In recent decades, rapid technological developments and the rise of a diverse commercial space industry have opened-up space to a much wider array of state and non-state actors. Space-based applications from satellites now enable virtually every aspect of modern life, from military operations to just-in-time logistics, banking, navigation and weather forecasting.
The growing volume and diversity of space operations raise concerns that the primary orbital zones are, in the oft-used phrase, increasingly “congested, competitive and contested”. These realities have led to intensifying calls for renewed multilateralism to address pressing challenges and ensure the peaceful and sustainable uses of outer space.
This expert roundtable examines the one key dimension of these multifaceted debates, concerning the prospective regulation of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons. The discussion will begin by introducing a recent open letter from the Outer Space Institute at the University of British Columbia (UBC), which urges the UN General Assembly to take up consideration of a treaty that would prohibit debris-generating ASAT tests. Panellists Professor Michael Byers, Victoria Samson and Sarah Thiele will situate this initiative in its technological, scientific, legal and diplomatic context and will consider additional proposals for regulating ASAT systems along with the political difficulties in developing restraints.
Professor Michael Byers of the Department of Political Science at UBC is Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law and co-director of the Outer Space Institute at UBC where, among other initiatives, he was a lead author of a recent International Open Letter on Kinetic Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Testing which provides the basis for this roundtable.
Victoria Samson is the Washington Office Director for Secure World Foundation, an internationally recognised expert on military space and security issues, and a prolific author of numerous op-eds, analytical pieces, journal articles and updates on missile defence and space security matters. She is the co-editor of the annual Global Counterspace Capabilities report, published by the Secure World Foundation.
Sarah Thiele is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UBC studying for a Bachelor of Science with Combined Honours in Physics and Astronomy. She is a Junior Fellow of the Outer Space Institute and previous intern at the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx). Sarah conducted the calculations on debris-generation from kinetic anti-satellite weapons presented in the OSI open letter.