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date: 22 May 2018

Space Security Law

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Planetary Science. Please check back later for the full article.

Since the very beginning of the space age, security has been the critical, overriding concern at the heart of both international and domestic space law regimes. While these regimes certainly encompass broader interests, such as commercial uses of outer space, they are built on a legal foundation that is largely intended to regularize interactions among space actors to ensure security, safety, and sustainability in the space environment. Space security law, as a result, has central goals of both maintaining peace and providing security as a public good for the benefit of humankind.

The idea of security is a technical and political construct. The law is a tool that is used to articulate that construct as concept and operationalize it as a value. As such, space security law is a network of law and regulation that governs a wide variety of space activities. There are four broad categories that typify the various manifestations of space security law: international peace and security; national security; human security; and space safety and sustainability. International peace and security, the first category, is directly concerned with the international law and norms that have been adopted to decrease the risk of conflict between states. National security, category two, consists of domestic law that implements, at the national level, the obligations found in the first category as well as law that promotes other national security goals. Human security, the third category, is the loose set of law and policy directed at the use of space for the protection of human populations, such as disaster response and planetary protection. Finally, the fourth category, space safety and security, represents the emerging body of law and policy that seeks to protect the space environment through measures that address space debris and harmful contamination. Obviously, these categories overlap and laws can serve duplicative purposes, but this compartmentalization reveals much about the legal structures that surround core security projects being pursued in and through space.