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Threats to satellite attacks test the laws of warfare in space

This week, threats by Russian officials to “attack” Western satellites backing Ukraine have highlighted an unexamined area of ​​international law, raising concerns among space lawyers and industry executives about the safety of objects in orbit. raises concerns about

A senior foreign ministry official, Konstantin Vorontsov, told the UN that “quasi-civilian infrastructure could be a legitimate target for retaliatory strikes,” and that Western civilian and commercial satellites supporting Ukraine’s war effort would be “very dangerous.” It reiterated Moscow’s position that it is a “dangerous trend in

No country has launched missile attacks on enemy satellites. Such an act during the war in Ukraine could sharply increase tensions between Russia and the United States.

Michelle Hanlon, co-director of the Aerospace Law Program at the University of Mississippi School of Law, said, “This threat is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

“There’s always been a sense that this could happen, but I’ve never really said someone might do it out loud.”

The Ukrainian military relies heavily on Elon Musk’s SpaceX for broadband internet originating from the Starlink satellite network in low Earth orbit. US companies like Maxar are capturing images of war from orbiting satellites. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian communication devices also rely on the satellite network of US satellite communications giant Iridium.

“It’s really irresponsible, for whatever reason, to talk about shooting something down in space,” Iridium CEO Matt Desch told Reuters. increase.”

“If someone started shooting satellites in space, space would quickly become unusable,” Desch said.

Musk and SpaceX did not respond to emails seeking comment. The billionaire briefly issued a warning this month in Ukraine, saying he could no longer afford to continue funding the Starlink service, but he quickly reversed his position.

Under the laws of armed conflict, Hanlon said a Russian attack on a U.S. commercial satellite could be considered an act of war that the U.S. could respond to.

White House Press Secretary John Kirby said on Thursday that the White House would respond to any attack on U.S. infrastructure, but did not give details.

Secure World Foundation Space Policy Analyst Brian Weeden said: “There is no example of the use of wartime force against satellites. Nothing is really wrong.”

complex calculations

It is debatable whether Russia’s anti-satellite strike violates the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, including its ban on placing weapons of mass destruction in space, lawyers say. Russia has also signed 1972 The Liability Convention of the 1970s stipulates that each country must pay compensation for damage caused by its space object.

Last year, Russia demonstrated mounting an anti-satellite missile that rose directly into one of its older satellites in orbit and blew it to pieces. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Western officials and companies have accused Russia of repeated attempts to hack and jam satellite internet signals in the region.

Anti-satellite missiles create dangerous orbital debris that endangers critical space infrastructure, from manned space stations to the GPS networks that millions of consumer and government platforms around the world rely on. , has been widely condemned by Western countries and astronomers.

The only other countries that have conducted direct ascent tests of anti-satellite missiles are the United States, China and India, which last demonstrated an anti-satellite weapon in 2008.

Vorontsov did not identify any companies in comments to the UN panel on Wednesday. But SpaceX’s Starlink stood out as a persistent target for Russia, which sought to jam the network’s signals during the war, Musk said.

A network of thousands of interconnected satellites encircling the Earth, like Starlink, is resilient to potential anti-satellite attacks that target a small portion of the network without completely disabling the network. has been defended by the U.S. military as being.

“It complicates the enemy’s calculations,” Lt. Gen. Philip Gallant, deputy director of strategy and operations for the U.S. Space Force, told Reuters. “With so many satellites, it’s hard to know which one to target.”

SpaceX’s Starlink network consists of about 3000 satellites, with dozens of US commercial imaging satellites aimed at Russia and Ukraine.

“Destroying one or two or a dozen doesn’t do much,” Weeden said.

https://www.odt.co.nz/star-news/star-international/anti-satellite-threat-tests-laws-war-space Threats to satellite attacks test the laws of warfare in space

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