Academic journal article Houston Journal of International Law

War on the Final Frontier: Can Twentieth-Century Space Law Combat Twenty-First-Century Warfare?

Academic journal article Houston Journal of International Law

War on the Final Frontier: Can Twentieth-Century Space Law Combat Twenty-First-Century Warfare?

Article excerpt

I.   INTRODUCTION II.  HISTORY OF SPACE AGREEMENTS III. SHORTCOMINGS OF THE CURRENT LEGAL REGIME IV.  THE DEVELOPMENT OF ANTI-SATELLITE      TECHNOLOGY V.   OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN SPACE WEAPONRY VI.  SPACE LAW AFTER THE OUTER SPACE TREATY VII. CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

Moving into the 21st century, advances in technology have shifted the landscape of modern warfare, making space the next frontier for military exploitation. (1) Knowing the vital role space will play in the future of warfare, spacefaring nations have rushed to stake their claims in the vast beyond, hoping to obtain their piece of the ultimate high ground. (2) However, much like the westward expansion of the United States, expansion into outer space is fraught with the dangers of lawlessness that could destabilize the global community and spark an international arms race. (3)

The battle for space began in the 1950s with the Soviet launch of Sputnik I (Sputnik), and since then there has been a manic race to gain space superiority. (4) The genesis of Sputnik ultimately culminated in the first treaty governing the use of space called the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, or commonly known as the Outer Space Treaty. (5)

Since the signing of the Outer Space Treaty in 1967, differing interpretations of the Outer Space Treaty have resulted in many different approaches in carrying out the treaty, rendering it almost powerless to ensure a non-militarized space. (6) Furthermore, with the technological advances made in the past 40 years, the potential use of space for strategic military advantages is a pressing threat to the global community that must be addressed in order to curb an extraterrestrial arms race. (7) Of particular concern is the testing of antisatellite weaponry, which, if used, could have a catastrophic impact on the global economy and current warfighter technology. (8) Over the last ten years, several new potential treaties and agreements have been proposed. However, because the countries with the greatest space capability recognize that space supremacy is what will be the ultimate factor in determining future military power, the current proposals have failed to materialize into an agreement of any real potential for international acceptance. (9)

This comment will explore the history of space agreements, the shortcomings of the current legal regime governing the international use of outer space, and document the space threats that have arisen as a result of the inadequate legal framework for dealing with a global community that is now far more technologically advanced than the time when the Outer Space Treaty was ratified. After identifying the current threats, this comment will discuss the most recent proposals to deal with the growing threats associated with space and point out key problems with any agreements currently in place. Lastly, this comment will try to identify potential solutions to these problems that could work to deter a devastating arms race that would destabilize the global community and potentially result in unnecessary conflict.

II. HISTORY OF SPACE AGREEMENTS

The battle for space began in October 1957 after the Soviet's launch of Sputnik. The launch shocked the West, spreading alarm and prompting a space race that the global community hoped to temper with the creation of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). (10) UNCOPUOS is the primary vehicle for negotiating multilateral agreements relating to outer space, and currently has 83 member states as of 2015, including the primary space players: the United States, China, and Russia. (11) The most important agreement reached through this body was the Outer Space Treaty. (12)

The Outer Space Treaty is the foundational space treaty that serves as the "constitution" for international space activity and provides the framework for the present day legal regime regulating outer space. …

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