The Security Index Occasional Paper Series came out with the new report “Prospects for preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space: Political and Legal Aspects” by Sarah Erickson

December 27, 2022

MOSCOW. DECEMBER 27, 2022. PIR PRESS. The Security Index Occasional Paper Series came out with the new report “Prospects for preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space: Political and Legal Aspects” by Sarah Erickson.

This paper addresses the issue of preventing an arms race in outer space. Outer space systems are crucial in supporting the infrastructure of the modern civilization. The global community has a shared goal to protect the sustainability, safety, and security of outer space to preserve outer space functionality for continued human prosperity.

The increasing military activity and explicit dedication of outer space as a military domain in a growing number of national and regional defense policies threatens the sustained use of outer space. In addition, emerging technologies and outer space weapons capabilities threaten peaceful human exploration of outer space. Through analysis of the existing governance regime, this article proves that the system is inadequate in achieving a complete de-weaponization of outer space. The deficiencies of the existing framework allow a legal pathway for the development and deployment of any weapon type apart from weapons of mass destruction.

This analysis of the existing legal regime shows that substantial additional measures are needed to ensure the security of outer space. The study highlights a number of possibilities to overcome the political stagnation on the issue of outer space security. Those include pursuing nuanced technical agreements, applying an inclusive approach of binding and non-binding mechanisms, diversifying negotiating participants to include industry and civil society, and utilizing modern incentives to move the conversation forward on outer space security.

Key findings:

  • The significance of outer space systems and resources to the infrastructures of modern-day life cannot be understated. These outer space systems and the quality of life they enable for us all are in jeopardy and would be rendered completely unusable if even one conflict took place in outer space. If outer space is weaponized the possibility of such a conflict grows exponentially.
  • The rapid expansion of new capabilities and the rate at which emerging technologies outpace the efforts of the global community to regulate them, complicates the process even more. However, despite these challenges there exists no ambiguity on the need to ensure the protection and access to outer space.
  • The existing legal framework has acted as a corner stone on the expectations and guidelines for outer space activity. It has become necessary to augment the existing legal framework through a variety of approaches and initiatives to ensure that the weaponization of outer space does not happen.
  • The global community must consider it an absolute necessity to incorporate the participation of industry, civil society, academia, and the non-governmental sector at large.
  • It is crucial to consider the new incentives of the commercial industry and how such incentives can be capitalized to encourage strong and immediate action. Only with the contribution of the largest stakeholders in outer space will the global community be able to implement a robust and long-lasting global outer space governance. By pursuing inclusive approaches in good faith by a diverse set of actors, the global community can ensure that outer space be unequivocally sanctioned a domain of peace for the advancement of humanity.

E16/CHOB – 12/22