Ariane 6 is set to be the next flagship launch vehicle of the European Space Agency (ESA). On 30 November 2023, after years of delays and unfortunate circumstances, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher finally announced that the rocket’s first flight will take place in the summer of 2024 (Foust, 2023d). [VI1] Ariane 6 is designed to carry into orbit payloads commissioned by private contractors, national governments, ESA member states and the European Union Space Programme (EUSPA). It aims to replace the recently retired Ariane 5 rocket, which was entrusted with the delivery of Europe’s heaviest and most advanced payloads during its 117-flights-long career from 1996 to 2023 (ESA, n.d. - a).
Space law is a complex system governing outer space activities which comprises international treaties, conventions, United Nations General Assembly resolutions, as well as rules and regulations of international organisations. This paper will lay the international legal framework of space law, examining key documents like the Outer Space Treaty (OST) of 1967. Beyond this legal framework, the paper explores the militarisation of outer space, scrutinizing the intersection between space law and the evolving military activities taking place in outer space.
As great power politics returns to the world stage, so does space policy. States that can afford to are funnelling money into their space programmes in pursuit of everything from space-based weaponry to technological development, research, and communications. The European Union, in a bid to become the leading space actor, has also launched a flurry of projects and established both an operational agency and a specialised directorate-general for its space policy.
With the advent of the so-called “space race” era during the Cold War, states started giving major consideration to developing their space capabilities, having realised the many advantages they could bring. Indeed, military operations in space primarily concern satellite-based surveillance, communications, and intelligence operations, thus allowing states to benefit from them as space-related development can, among many things, extend the range and capabilities of communications, improve missile early warning and enhance situational awareness beyond any terrestrial capability.
Amid a paradigm shift in EU economic governance, a draft compromise seen by Euractiv reveals that, under the new Economic Governance Review (EGR), defence spending might be granted special status within European Union (EU) fiscal rules (Pugnet &Allenbach-Ammann, 2023). According to Euractiv, this document, tabled by the Spanish presidency of the EU Council on 3 November 2023, seeks to stimulate member state investment in defence. It is also part of a grand effort to overhaul current EU debt and deficit reduction rules, which were suspended for four years in order to allow increased spending and will be returning in full force in 2024 (Leali & Smith-Meyer, 2023).