IASL represented at Montreal International Aerospace Week 2022

Published: 2 December 2022

As part of Montreal International Aerospace Week 2022’s Defense and Security / Space Day, former Executive Director of the Centre for Research in Air and Space Law Mr. Kuan-Wei Chen took part in a roundtable discussion titled “Perspectives and Solutions to the Risk of Space Belligerence”. The overarching theme of the panel, which took place on 8 September 2022, focused on how, in an increasingly tense geopolitical climate, operators can better secure space systems and protect space assets.

Through the interactive and lively discussion, panellists were in agreement that the major trend in space has been the increased reliance on commercial and private space operators. As such operators are much more entrepreneurial and cost-effective, governments as well as militaries around the world have been sourcing space data and hardware from the commercial space sector. However, as with all operators in the shared global commons of outer space, the actions of one operator may have consequences or impacts on the activities of all other operators. The recent testing of kinetic anti-satellite capabilities, the hijacking of a defunct Canadian satellite to broadcast movies, and close-proximity and grappling operations in the geostationary orbit all highlight the various ways that space objects can be destroyed or interfered with. Such irresponsible behaviour pose threats to all operators, regardless of whether they are commercial, government, or military in nature.

For close to five decades, the McGill Centre for Research in Air and Space Law has been at the forefront of cutting-edge and multidisciplinary research on, among other issues, military uses of outer space and how to enhance space security. Published in August 2022, the first volume of the McGill Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space is the latest in the Centre’s long legacy of affirming the importance of the rule of law in outer space, as well as contributing to multilateral initiatives to enhance the governance, security and sustainability of outer space.

As was raised on the panel, it is not important to just clarify the applicability and continued relevance of space law at the international level; equally important, at the national level, States should adopt space legislation to ensure that national space activities and actors conform to the fundamental principles of using space for peaceful purposes and in accordance with international law.

On this note, Professor Ram Jakhu has twice been appointed by the Government of Canada to conduct independent reviews of Canada’s Remote Sensing Space Systems Act. From late 2019-2021, Mr. Chen co-chaired the Ad Hoc RSSSA Advisory Committee which brought together various departments of the Government of Canada, industry stakeholders, and foreign experts to critically review how Canada’s only space-specific legislation can better address and reflect the needs of Canada’s homegrown space businesses and industry.

Also taking part on the panel were representatives from Canadian space enterprises NorthStar, Telestar and MDA, a representative from Space Canada, the newly established interest group composed of Canada’s space innovators and allied industries, and a representative from the newly inaugurated 3 Canadian Space Division, a branch of the Royal Canadian Air Force dedicated to support the space operations of the Canadian Armed Forces.

The IASL is delighted to continually be engaged with government officials and industry representatives, and take part in discussions aimed at increasing transparency in space, avoiding conflict in space, and promoting cooperation and the peaceful use of outer space. Such important events as International Aerospace Week provide excellent opportunities to engage government officials, industry leaders, members of the public and students on the importance of cultivating understanding and research in space law and policy for the benefit of present and future generations.

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