International Institute of Space Law

Article

Outer Space and Cyber-Attacks

Attributing Responsibility under International Space Law

Keywords outer space, cyber-attacks, responsibility, International Space Law
Authors Ishita Das
Author's information

Ishita Das
Ishita Das, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, India.
  • Abstract

      The linkages between the two domains of outer space and cyberspace are deepening with the commercialization of outer space and the deployment of an increasing number of satellites delivering communications, navigation, and military services. However, the vulnerabilities stemming from this relationship are yet to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. While there is no policy that specifically addresses this interface, International Space Law can deal with the problems arising in this regard. Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty deals with ‘international responsibility’. However, this relationship was not considered when the treaty was drafted back in the 1960s. Cyber-attacks may affect the space assets by interfering with (a) ‘flight control’ and (b) ‘payload control’. While with regard to the former scenario, the launching state may be held responsible for activities that cause damage to the surface of the Earth, in relation to the latter, the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty and the Liability Convention cannot really be invoked. The aim of this research paper is essentially fourfold: (1) provide a background to the interface of the outer space and cyberspace, especially in view of the rise in commercialization; (2) discuss how cyber-attacks affecting space assets may be dealt with under the Outer Space Treaty and the Liability Convention; (3) explore the challenges as regards determination of responsibility in the context of life cycles of the space assets and multiple parties and finally, (4) provide the concluding remarks and suggestions.

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