In recent years, both the United States and China have demonstrated their respective space weapon capabilities through two highly publicized anti-satellite missile strikes. Many commentators feared that these actions might cascade into a full-blown space weapon race. The outer space environment is a fragile place, and the proliferation of long-lived space weapon debris could threaten access to this global commons. Eventually, space warfare could one day have the effect of entombing the Earth in orbital debris and risking the space assets of every spacefaring nation.
During the summer of 2010, President Obama unveiled a space policy that called for international cooperation rejecting the unilateral approach adopted by the previous administration. This policy opens the door for a potential arms control treaty that would limit the development of space weapons. Yet, any potential agreement is still years from development. This article first examines space weapons and the international legal framework that currently governs their use. Then, the article discusses the orbital debris caused by space weapons and the environmental protections within the existing law. Finally, this article argues that the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) as applied to the space environment and the international space legal framework supply enough deterrence to prevent the widespread use of space weapons without the need for additional international agreements.Air and Space Law