This document reflects research and analysis conducted by Project Ploughshares Senior Researcher Dr. Jessica West and Gilles Doucet of Spectrum Space Security on how the existing normative framework in outer space can serve as a basis for informing the development of additional norms of behaviour for security-related activities.
“There’s a good display of goodwill and broad engagement. I think there’s points of consensus on what needs to be done. We need to find common understandings of how international laws apply in space,” says Jessica West, a senior researcher at the research institute Project Ploughshares based in Waterloo, Ontario, who’s attending the meeting.
Space is increasingly critical to modern life on Earth. But there is growing concern that, as it becomes more economically and strategically important, tensions between different space actors are heightening in a manner that could lead to conflict. The accelerating proliferation of counterspace capabilities, as well as the enactment of national policies that deem space an operational or warfighting domain, underlines the very real nature of threats that exist and highlights the importance of keeping space peaceful.
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.
“Can the International Space Station be suddenly dropped over Europe? No. Is that going to happen? Again, no,” said Jessica West, a senior researcher at Project Ploughshares, a Canadian peace research institute at the University of Waterloo.
The testing of kinetic anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons and the debris that they produce are currently garnering global attention and concern. This is partly because of the November 2021 ASAT test conducted by Russia; partly because of our expanding use and dependence on outer space; and partly because of the accelerating development, testing, and demonstration of kinetic ASAT capabilities.
Jessica West, a senior researcher on space security at Project Ploughshares, a Canadian peace and security research institute, said we’re reaching the point where our ability to observe space is being significantly harmed.
More than a year and a half after Canada’s unsuccessful run for a seat on the UN Security Council, shortcomings in Ottawa’s arms control and disarmament agenda remain prominent. As the international community continues to face multiple, overlapping security challenges at the start of 2022, the federal Cabinet installed last October has a fresh opportunity to take stock of Canada’s foreign policy priorities.
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.
If you are feeling anxious about the state of global affairs, you are not alone. At Project Ploughshares, we are keenly aware of the multiple, overlapping crises facing the world today. So are millions around the world, increasingly concerned about the complexity of the formidable challenges before us – and about our collective ability as an international community to craft credible and effective responses.