Issue Brief on “Securing the Final Frontier: Urgent Need for Arms Control in Outer Space”


Outer space has become one of the most important arenas in the world today. There are thousands of operational satellites – both for military and civilian use. Every facet of modern life relies on satellites – from space capabilities in the fields of health, agriculture, water management, disaster management, telecommunication, navigation, communication, and observation to Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) for military purposes. An estimated 6,718 active satellites were orbiting the Earth by December 2022; out of these 4,529 belonged to the U.S.; 174 to Russia; 590 to China; and the remaining 1,425 to the rest of the world. Of these, the U.S. has 247 military satellites.[1] At the same time, outer space is being militarized. Major powers are entering into an arms race for both offensive and defensive space weapons. So far, four countries have conducted Anti-Satellite (ASAT) tests – the U.S., Russia, China, and India. This not only produces space debris that poses serious hazards for satellites but also makes satellites vulnerable to potential strikes. This has militarized and weaponized the outer space in an unprecedented way. This means that threats and the likelihood of conflicts in outer space have increased tremendously. This means that space is no longer the global commons. This makes it imperative to assess the state of outer space regulation and arms control.

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