On March 2, 2007, the Law College hosted its first ever space and telecommunications law conference titled "Security and Risk Management in a New Space Era: Military, Commercial, and Tourism Dimensions." The theme of the conference was particularly timely as in mid- January 2007 China conducted the first anti-satellite weapon test in 20 years, knocking out one of its own aging weather satellites 537 miles from Earth. In the process, China created a debris field of hundreds- if not thousands-of fragments. Previously, in September of 2006, there were media reports of China "illuminating" satellites with lasers. Before that time, the last test of an anti-satellite weapon was conducted by the United States in 1985, and the last piece of debris created by that test just deorbited in 2004. China was roundly criticized by the international community for its test and the test's potential impact. General James Cartwright, then Commander of US Strategic Command ("US STRATCOM") and current Vice-Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave the keynote address at the conference. General Cartwright noted that the military tracks over 40,000 objects in space, occasionally warning satellite operators of potential collisions with each other or with debris. General Cartwright also made the point that the law is not as precise as it needs to be given the density of space activities today. For example, whose responsibility is it to maneuver when two objects are on a potential collision course? Other problems identified during the talk included piracy of bandwidth, jamming of signals, and other interference with communications. US STRATCOM continues to attempt to improve space situational awareness, including more proactive awareness of space activities. General Cartwright concluded by noting that there is no need for an arms race in space. In addition to General Cartwright's keynote address, several different panels were held to address a variety of issues. These panels addressed issues involving "space tourism," the military dimensions of space law, and the commercial/telecommunications aspects.
Matthew P. Schaefer,
Introduction: The University of Nebraska College of Law's Space and Telecommunications Law Program,
86 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol86/iss2/4