A U.S. military official recently described a missile test conducted by China in August as “very close to a Sputnik moment.” It seems that the test involved the launch of a re-entry vehicle capable of entering orbit and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere with its payload intact; this primary vehicle also carried a hypersonic glide vehicle that was released following re-entry.
In his book On War, published in 1873, military analyst Carl von Clausewitz said, “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.” Contemporary military theorists and planners still find this idea of the “fog of war” relevant.
There is currently strong international interest in a formal arms control agreement for outer space. However, many obstacles that have prevented such an agreement in the past must still be surmounted.
On December 7, 2020, the United Kingdom-sponsored United Nations Resolution A/RES/75/36 was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Seeking to focus the global discussion on outer space security on ways of “reducing threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour,” the objective is to build consensus on what it means to be a “responsible” actor in outer space.
Threats to the security of outer space are growing. More pronouncements that space is a warfighting domain are augmented by periodic accusations of, and demonstrations of, weapons tests. The latest research on global counterspace capabilities reveals an expanding and accelerating proliferation of capabilities that can target and harm objects in space.
Orbiting our planet are thousands of satellites that support military operations as well as critical civilian and commercial infrastructures that provide essential services for humans all over the world. These satellites are unprotected and can be seriously damaged by even the smallest piece of orbital shrapnel or debris. And in space, the danger is ongoing, because the debris stays in orbit.
The following response to the Canadian consultation on a framework for future space exploration is submitted by Project Ploughshares, a Canadian peace research institute with a focus on disarmament efforts and international security. Project Ploughshares has been engaged in space security and international policy governance for almost 20 years and leads the Space Security Index project.
On October 13, 2020, the Canadian Space Agency, along with civil space agencies from the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Japan, Luxembourg, and the United Arab Emirates signed bilateral agreements with …
This map is a visualization of the existing normative landscape in outer space. Created from detailed coding of 90 space governance documents and additional expert feedback from an online survey and global series of workshops, it identifies the prevailing values, documented activities, and prescribed behaviours that currently influence practices in space.
In November 2020, global space experts were invited to participate in a series of regional online workshops to identify priorities and possible next steps in the development of norms related to space-based military capabilities and activities.