What is going on in outer space and why is it important to engage for a peaceful space?
Today marks the start of the international week of protest to stop the militarisation of outer space. WILPF’s disarmament programme, Reaching Critical Will (RCW), co-sponsors this week of action and awareness, which takes place every year in October, this time from 4-11 October 2014.
During the coming week, RCW will post information, updates, and news related to disarmament activities on outer space. Also make sure to check out the schedule for information on local activities for public action.
We believe that outer space should remain free from weapons and protected against weaponisation, militarisation, and irresponsible behavior. It is extremely important to keep space for peace in order to facilitate humanitarian needs, such as telecommunication, disaster mitigation, resource management, and development.
WHY CARE ABOUT SPACE FOR PEACE?
Over the past decades, there has been a rapid increase in the knowledge about outer space, followed by an increase in our use of outer space technology. This means that we are becoming ever more dependent on the use of space for peaceful purposes.
The increase of outer space activities has also contributed to an expansion of the military use of space. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to address the issue of safety and security in space and the preservation of this unique environment so it can continue to benefit all of us for a long time to come.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS IN OUTER SPACE?
Precaution is needed in outer space operations, as collisions of any objects in orbit create enormous amounts of debris. This can have devastating effects such as collision with operational satellites and radio frequency interference.
Space debris is the result of human activity in space. It is the collection of old objects in orbit, such as pieces left from payloads, old satellites, loose bolts, etc. It does not take more than a tiny rock (or a random piece of space debris) to destroy important satellites or other devices.
The average impact speed of orbital debris with another space object is close to 10 km/s, meaning a collision with even a small piece of debris will cause severe damage.
Another risk in outer space is the worrying trend in technology development in recent years: weaponisation of space technology is no longer just science fiction. Some states have developed and even tested anti-satellite systems. Some ground-based “missile defence” technologies also have dual-use capabilities as space weapons, as they can be used to attack space-based assets.
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO KEEP SPACE A PEACEFUL PLACE?
The overwhelming majority of UN Member States are concerned that the weaponisation of outer space will lead to an arms race and believe that a multilateral approach is the best way to prevent this.
The Outer Space Treaty from 1967 prohibits the placement of weapons of mass destruction in outer space. But it does not regulate other types of weapon systems being placed in outer space or using outer space assets to conduct attacks.
A new agreement has been on the disarmament agenda for decades to prevent an arms race in outer space, but negotiations have never commenced on this topic. Although different initiatives have been introduced, negotiations for a legally-binding instrument have continuously been prevented.
With our growing understanding about the universe, it is more important than ever to protect space against weaponisation, militarisation, and irresponsible behaviour. A conflict in space would lead to devastating direct consequences for our daily life on Earth, but also affect the overall long-term sustainability and peaceful use of space.
UPDATES DURING THE WEEK…
Stay tuned for RCW’s updates on how we can contribute to preventing the weaponisation of outer space during Keep Space for Peace Week!
Read more about the initiative on the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.