Author(s): Cassandra Steer
Despite the fact that outer space may only be used for peaceful purposes under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, most technologically advanced States today have a high military dependence on space. In other words, space is “militarized,” but not yet “weaponized.” At the same time, a space arms race has been underway for some time, and appears to be accelerating in recent years. In 2019, India joined what it proudly dubbed the “elite club” of States with the capability to launch direct ascent anti-satellite weapons, replicating earlier tests by China, Russia and the U.S., all of whom have also demonstrated more covert forms of anti-satellite or “counterspace” technologies. The establishment of the U.S. Space Force at the end of 2019 and the response of allies and adversaries alike is emblematic of the escalatory cycle that appears to be in place. Today nearly every country is dependent in some way on space-enabled capabilities, many of which are supplied not by States but by commercial entities. This report outlines the historical and legal context, and argues for increased cooperation and transparency to improve the stability and security of outer space for national and international security.