International Law Studies


There are no molecules of air that could carry sound waves in the vacuum of outer space. Accordingly, space warfare may well become the first type of war whose signature sound would be—silence. But does the law of armed conflict (jus in bello) fall silent in times of Silent War? This article addresses the uncertainty at the heart of this issue. First, it delineates the relevant conceptual framework by examining the factual notion of “military space operations,” and its relationship with the legal concept of “armed conflict,” as well as the overlap between the potentially applicable bodies of law. It then argues in favor of the general applicability of the jus in bello to military space operations while distinguishing this issue from the separate question of whether war in outer space can be justified. Finally, it considers the four specific dimensions of applicability of the relevant law: material, personal, temporal, and geographic. The article concludes that the jus in bello applies to space operations generally and clarifies the situations, persons, times, and places to which this body of law applies.