Strategic Space Law Course

Since 2015, the McGill University Centre for Research in Air and Space Law have put together the Strategic Space Law course, the world's first course focusing on various legal and policy considerations surrounding the strategic uses of outer space. Armed forces have not had to comprehensively consider the application of law to the use of force and rules of engagement in outer space. Conflict in the space domain is now a possibility that cannot be dismissed and this course provides a unique opportunity for lawyers and other professionals in the defense services, international relations, government, international organizations, law firms, consulting firms and industry around the world to study space law in a strategic context.

The Strategic Space Law Course is a one-week intensive, interdisciplinary, international and interactive workshop that is held annually in Montreal, Canada thus greatly facilitating the participating and training of people from all over the world who are interested in the course.

Course highlights

  • core lectures from experts on the concepts, principles and rules involved in the various disciplines that touch on Strategic Space Law.
  • hands-on practical exercises linked to lectures, on topics such as diplomatic negotiations, aerospace traffic management, military use of spectrum, space debris and simulated legal, policy and commercial problem-solving and debate.
  • Social and other networking activities.

Why study Strategic Space Law?

Today there are over 1,300 active satellites in orbit and the number of States directly involved in launching or operating satellites has grown substantially since the dawn of the space age. Even States that have no direct involvement in launching or operating satellites rely heavily on space infrastructure: for television, radio, banking, communications, transport, agriculture, mining, and especially for modern military services.

Yet, those satellites are under increasing threat from 100,000s of pieces of space debris and increasing harmful radio interference. Furthermore, some States already possess counter-space weapons and other means capable of destroying or disrupting satellites and other States have plans to develop those capabilities. There is also greater competition for use of the limited radio frequency spectrum and prime orbital slots that are indispensable for the operation of all satellites.

Outer space is becoming more contested, congested and competitive. Concurrently, the global security situation generally is less certain. Financial and other constraints have made global powers more inward-looking and less likely to deploy forces globally – except through the sort of ‘remote reach’ capabilities that rely on space infrastructure (such as uninhabited aerial vehicles and cyber warfare). Ballistic missiles, as the means of delivery of nuclear weapons, involve space flight and ballistic missile defense also relies on space-based infrastructure. Thus, space is a key element in global security, yet it is also increasingly vulnerable to the threats described above.

There is a real danger that outer space will become a wild and lawless frontier. There is evidence of that view already. A conflict in space could have devastating implications for the space systems of all nations and for modern society on Earth. Therefore, in order to avoid potentially devastating conflicts, there is a dire need for understanding, particularly by those that are directly involved in the use of space, of the applicable rules of international law, particularly rules governing the prohibition on the use of force and applicable rules of international humanitarian law that serve to minimise the detrimental effects of any future conflict. The challenges confronting space-based infrastructure have implications for all States, not just the superpower, space-faring States and implications for all sectors, not just the military or government.

Who is the Strategic Space Law Course for ?

  • Lawyers from other government departments and international organizations
  • Military lawyers
  • Public policy practitioners/scholars
  • Commercial lawyers
  • Aspiring law students (aspiring to study law or law students aspiring to employment in this field)
  • Non-lawyers in space-related private or public sector roles

Participants will be given a Certificate of Participation at the end of the course.

Upcoming Strategic Space Law Course

The Strategic Space Law course will be repeated at McGill University in the Autumn of 2019. The substantive content of the course will be available shortly, and as always will be delivered by world-class academics, legal and policy advisors and subject-matter experts drawn from government, civil society and the commercial sector.

For more information and enrollment, maria.damico [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Strategic%20Space%20Law%20Program) (please contact us).