European push for more space regulations under international law


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In the European space community and governmental circles, there appears to be a new push to revise the Outer Space Treaty, focused specifically on increasing the treaty’s regulatory power in the area of large satellite constellations and space junk.

This week [the city of] Darmstadt hosts a closed-door, governmental meeting of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). Whether it was planned or not, the IADC is set to discuss a much-needed renewal of international space law, which is, experts admit, rather vague. But how far they will go is anyone’s guess.

…There is a palpable sense that the space community needs enforceable international laws and regulations, rather than – or merely to bolster – its current inter-agency agreements. They’ve served us so far, but few countries have actually signed up to them. That leaves a lot of wriggle-room, especially as space becomes increasingly commercialized.

Most of our space activities are governed by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. It’s a short document that primarily seeks to ensure space operations are “peaceful” and for the good of all humanity. It is complemented by other agreements, including a set of documents on mitigating space debris. “We have a good, coherent set of justified rules and we don’t intend to alter them drastically,” said Christophe Bonnal of the French Space Agency, CNES, and the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) in closing remarks last week. “But we will improve them at the IADC meeting to include mega-constellations.”

It appears to me that this is a push-back against Luxembourg’s recent announcement that it is going to request a renegotiation of the Outer Space Treaty to allow for property rights in space. What this article is advocating instead is that the treaty increase its control and regulatory power over private satellite constellations, which at present are not covered by the treaty.

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4 comments

  • Tom Billings

    “It appears to me that this is a push-back against Luxembourg’s recent announcement that it is going to request a renegotiation of the Outer Space Treaty to allow for property rights in space. What this article is advocating instead is that the treaty increase its control and regulatory power over private satellite constellations, which at present are not covered by the treaty.”

    Indeed, this was what I expected when I heard the Luxembourg elites’ “Council of State” had sent out their call for negotiations. The Econ. Minister was being Judo-flipped in his desire to see Luxembourg invest in Space Mining. This seems likely to be part of Luxembourg’s enthusiasm for European Union regulatory power, and the interpenetration of the elites of EU members. Economic activity that is outside the reach of EU regulatory power is *not* in the interests of those elites!

    The need for an outright abrogation of the OST looms larger every day, IMHO.
    Once that is accomplished, we can say, “OK, …clean slate, …let us all start over with very minimal regulations. US launchers are obligated to clean up their final stages today by US regulations. 2/3rds of all space debris in LEO is from the old Russian Cosmos spysat program, however. You will note that suggestions to regulate *satellite* lifetime will do nothing to get the final stages that shed debris, and cause most of the problem, out of orbit!

  • wodun

    The need for an outright abrogation of the OST looms larger every day, IMHO.

    Yup, our congress should vote to repeal the treaty. The Europeans can fight over how to keep humans on Earth and restrain activity while we settle the solar system.

  • Tom Billings

    A small bit of good news here. Cruz may be able to give some momentum towards at least OST revision in the Senate. If this is matched in the House, the the negotiations *might* actually be pushed to a faster conclusion than I had hoped.

    http://spacenews.com/cruz-interested-in-updating-outer-space-treaty-to-support-commercial-space-activities/

  • Tom Billings: I saw this story tonight. I haven’t posted a link yet because I need to watch the entire hearings first, and then plan to write a longer post about it. It does appear that my Federalist column struck a nerve. Or more likely I sensed the wave coming from many different places, and caught it at just the right time.

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