Call for Papers: Conflicts in Space and the Rule of Law


Published: 10Dec2015

The Institute of Air and Space Law of McGill University wishes to invite submissions for its 4th Manfred Lachs International Conference on Conflicts in Space and the Rule of Law, which will take place on May 27-28, 2016.

Deadline for abstracts: 31 January 2016

Download our Call for Papers for the themes, procedure and complete list of deadlines [.docx].

Almost sixty years of exploration and use of outer space have brought unprecedented benefits to mankind. Humanity now depends heavily upon space, and even a single “day without satellites” would have disastrous impacts for everyone on Earth, particularly those who increasingly rely on space assets. In 2014, the global space economy grew by 9% (compared with 2013) and is currently a $330 billion annual economic activity. Space products and services have become indispensable for such applications as banking, agriculture, tracking climate change, communications, international arms control and disarmament, health delivery, natural disaster management, transportation, national and global security and weather forecasting.

However, many concerns exist today across a broad spectrum of issues with regard to the exploitation of space natural resources and activities in outer space that impact upon notions of national and global security.  

On 25 November 2015, the United States adopted a new Act under which American companies would be entitled to private property rights with regard to any natural resources they would mine in outer space. This has already aroused several concerns internationally, primarily because the mining of asteroids and other celestial bodies in outer space could generate billions, if not trillions, of dollars in revenue and could also have serious implications for the space environment.  This Act also called for a detailed study of space traffic management. This subject, and the nature and extent of national and international space traffic management and control, also gives rise to other types of security concerns and issues.

For example, national security issues may arise with respect to orbital debris, the jamming or disabling of spacecraft, cyber-attacks on space systems, the potential development of space or ground systems that could disable or destroy space systems, and the dual-use of systems developed specifically for in-orbit repair, retrofit or refueling, but which could also be used to de-orbit space debris or attack active satellites. Concerns also exist over the use of systems that move between commercial airspace and outer space - sometimes called sub-space or protospace - and space objects in Earth orbit, including various “space weapons” and military space systems. These technologies, activities and issues involve States, commercial space enterprises and possibly even terrorist organizations. All of these potentially conflicting uses of space give rise to increasing concerns in the media, in governmental statements, and within international bodies.

Given the increase in the number of States and non-State actors that are now active in space, and the increased reliance that the military in many countries have on space capabilities, there are growing concerns about the risk of a conflict in outer space, or incidents involving the use of outer space systems leading to a major confrontation. As space infrastructure grows more vital to global economic, business and strategic systems, the potential of space conflict therefore appears to increase.

The general public remains largely unaware of possible armed conflict in space, even though they might have devastating implications for the space systems of all nations and perhaps even for life on Earth. Therefore, in order to avoid potentially devastating conflicts and to regulate the military activities of States (and non-State actors) in outer space, there is a manifest need to clarify the applicable rules of international law and emerging codes of conduct, particularly rules governing the prohibition of the use of force, as well as the relevant rules of international humanitarian law.

This 4th Annual Manfred Lachs Conference therefore seeks presentations related to the state of the art in current and future military and security technologies and activities, the development of military policies and doctrines, the challenges and risks they represent in terms of space security, the national exploitation of space natural resources, space sustainability, and the peaceful uses of outer space for the benefit of all. In addition, we invite presentations addressing the adequacy and inadequacy of the current rules of international space law, public international law, and international humanitarian law, with respect to conflict avoidance in outer space.

Download our Call for Papers for the themes, procedure and complete list of deadlines [.docx].

Contact Information

Maria Manoli
Institute of Air and Space Law, McGill University
mlc.iasl [at]
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