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“As long as some continue to see outer space as a potential realm for war-fighting, we will face increasing risk of weaponization and conflict,” Thomas Markram, Deputy High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said at the opening of the 2018 session of the UN Disarmament Commission, held in New York.

The weaponization and militarisation of space involves the placement and development of weaponry and military technology in outer space. The early exploration of space in the mid-20th century had, in part, a military motivation, as the United States and the Soviet Union used it as an opportunity to demonstrate ballistic-missile technology and other technologies having the potential for military application. Outer space has since been used as an operating location for military spacecraft such as imaging and communications satellites, and some ballistic missiles pass through outer space during their flight.

Efforts in the United Nations to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes began in 1957, months prior to the launch of the first artificial satellite into Earth’s orbit. Early proposals for prohibiting the use of space for military purposes and the placement of weapons of mass destruction in outer space were considered in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the United Nations.

The UN General Assembly established the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in Resolution 1472 (XIV). This committee identified areas for international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, devised programs to be undertaken by the United Nations, encouraged research on matters relating to outer space, and studied legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.

Over the years, a number of agreements were adopted to prevent the weaponization of outer space. Although these treaties ban the placement of weapons of mass destruction in space, they still do not prevent states from placing other types of weapons in space.

Today, more countires are looking to use space to enhance their military capabilities and national security, and are developing counterspace technologies that can be used to decieve, disrupt, deny, degrade or destroy space systems. A growing number of countries and commercial actors are getting involved in space. USA is creating „Space Force“ that would extend U.S. military; China is showing technological advancements by landing a rover on the back side of the moon; Russia is developing a suspected new co-orbital anti-satelite system designed for operations in geosynchronous Earth orbit; and India’s recent ASAT test establishes India as a important space rival.

It is unlikely that competition in this field will come to an end. The legal framework within which the international arena operates needs to be improved and should allow states to cooperate and the world to benefit from the opportunities of outer space.



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