The annual Keep Space for Peace Week 2015 is coming to an end. As a co-sponsor, WILPF’s disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will posted facts, updates, and news related to disarmament activities on outer space on our Facebook page.

Space and Disarmament

Keeping space for peace is more crucial than ever before. Modern life on earth has become increasingly dependent on space because of rapidly developing space technology. Today, societies across the globe rely on space-innovations for everything from farming, communication, and resource management to development and disaster mitigation. As our dependency on satellites continues to grow, so do our concerns over the vulnerability of satellites. The destruction of which could have negative consequences for humanity.

Space weapons are any objects, either placed in space or on earth, with the capability of destroying space assets. Today a number of states have developed anti-satellite systems, which are used to take down objects in space. In 2007 and 2008 respectively, China and the United States successfully tested these on their own satellites. This development raises concerns. Although space itself is heavily militarised, meaning military are using space for purposes such as communication, information and navigation needed on the ground to carry out military operation, it is not yet weaponised. It is crucial that this remains the case in the future both due to the vulnerability of satellites in the event of an act of aggression but because of the increasing risk of accidents. The placing of one single weapon in space can easily spiral into an arms race posing a threat to the peaceful uses of space.

Towards an international agreement?

An overwhelming majority of states have expressed concerns about the increasing militarisation of Outer Space and each year the UN General Assembly adopts resolutions promoting transparency, cooperation and peaceful uses of space. Currently, five treaties regulate state activity, the most prominent one being the Outer Space Treaty 1967, prohibiting the placing of weapons of mass destruction in space. There is, as of today, no prohibition against neither the placing of conventional weapons in space, nor the development and production of anti-satellite weapons.

A number of initiatives have been taken in order to improve security of and transparency in Outer Space activities. In 2008, the European Union initiated the development of the voluntary International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. Russia and China have jointly presented two draft treaties, in 2008 and 2014 respectively on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space, the threat or use of force against outer space object. Despite a large support for such a treaty no agreement has been possible due to rejection of the United States and Israel.

Read more about militarisation of outer space here.