Overview of Current International Space Law in the Context of Planetary Defence

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More than 50 years after the entry into force of the Outer Space Treaty, it is appropriate to continue to reflect on the significance of ensuring that outer space is properly protected from dangers that may ultimately jeopardise future space missions, as well as life on Earth. It is for this good reason that issues relating to the
‘safety, security and sustainability’ of outer space are frequently raised in multilateral for a such as the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (uncopuos), and its two Subcommittees. An overarching theme in these discussions relates to our future ability to utilise space, and the potential benefits that it may offer to humankind. In this sense, the notion of ‘planetary defence’ represents an important element. As it
will be discussed further below,3 the term ‘defence’ is not entirely appropriate for describing a mission aiming at the deflection or destruction of a Near-Earth Object (neo), at least from a public international law perspective. However, most of the methods potentially being applied, in particular the use of kinetic
impactors,4 can be considered as ‘weapons’ and thus are subject to regulation under public international law and international space law.5 One very important element of this is to prevent (armed) military conflict from taking place in outer space, as well as to restrict (ideally also to prevent) the proliferation and placement in orbit of space ‘weapons’.6 Indeed, these threats to the long-term future of our space activities represent significant challenges to the evolution of a regulatory framework regarding planetary defence that will best serve humanity’s interests
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLegal Aspects of Planetary Defence
EditorsIrmgard Marboe
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-46760-6
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-46759-0
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameStudies in Space Law
ISSN (Electronic)1871-7659


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