Missiles and Space Environment
Space Law Probe is a peaceful blog. When it comes to laws governing missile defense and related issues, expert help is welcome. Thankfully, Steve Mirmina sent over his new article in the Journal of Space Law, The Ballistic Missle Defense System and its Effects on the Outer Space Environment.
(Steve, who is senior attorney in NASA's Office of the General Council, international law practice team, presents this article in his personal capacity, not to express the views of the government.)
He writes, "the U.S. is in the process of creating a Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) to protect against the threat of rogue nation attacking the U.S. with ballistic missiles.... The system is designed to track incoming missiles by radar and then destroy them before they reach U.S. soil.... Unfortunately, certain space-based effects of the BMDS could result in the pollution of critical orbits in outer space. Without making a judgment on whether the BMDS is, or is not, a worthwhile endeavor to defend the homeland from attack by rogue states, this paper will focus on the international law implications of the BMDS' effects on the outer space environment."
Steve's article overviews the Missile Defense Agency and its objectives; it explains "how the missile defense system is intended to work." Then it turns to "the fundamental question" of whether it is legal under international law to use outer space for military purposes.
Steve looks at the effects of orbital debris causes by the BMDS and "dangers to other civil users of outer space such as the shuttle, international space station and astronauts generally." He examines international law restrictions on contamination of outer space.
And Steve notes "other military space applications, including the use of anti-satellite weapons that would damage or destroy another country's space assets, must be scrutinized to determine long lasting effects of resulting debris on the outer space environment."
A fascinating analysis. Read it all.
(And for more Mirmina space law insights, look here and here. Or, ask his Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court 2005 world champion team.)