Strategic Space Law Program

Since 2015, the McGill University Institute of and Centre for Research in Air and Space Law in partnership with the University of Adelaide Law School have put together the Strategic Space Law Program, the world's first course focusing on various legal and policy considerations surrounding the strategic uses of outer space. Armed forces have not had to comprehensively consider the application of law to the use of force and rules of engagement in outer space. Conflict in the space domain is now a possibility that cannot be dismissed and this Program provides a unique opportunity for lawyers and other professionals in the defense services, international relations, government, international organizations, law firms, consulting firms and industry around the world to study space law in a strategic context.

The Program is a one-week intensive, interdisciplinary, international and interactive workshop that is held annually in either Montreal, Canada, or Adelaide, Australia, thus greatly facilitating the participating and training of people from all over the world who are interested in the course.

Program highlights

  • 25 core lectures from experts on the concepts, principles and rules involved in the various disciplines that touch on Strategic Space Law.
  • 10 Hands-on practical exercises linked to lectures, on topics such as diplomatic negotiations, aerospace traffic management, military use of spectrum, space debris and simulated legal, policy and commercial problem-solving and debate.
  • Social and other networking activities.

Why study Strategic Space Law?

Today there are over 1,300 active satellites in orbit and the number of States directly involved in launching or operating satellites has grown substantially since the dawn of the space age. Even States that have no direct involvement in launching or operating satellites rely heavily on space infrastructure: for television, radio, banking, communications, transport, agriculture, mining, and especially for modern military services.

Yet, those satellites are under increasing threat from 100,000s of pieces of space debris and increasing harmful radio interference. Furthermore, some States already possess counter-space weapons and other means capable of destroying or disrupting satellites and other States have plans to develop those capabilities. There is also greater competition for use of the limited radio frequency spectrum and prime orbital slots that are indispensable for the operation of all satellites.

Outer space is becoming more contested, congested and competitive. Concurrently, the global security situation generally is less certain. Financial and other constraints have made global powers more inward-looking and less likely to deploy forces globally – except through the sort of ‘remote reach’ capabilities that rely on space infrastructure (such as uninhabited aerial vehicles and cyber warfare). Ballistic missiles, as the means of delivery of nuclear weapons, involve space flight and ballistic missile defense also relies on space-based infrastructure. Thus, space is a key element in global security, yet it is also increasingly vulnerable to the threats described above.

There is a real danger that outer space will become a wild and lawless frontier. There is evidence of that view already. A conflict in space could have devastating implications for the space systems of all nations and for modern society on Earth. Therefore, in order to avoid potentially devastating conflicts, there is a dire need for understanding, particularly by those that are directly involved in the use of space, of the applicable rules of international law, particularly rules governing the prohibition on the use of force and applicable rules of international humanitarian law that serve to minimize the detrimental effects of any future conflict. The challenges confronting space-based infrastructure have implications for all States, not just the superpower, space-faring States and implications for all sectors, not just the military or government.

Who is the Strategic Space Law Program for ?

  • Lawyers from other government departments and international organizations
  • Military lawyers
  • Public policy practitioners/scholars
  • Commercial lawyers
  • Aspiring law students (aspiring to study law or law students aspiring to employment in this field)
  • Non-lawyers in space-related private or public sector roles

Qualifications at the end of the Strategic Space Law Program

The Strategic Space Law Program at McGill University will be run as a workshop and will be non-assessable. Participants will be given a Certificate of Participation at the end of the workshop. Participants may also physically undertake the program at McGill University, but concurrently enroll at the University of Adelaide and, on completion of assessments set by the University of Adelaide, participants will be awarded 3 units of credit (one full subject) towards postgraduate qualification

Students completing the Strategic Space Law Course at the University of Adelaide will be awarded 3 units of credit (one full subject) towards a graduate qualification (i.e. LL.M), which will be recognized at any Australian university (individual arrangements would need to be made with other universities). Persons not wanting to undertake the assessments for the Strategic Space Law course at the University of Adelaide may audit the course for a lesser fee.


Upcoming Strategic Space Law Program

The Program will be repeated in the form of a graduate course (assessable for academic credit) at the University of Adelaide Law School in June 2017. The substantive content of the Program will be available shortly, and as always will be delivered by world-class academics, legal and policy advisors and subject-matter experts drawn from government, civil society and the commercial sector.

For more information and enrollment, maria.damico [at] (subject: Strategic%20Space%20Law%20Program) (please contact us).