Space law has been constant since 1967, but the UN aims to update and maintain peaceful space

Space law has been constant since 1967, but the UN aims to update and maintain peaceful space

Huge Debris from Satellite Destruction

On Nov. 15, 2021, Russia used a missile launched from the surface of the Earth to destroy one of its outdated satellites, resulting in a vast debris cloud that threatens many space assets. The International Space Station was featured in this. This occurred just two weeks after the UN General Assembly’s First Committee explicitly recognized the critical role. The endeavours to improve the human experience and the risks military actions in space pose to those aspirations are the roles played by space and space assets in international relations.

The United Nations First Committee is concerned with disarmament, global issues, and threats to world peace. The committee approved a resolution on Nov. 1 that establishes an open-ended working group. The group’s objectives are to examine present and prospective hazards to space activities, as well as to judge whether the behavior is irresponsible. They can also give suggestions for possible responsible behavior norms, regulations, and principles. They can also help with the negotiation of legally binding instruments, such as a pact to prevent a space weapons race.

We are two space policy specialists with expertise in space law and the commercial space industry. We are also the president and vice president of the National Space Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to space advocacy. It’s encouraging to see the United Nations recognize the grim fact that peace in space remains precarious. This timely resolution was approved as space activities become increasingly important, and tensions continue to rise, as evidenced by the Russian test.

Space under control and militarization, the possibility of conflict

Since Germany’s first V2 rocket launch in 1942, space has been exploited for military objectives.

The distinctions between military and civilian uses of space are becoming less hazy as commercialization grows. Most people are aware of the terrestrial benefits of satellites, such as weather forecasting, climate monitoring, and internet connectivity, but they are unaware that they may also help farmers raise yields and monitor human rights violations. The drive to create a new space economy based on activities on and around the Earth and the moon indicates that humanity’s economic reliance on space will only grow.

Satellites that give terrestrial benefits, on the other hand, could or already do serve military purposes. We’re obliged to conclude that the distinctions between military and civilian purposes are still blurry enough to make a confrontation more likely than not. As commercial operations expand, there will be more potential for disagreements over operational zones to prompt military reactions from governments.

Guidelines to Enforcement

Since 1959, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has been addressing space activities.

The 95-member committee’s mission, on the other hand, is to encourage international collaboration and research legal issues related to space exploration. It cannot enforce the 1967 Outer Space Treaty’s concepts and rules, let alone compel actors to engage in discussions.

The newly formed working group must meet twice a year in both 2022 and 2023, according to a United Nations resolution passed in November 2021. While this is a slow pace compared to commercial space growth, it is a significant step forward in global space policy.


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