Politics of outer space


The politics of outer space includes space treaties, law in space, international cooperation and conflict in space exploration, international economics and the hypothetical political impact of any contact with extraterrestrial intelligence.

Astropolitics, also known as astropolitik, has its foundations in geopolitics and is a theory that is used for space in its broadest sense. Astropolitics is often studied as an aspect of the security studies and international relations subfields of political science. This includes the role of space exploration in diplomacy as well as the military uses of satellites, for example, for surveillance or cyber warfare. It is also rooted in the study of International Economics to better understand the financial impacts here on Earth of the commercial use of space, the mining of lunar resources and asteroid mining.

An important aspect of the geopolitics of space is the prevention of a military threat to Earth from outer space.[1]

International cooperation on space projects has resulted in the creation of new national space agencies. By 2005 there were 35 national civilian space agencies.[2]

Treaties and policies related to outer space

Outer Space Treaty


The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a multilateral treaty that forms the basis of international space law. Negotiated and drafted under the auspices of the United Nations, it was opened for signature in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union on 27 January 1967, entering into force on 10 October 1967. As of February 2021, 111 countries are parties to the treaty—including all major spacefaring nations—and another 23 are signatories.[3][4][5]

The Outer Space Treaty was spurred by the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in the 1950s, which could reach targets through outer space.[6] The Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, in October 1957, followed by a subsequent arms race with the United States, hastened proposals to prohibit the use of outer space for military purposes. On 17 October 1963, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution prohibiting the introduction of weapons of mass destruction in outer space. Various proposals for an arms control treaty governing outer space were debated during a General Assembly session in December 1966, culminating in the drafting and adoption of the Outer Space Treaty the following January.[7]

Key provisions of the Outer Space Treaty include prohibiting nuclear weapons in space; limiting the use of the Moon and all other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes; establishing that space shall be freely explored and used by all nations; and precluding any country from claiming sovereignty over outer space or any celestial body. Although it forbids establishing military bases, testing weapons and conducting military maneuvers on celestial bodies, the treaty does not expressly ban all military activities in space, nor the establishment of military space forces or the placement of conventional weapons in space.[8][9]

Drawing heavily from the Antarctic Treaty of 1961, the Outer Space Treaty likewise focuses on regulating certain activities and preventing unrestricted competition that could lead to conflict.[10] Consequently, it is largely silent or ambiguous on newly developed space activities such as lunar and asteroid mining.[11][12][13] Nevertheless, the Outer Space Treaty is the first and most foundational legal instrument of space law,[14] and its broader principles of promoting the civil and peaceful use of space continue to underpin multilateral initiatives in space, such as the International Space Station and the Artemis Program.[15][16]

Moon Treaty

Ratifications and signatories of the treaty

The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,[17][18] better known as the Moon Treaty or Moon Agreement, is a multilateral treaty that turns jurisdiction of all celestial bodies (including the orbits around such bodies) over to the participant countries. Thus, all activities would conform to international law, including the United Nations Charter.

As of September, 2021, it has not been ratified by any state that engages in self-launched human spaceflight (e.g. the United States, Russia (former Soviet Union), People's Republic of China) since its creation on December 18, 1979, and thus it has little to no relevancy in international law.[19] As of January 2019, 18 states are parties to the treaty.[20]

Post-detection policy

A post-detection policy (PDP), also known as a post-detection protocol, is a set of structured rules, standards, guidelines, or actions that governmental or other organizational entities plan to follow for the "detection, analysis, verification, announcement, and response to" confirmed signals from extraterrestrial civilizations.[21] Though no PDPs have been formally and openly adopted by any governmental entity, there is significant work being done by scientists and nongovernmental organizations to develop cohesive plans of action to utilize in the event of detection. The most popular and well known of these is the "Declaration of Principles Concerning Activities Following the Detection of Extraterrestrial Intelligence", which was developed by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), with the support of the International Institute of Space Law.[22] The theories of PDPs constitute a distinct area of research but draw heavily from the fields of SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), METI (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), and CETI (Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

Scientist Zbigniew Paptrotny has argued that the formulation of post-detection protocols can be guided by three factors: terrestrial society's readiness to accept the news of ET detection, how the news of detection is released, and the comprehensibility of the message in the signal.[23] These three broad areas and their related subsidiaries comprise the bulk of the content and discourse surrounding PDPs.

