Humanity is going to fight in space – it is only a matter of time. You may think this is something from the science fiction movie, but it is going to happen. The problem is that the space doesn‘t belong to anyone. It is no one‘s territory and thus no laws (domestic or international) apply in space. That is why scientists decided to draft certain rules for the space warfare.
You may think that war doesn’t recognize any rules, but you’d be wrong – there are a ton of rules about how countries should engage in war. Geneva Conventions are sets of rules, including banned weapons, treatment of prisoners of war and so on. Then there are all the UN regulations, Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Human Rights agreements and so on. It is just a ton of rules – war is a strictly regulated game. But space is a completely different ball game. That is why scientists from the University of Adelaide, UNSW Canberra, University of Exeter, and University of Nebraska College of Law will draft The Woomera Manual – the International Law of Military Space Operations.
Humanity is going to engage in war in space – we just know that. And so these rules are needed, especially having in mind how important space is to our lives. Satellites allow us to navigate and communicate. Our communications, surveillance, early warning, navigation systems and other critical technology are based on equipment in Earth’s orbit. All those devices are good targets in the situation of war. Furthermore, certain countries have a capability to launch weapon systems into Earth’s orbit and conduct operations from there, leaving no chances of successful defence. Leaders are becoming increasingly aware that such dependence on space technology is going to bring enemy’s attention. Even US President Donald Trump has recently called for a dedicated US military space force.
And so the legal implications of space warfare can no longer be ignored. It is a certain reality we have to accept and prepare for. Jack Beard, Associate Professor with the University of Nebraska College of Law, said: “The Woomera Manual will be drafted in the full tradition of other manuals that have been developed by legal and policy experts over the last 20 years, including the San Remo Manual on Naval Warfare, the Harvard Manual on Air and Missile Warfare, and the Tallinn Manuals (1.0 and 2.0) dealing with laws applicable to cyber operations and warfare”.
Why Woomera name? Well, a woomera is an old spear throwing device. But it is also an Australian city, which is famous for being a launching site for Australia’s first satellite in 1967. Scientists hope to finish their draft by 2020.