CAN THE OUTER SPACE TREATY PREVENT CONFLICTS IN ORBIT IN THE 21ST CENTURY?
Breen, Nicole M.
Moltz, James C.
Racoosin, Charles M.
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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 thesis 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 thesis 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.