International Law Studies


This article discusses the law of neutrality as it pertains to belligerent operations in and through outer space as well as belligerent outer space operations involving the territory and national airspace of neutral States. As far as the latter is concerned, the traditional law of neutrality is fully applicable. Accordingly, international law prohibits belligerents from launching space objects from neutral territory or through neutral national airspace. While neutral States may not provide belligerents with outer space assets or the use of communications infrastructure located in their territories, they are not obliged to prevent their nationals from providing any of the belligerents with militarily relevant information, such as satellite imagery. As far as belligerent operations in or through outer space are concerned, there is no room for the law of neutrality. The law of neutrality is closely linked to territorial sovereignty and therefore inapplicable in outer space and on celestial bodies. The status of neutral outer space objects, whether governmental or private, is governed by the law of targeting and, if at all applicable, by prize law. If they are not contributing to the belligerents’ military actions (and if they are not used for non-neutral services), they may be neither attacked nor captured.