International Order & Conflict
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Space Diplomacy

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Five decades of space diplomacy have yielded agreements that form the foundation for the international legal regime promoting the peaceful uses of outer space. The landmark agreement of this regime is the Outer Space Treaty, finalized in 1967. This treaty states, among other things, that space is to be used for peaceful purposes, that space and celestial bodies are not and cannot become the sovereign territory of any nation, and that it is illegal to place weapons of mass destruction in orbit is illegal. Space diplomacy has also established several important norms, including the non-use of weapons of mass destruction in outer space and the protection of satellites used to monitor treaty compliance against purposeful, harmful interference. There are also glaring weaknesses in existing norms promoting the peaceful uses of outer space. For example, the testing and use of destructive methods against satellites are not prohibited by any treaty, even though such tests could produce large debris fields that indiscriminately endanger satellites and other space operations for many decades. The Stimson Center’s Space Security Project encourages new diplomatic initiatives to enhance space security.


The Stimson Center’s Space Security Project, with grant support from the MacArthur Foundation, the Ploughshares Fund, and the New-Land Foundation, convened a three-day workshop at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Conference Center in Italy from November 11-13, 2008. The workshop was convened with governmental and nongovernmental experts to discuss ways to provide momentum to space diplomacy and to facilitate new diplomatic initiatives in 2009. Two operating foundations, the Secure World Foundation and the One Earth Future Foundation, partnered with Stimson to make this workshop a reality.

A summary of the workshop is available here.


“No Harmful Interference Against Space Objects: Building on Precedent,” by Michael Krepon.

“What Next for U.S. Space Diplomacy?” by Michael Krepon.

US Space Diplomacy,” by Samuel Black.

Outside Research

R. Cargill Hall, “The Evolution of U.S. National Security Space Policy and its Legal Foundations in the 20th Century,” Journal of Space Law 33:1 (Summer 2007), pp. 1-104.

The Stimson Center would like to thank the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law, the publisher of this journal, for permitting Stimson to post this copyrighted article.

A Selective Chronology of U.S. Space Policy and International Diplomacy

A chronology of U.S. space policy and international diplomacy has been compiled from open sources by Samuel Black, Babar Khan, and Jared Young. It documents diplomatic initiatives and U.S. policy toward them since the dawn of the space age. It is intended as a work in progress; we welcome additions accompanied by authoritative citations.

The chronology is available here.

Space Norms Matrix

The Stimson Center, with the help of Nancy Gallagher at the University of Maryland, Victoria Samson and Brian Weedon at the Secure World Foundation, Theresa Hitchens at UNIDIR, and Laura Grego at the Union of Concerned Scientists, has developed a matrix of space norms, existing, and proposed, strong, mild, and non existent.

The space norms matrix is available here

Photo Credit: Flickr, Nasa Goddard Photo and Video,

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