UN agreement reached on space sustainability

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In February a UN committee helped negotiate a agreement with 87 nations for establishing rules for space sustainability.

The agreement was reached during a meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). COPUOS was created in 1959 as the main UN body to govern the exploration and use of space, and was instrumental in the creation of the five major space treaties. It has been the main multilateral forum where countries meet to discuss space issues and share updates on national activities and practices. As of 2018, those eighty-seven countries are formal members of COPUOS, with Bahrain, Denmark and Norway being the most recent additions. There are also nearly 40 observer organizations, including the Secure World Foundation.

…In 2016, the first set of 12 guidelines were agreed to by a consensus of all the members of COPUOS, and the mandate of the LTS Working Group was extended through 2018. The most recent meeting of STSC in February 2018 saw the LTS Working Group reach consensus on nine more guidelines and the preamble text, bringing the total to 21, as well as agreeing to review their implementation and potentially update them. The 21 guidelines represent countries’ best practices across a broad spectrum of space issues.

Though all of the guidelines essentially confirm policies that these nations have been following, they were reaffirmed by this agreement partly because of the Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007 that produced a lot of space junk.

A review of the guidelines reveals them to be mostly sensible and necessary. The problem is that this process is establishing the precedent that such rule-making should apply to all space activities, and it shall be imposed by UN committees of government bureaucrats here on Earth. For example, the process here appears to be entirely political, and involved none of the actual companies that build and produce rockets and satellites.

At some point in the future, such rule-making should be the responsibility of those who work and and live in space. I predict when that time comes, the UN and the political bureaucracies from these nations will be loath to give up this power. Stay tuned for the eventual rebellion that will follow.


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