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May 23, 2017

University of Exeter to draft new rules for space warfare

A team of international lawyers from the University of Exeter’s Law School is preparing to draft a legal manual of space warfare.

A team of international lawyers from the University of Exeter’s Law School is preparing to draft a legal manual of space warfare.

The Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space (MILAMOS) is being developed in partnership with scientists, government representatives and academics in order to strengthen the rule of law in outer space.

UK’s Exeter Law School has recently joined a consortium of founding institutions, including McGill University and the University of Adelaide, for the development of these rules for space warfare.

Said to be the first of its type, the manual will outline the legal parameters for military uses of outer space.

The MILAMOS will also set out rules for war crimes in space and for the development of space-based weaponry, including lasers and missile defence systems.

"The participation of legal and technical experts from around the world gives hope that the solutions we identify will gain global credibility and thus shape the policy and behaviour of space-faring states in the foreseeable future."

University of Exeter Law School Dr Kubo Macák said: “Currently, rules of space law found in international treaties focus almost exclusively on peaceful uses of outer space. But to what extent are states constrained by the law when it comes to their military activities in space?”

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The manual will also look into the issue of who will be responsible for cleaning up space debris caused by military action.

Macák added: “For now, we have more questions than answers. However, the participation of legal and technical experts from around the world gives hope that the solutions we identify will gain global credibility and thus shape the policy and behaviour of space-faring states in the foreseeable future.”

The manual will examine the legality of using weapons in space and whether military astronauts would be governed by laws designed for terrestrial combatants.


Image: The manual will provide guidance on issues such as the legality of attacking satellites and firing lasers from space in time of war. Photo: courtesy of the USAF (Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, US).

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