ASAT-isfaction : customary international law and the regulation of anti-satellite weapons
David A. Koplow
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Michigan journal of international law, Vol. 30, no. 4, Summer 2009, p. 1187-1272
The world has grown increasingly dependent upon satellites for the performance of a wide array of commercial and military functions. At the same time, because of this growing reliance (and hence vulnerability), interest has surged in developing novel systems for attacking a potential enemy's satellites. Anti-satellite technology has been tested by several countries. This article asserts the thesis that customary international law, even in the absence of any new treaty, already provides a legal regime constraining the testing and use in combat of anti-satellite weapons. It analyzes three strands of Customary International Law: first, "general" customary international law, which has long been recognized as an authoritative, albeit complex, source of binding rules; second, the specialized legal regime incorporated into the law of armed conflict, which imposes its own strictures, fully applicable to conventional warfare, but not yet applied extra-terrestrially; and finally, another realm of specialized Customary International Law, the emerging jurisprudence governing international environmental law. The conclusion is that there is already a meaningful Anti-Satellite-control regime, created by Customary International Law even without codification in a new treaty.