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.
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.
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.
The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research Innovations Dialogue held on August 19 at the UN Office in Geneva sought to address the implications of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, blockchain, and the Internet of Things on arms control and disarmament.