because the Earth spins
faster at the equator, rockets carrying heavy payloads get a boost in
reaching orbit.

The whole project is based in Long Beach, Calif. — just a stone’s
throw from the strategic former U.S. Navy port the China Ocean Shipping
Co. was so eager to take over. Now you know why. Just imagine all the
neat tips Beijing could pick up had COSCO been permitted, as President
Clinton planned, to be based near Sea Launch.

Nevertheless, with or without the base of operations in Long Beach,
our enemies will be certain to pick up lots of high-tech tips from their
involvement in multinational projects such as Sea Launch.

Space race? Maybe it is. Unfortunately, America seems to have
forgotten it still lives in a competitive and dangerous world.

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