Nations have come to rely so heavily on space - economically, socially and militarily - that disruption of space infrastructure could prove devastating to life as we know it.
The possibility of conflict, including armed conflict, extending to outer space is growing. Not only might such conflict be the consequence of increasing geo-political polarisation, but the congested and contested nature of outer space also contributes to the fragility of the cooperative use of space. Through commercialisation and technical innovation, space has become essential to the functioning of societies in areas including communications, transportation, commerce and health.
During periods of high tension, the heavy reliance of States on space infrastructure for security and the functioning of civil society represents a vulnerability that can be exploited. Such exploitation could act as a flashpoint leading to escalation of a situation, perhaps to the point of hostilities. Diplomatic efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space or the breakout of conflict include the implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures, sometimes through the proposal of new international instruments. Such efforts, however, have not clarified how relevant international law that is already in place applies to outer space. In particular, there has been no comprehensive examination of the application of the law on the resort to the use of force by and against States (jus ad bellum) and the law of armed conflict (jus in bello) in outer space.
Aim and outcome
The Woomera Manual on the International Law of Military Space Activities. and Operations will become the definitive document on military and security law as it applies to space. The project will be completed by 2023 and will draw on the knowledge of dozens of legal and space operations experts from around the world. It will also benefit greatly from a process of peer review and State Engagement.
The Woomera Manual aims to be a widely recognised and accepted objective statement of existing international law (lex lata) applicable to military space operations. Government lawyers (especially military lawyers), policy-makers, decision-makers and military space operators comprise the key target audience of The Manual. However, it is also expected to spark interest and debate among a wide range of international institutions and the general public, as well as serve as a platform for further academic discourse and research, particularly as legal principles and policies are further developed in response to changing political realities and the evolving global security environment.