Monday, April 13, 2009

Setting The Boundary of Space?

A scientific team at the University of Calgary has reportedly pinpointed the edge of space at 73.21 miles up, this point marking the transition between Earth's atmosphere and the violent flows of charged particles in space.

These findings, of course, have considerable scientific value, where study of the atmosphere and its interaction with events beyond it is concerned. However, they may also turn out to have some political significance. The exact boundaries of space have never been exactly defined in international law, and as it turns out, they are higher than the lowest satellite orbits (the minimum perigee for which is about 60 miles).

On those grounds, could states claim (admittedly, in rare instances) that low-orbiting satellites are not in space at all, but inside their sovereign airspace? It's unlikely, but it cannot be ruled out, especially if states move to "territorialize" space the way they have the seas-an idea I speculated about in Astropolitics a few years ago. (You can find a copy of that article here on the blog.)

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