Many countries join The US, Russia and China in creating space agencies
Civilian and Military use of space has been dramatically increasing in recent years thus leading many States, including Australia, to create National Space Agencies.
With a crowded field vying for economic, social and military advantage in space, what governance exists for conduct? How do national and international laws translate to become space law?
An international collaboration of four universities, led by our University of Adelaide Law School, is working to progress law in space by drafting a manual on the international law applicable to military space operations.
International legal experts on space law, armed conflict and the use of force have come together with technical experts, to draft and review proposed rules. Dubbed the Woomera Manual, the name refers to the Australian outback town that has a long association with multi-national space operations.
This work makes a key contribution to articulating and clarifying the law, which reduces the risk that armed conflict in outer space would pose to humankind.
Professor Melissa de Zwart is co-editor of the Woomera Manual and Dean of the University of Adelaide’s Law School.
“Conflict in outer space is not a case of if, but when,” she says.
“The few international treaties that deal with outer space provide very little regulation of modern space activities, including both military and commercial uses of space. Therefore, we need to cast our gaze more widely in our approach to determining what laws are applicable in space.”
The Woomera Manual aims to replicate the success of previous international collaborations on manuals governing armed conflict at sea; air and missile warfare; and cyber operations.
It will serve as a guide and reference for diplomacy and negotiation on the conduct of nations in their space operations.
The possibility of armed conflict in outer space is growing and the disruption it could cause may devastate life as we know it.The Woomera Manual will support a stable, rules-based order, even in times of tension and armed conflict.
Professor Melissa de Zwart
Dean of Law
Adelaide Law School
Faculty of the Professions