Part of what makes space such volatile terrain right now is that it’s hard even to apply the existing laws of war to it. No country can claim sovereignty in orbit, and it’s impossible to occupy territory there. So what counts as an act of territorial aggression? What qualifies as a proportional response? It’s even difficult to say, with certainty, what the physics of war in space will look like. We don’t well understand, for instance, how a kinetic attack on a satellite constellation might spill over into a spiraling Kessler effect.
Humans have “millennia of experience in blowing up things on land,” says Laurie Blank, a law professor at Emory University and a specialist in the laws of armed conflict. “We’re still learning the consequences of all these things in space.”
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