The applicability of the United Nations Space Treaties during armed conflict

Steven R. Freeland, Ram S. Jakhu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionResearchpeer-review


The principal United Nations (and some other) Space Treaties were concluded during the Cold War. The two space powers at the time, the United States and the Soviet Union, were also the leading protagonists in this geopolitical conflict. They had both realised very early on the strategic significance of outer space and were engaged in a fierce rivalry, with the result that much of the space-related technology developed during the 1960s-1980s (and beyond) was driven first and foremost by military and security considerations. Notwithstanding the context within which they were negotiated, however, the Space Treaties emphasise the peaceful use and exploration of outer space, and codify a number of fundamental principles that may have the effect of limiting any possibility of armed conflict involving space. However, it is unclear whether, and to what extent, the treaties would actually apply during times of armed conflict. Whilst, from a normative perspective, it is preferable that they should apply in such circumstances, this is not expressly provided for in the treaties themselves. This article will examine the relevant principles of general international law relating to the obligation of States Parties to comply with treaties during armed conflict and then proceed to apply those principles to critically analyse the express provisions of the Space Treaties, in order to determine the extent, if at all, of their applicability.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the International Institute of Space Law 2015
EditorsR. Moro-Aguilar, P. J. Blount, T. Masson-Zwaan
PublisherEleven International Publishing
ISBN (Print) 978-9462366992
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The applicability of the United Nations Space Treaties during armed conflict'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this