On November 15, 2021, seven astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) were ordered to take shelter because of the possibility of catastrophic collisions as the station passed through a cloud of debris. The astronauts remained in lifeboats while the ISS passed through the cloud multiple times.
Contrary to popular imagination, outer space is not a “Wild, Wild West” of lawlessness. Human activities in outer space are governed by international law, including the United Nations Charter, international humanitarian law (IHL), and, most critically, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST), which sets out broad principles on how states are to conduct themselves in this domain, including commitments to registration, due regard, responsibility, liability, and non-contamination.
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.
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 …
The new Netflix parody series Space Force, starring Steve Carell, is currently #1 on the platform in Canada. We at Project Ploughshares are watching, too. On June 2, with our …
The United States Space Force is taking shape. A uniform of camouflage fatigues and an insignia that looks like something from Star Wars have been designed. A contest is under way to name its troops (both “space cadets” and “spacemen” are off the table). There are suggestions that the Force will be modeled after the U.S. Navy.
The history of arms control in outer space reads like a success story. Outer space is one of the few domains of human activity in which the focus has been on prevention. Although military satellites that provide communications, remote sensing, navigation, and timing services once dominated space and continue to provide essential military services, their operations have long been considered peaceful. Those of us working in space security say that space is “militarized but not weaponized.”
Outer space now provides vast social, scientific, and economic benefits to humanity, but the continued enjoyment of these benefits is anything but guaranteed. As the number of space users and applications has increased, so too have the threats to its long-term sustainability.
Ploughshares program officer Jessica West was among the speakers who addressed outer space security at the UN First Committee meetings in October. She focused on trends in outer space governance …