Since 1967, space law has not changed-but the goal of the United Nations is to update the law and maintain peace in space

November 15, 2021 Russia destroyed an old satellite of its own The use of missiles launched from the surface of the earth creates a huge cloud of debris, threatening many space assets, including astronauts on the International Space Station.This happened only two weeks after the meeting of the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly Formally recognize the important role of space and space assets Participate in international efforts to improve the human experience—and the risks that military activities in space pose to these goals.

The United Nations First Committee deals with disarmament, global challenges and peace threats that affect the international community. On November 1, it approved a resolution to establish an open working group.The goal of this group is to assess current and future threats to space operations, determine when behavior may be considered irresponsible, “make recommendations on possible norms, rules, and principles for responsible behavior,” and “be legally binding.” Contribution to the negotiation of the instrument of the Prevent the “space arms race. “

We are two space policy experts, specializing in Space law with Commercial space businessWe are also the chairman and vice chairman of the National Space Association, a non-profit space advocacy organization. What is refreshing is that the United Nations recognizes the harsh reality that peace in space is still fragile. As space activities become more and more important, and—as Russia’s test shows—tensions continue to escalate, this timely solution has been approved.

A large conference hall at the United Nations Headquarters.

1967 Outer Space Treaty

Outer space is far from a lawless vacuum.

Space activities are managed by 1967 Outer Space Treaty, Currently approved 111 countriesThe treaty was negotiated in the shadow of the Cold War. At that time, only the Soviet Union and the United States had space capabilities.

Although the outer space treaty provides broad principles to guide the activities of countries, it does not provide detailed “rules of the road.” In essence, the treaty guarantees the freedom of all mankind to explore and use space. There were only two warnings about this, and multiple gaps appeared immediately.

The first warning states that the moon and other celestial bodies must be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. It omitted the remaining space in this comprehensive ban. The only guidance provided in this regard can be found in the preamble of the treaty, which recognizes the “common interest” in the “progress in the exploration and use of space for peaceful purposes”. The second warning states that those who conduct activities in space must “due due consideration to the corresponding interests of all other parties to the treaty.”

A major problem is that the treaty does not provide a clear definition for “peaceful purposes” or “due consideration.”

Although the Outer Space Treaty explicitly prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction anywhere in space, it does not prohibit the use of conventional weapons in space or the use of land-based weapons against space assets. Finally, it is not clear that certain weapons-such as China’s new nuclear-capable partially orbital hypersonic missile- The prohibition that should belong to the treaty.

The vague military restrictions in the treaty leave plenty of room for interpretations that lead to conflicts.

Satellite images of storms over the United States

Satellite images of storms over the United States

Space is militarized, conflict is possible

Since then, space has been used for military purposes Germany launched its first V2 rocket in 1942.

many Early satellite, GPS technology, Soviet space station Even NASA’s space shuttle is clearly or Has been used for military purposes.

As the degree of commercialization increases, the line between military and civilian uses of space has become increasingly blurred. Most people can determine the ground benefits of satellites, such as weather forecasts, climate monitoring, and Internet connectivity, but they don’t know that they can also increase agricultural production and monitor human rights violations.The eagerness to develop a new space economy based on the activities of the Earth and the Moon and its surroundings shows that humanity’s The economy’s dependence on space will only increase.

However, satellites that provide ground benefits can also or already provide military functions. We are forced to conclude that the line between military use and civilian use is still blurred, so potential conflicts are more likely to occur. Increasing commercial activity will also provide opportunities for disputes surrounding the combat zone, which will trigger a military response from the government.

Military test

Although there have not been any direct military conflicts in space, countries have stepped up their efforts to prove their military strength in and out of space. The Russian experiment is just one recent example. In 2007, China tested an anti-satellite weapon and produced a huge cloud of debris, but there are still problems.The International Space Station had to On November 10, 2021, I escaped from that Chinese test for a while..

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Similar demonstrations in the U.S. and India The debris is much less destructive, but they are no longer welcomed by the international community.

The new UN resolution is important because it initiates the development of new norms, rules and principles for responsible behavior. If implemented properly, this can greatly help provide the guardrails needed to prevent conflict in space.

From guidelines to implementation

this United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space It has been committed to space activities since 1959.

However, the terms of reference of the committee 95 people The committee aims to promote international cooperation and study and explore legal issues arising from outer space. It lacks the ability to implement the principles and guidelines set out in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, and cannot even force participants to negotiate.

The UN resolution in November 2021 requires the newly formed working group to meet twice a year in 2022 and 2023. Although this activity is slow compared to the speed of commercial space development, it is an important step in global space policy.

This article is reproduced from dialogue, A non-profit news website dedicated to sharing the opinions of academic experts. it is from: Michelle LD Hanlon, University of Mississippi with Greg Otley, Arizona State University.

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Greg Autry received funding from the Office of Space Commerce of the Federal Aviation Administration. Oxford university. Greg Autry serves as the Vice President of the National Space Association. Greg Autry works for NASA.

Michelle LD Hanlon does not work, consult, own shares, or obtain funds from any company or organization that will benefit from this article, and does not disclose any related affiliation other than academic appointments.

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