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This mid-2018 report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. The rapid increase of space activity in the 21st century has raised questions about the adequacy of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST) to govern orbital activities and prevent future international conflicts. This study analyzes the OST's ability to address critical emerging problems across three issue areas: orbital space debris, the weaponization of space, and asteroid and Moon mining. It concludes by arguing that the language within the OST does not adequately address these emerging problems, which could lead to possible conflicts in each of these issue-areas. This study offers several possible policy recommendations for consideration by U.S. decision makers to promote a future framework of stability and longevity in the use of space: 1) transfer responsibility for tracking non-military satellites and space debris in low earth orbit (LEO) from the military to commercial space companies; 2) review the current 25-year guideline for de-orbiting satellites for adequacy; 3) propose a moratorium to China and Russia on further anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) testing; 4) prohibit nefarious behavior in space, rather than trying to prohibit dual-use technologies; 5) initiate talks with Russia and China to reevaluate and discuss the Moon Treaty; and 6) reach out to interested State Parties in the OST to coordinate future space mining legislation.
This study will be divided into five chapters. Chapter I introduced the background information on the OST. It was broken up into two parts to set the reader up for the intended study questions. Part one introduces the history of the OST: events leading up to the treaty, conflicts occurring during 1960s, reasons for making the treaty, and the details of the treaty. Part two transitioned into the present day by depicting the major challenges and growth of the use of outer space. It also addressed the change of key players in space; Russia and the United States are no longer alone in their race to space. Other nations with capable space programs include but are not limited to China, Japan, and India. Commercial actors and wealthy individuals are becoming key players in the race to space. With nations, private citizens, commercial companies, and militaries all vying for their place in space, it could inherently lead to conflict. The final few paragraphs of this chapter discussed the case studies that will be examined to determine whether the OST is adequate as it stands to prevent conflict in the 21st century as new risks or threats have emerged. Chapters II, III, and IV will look at three case studies regarding current challenges in space and analyze them against the OST to determine whether changes, amendments, or a proposal of a new international space treaty/agreement need to be made to prevent conflict. Each case study will begin with a brief history of that issue and whether it was considered during the creation of the OST. Additionally, each case study will examine political, military, and commercial interests and their involvement in current space issues. Chapter II will introduce the first case study on the mitigation of space debris. Chapter III will discuss weaponization in space, potential weapons that could be used in space, and the effects those weapons could potentially have on the United States. Chapter IV will address the future of asteroid and Moon mining and the potential concerns that might come with these new activities. The concluding chapter, Chapter V, summarizes the findings (successes and failures) on whether the OST is adequate as it stands to prevent conflict in the 21st century, highlights the gaps (what is missing?), and provides policy recommendations to the treaty in support of future U.S. or international agreements.