Politics of the ISS

A world map highlighting Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland in red and Brazil in pink. See adjacent text for details.
  Primary contributing nations
  Formerly contracted nations
Politics of the International Space Station have been affected by superpower rivalries, international treaties and funding arrangements. The Cold War was an early factor, overtaken in recent years by United States distrust of China. The station has an international crew, with the use of their time, and that of equipment on the station, being governed by treaties between participant nations.

In 1978 a milestone was reached in co-operation between the United States and the Soviet Union in space with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. The project occurred during a period of détente between the two superpowers, and led in July 1975 to Soyuz 19 docking with an Apollo spacecraft.

From 1978 to 1987, the USSR's Interkosmos program included allied Warsaw Pact countries, and countries which were not Soviet allies, such as India, Syria and France, in crewed and uncrewed missions to Space stations Salyut 6 and 7. In 1986, the USSR extended its co-operation to a dozen countries in the Mir program. From 1994 to 1998, NASA Space Shuttles and crew visited Mir in the Shuttle–Mir program.

In 1998, assembly of the space station began.[24] On 28 January 1998, the Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was signed. This governs ownership of modules, station usage by participant nations, and responsibilities for station resupply. The signatories were the United States of America, Russia, Japan, Canada and eleven member states of the European Space Agency (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom).[25][26] With the exception of the United Kingdom, all of the signatories went on to contribute to the Space Station project. A second layer of agreements was then achieved, a memoranda of understanding between NASA and ESA, CSA, RKA and JAXA. These agreements are then further split, such as for the contractual obligations between nations, and trading of partners' rights and obligations.[26] Use of the Russian Orbital Segment is also negotiated at this level.[27]

In 2010, the ESA announced that European countries which were not already part of the program would be allowed access to the station in a three-year trial period.[28]

In March 2012, a meeting in Quebec City between the leaders of the space agencies of Canada, Japan, Russia, the United States and involved European nations resulted in a renewed pledge to maintain the space station until at least 2020. NASA reports to be still committed to the principles of the mission but also to use the station in new ways, which were not elaborated. CSA President Steve MacLean stated his belief that the station's Canadarm will continue to function properly until 2028, alluding to Canada's likely extension of its involvement beyond 2020.[29]

See also


  • D. Deudney and M. Glassner; Political Geography
  1. ^ promotional material for "Meta-Geopolitics of Outer Space" by N. Al-Rodhan
  2. ^ Peter, Nicolas (2006). "The changing geopolitics of space activities". Space Policy. 22 (2): 100–109. Bibcode:2006SpPol..22..100P. doi:10.1016/j.spacepol.2006.02.007.
  3. ^ "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies". United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  4. ^ "China: Accession to Outer Space Treaty". United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  5. ^ In addition, the Republic of China in Taiwan, which is currently recognized by 14 UN member states, ratified the treaty prior to the United Nations General Assembly's vote to transfer China's seat to the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1971.
  6. ^ "Outer Space Treaty". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2021-09-24.
  7. ^ "Outer Space Treaty". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2021-09-24.
  8. ^ Shakouri Hassanabadi, Babak (30 July 2018). "Space Force and international space law". The Space Review. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  9. ^ Irish, Adam (13 September 2018). "The Legality of a U.S. Space Force". OpinioJuris. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  10. ^ "Outer Space Treaty". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2021-09-24.
  11. ^ If space is ‘the province of mankind’, who owns its resources? Senjuti Mallick and Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan. The Observer Research Foundation. 24 January 2019. Quote 1: "The Outer Space Treaty (OST) of 1967, considered the global foundation of the outer space legal regime, […] has been insufficient and ambiguous in providing clear regulations to newer space activities such as asteroid mining." *Quote2: "Although the OST does not explicitly mention "mining" activities, under Article II, outer space including the Moon and other celestial bodies are "not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty" through use, occupation or any other means."
  12. ^ Space Law: Is asteroid mining legal?. Wired. 1 May 2012.
  13. ^ Who Owns Space? US Asteroid-Mining Act Is Dangerous And Potentially Illegal. IFL. Accessed on 9 November 2019. Quote 1: "The act represents a full-frontal attack on settled principles of space law which are based on two basic principles: the right of states to scientific exploration of outer space and its celestial bodies and the prevention of unilateral and unbriddled commercial exploitation of outer-space resources. These principles are found in agreements including the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Moon Agreement of 1979." *Quote 2: "Understanding the legality of asteroid mining starts with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Some might argue the treaty bans all space property rights, citing Article II."
  14. ^ "Space Law". www.unoosa.org. Retrieved 2021-09-24.
  15. ^ "International Space Station legal framework". www.esa.int. Retrieved 2021-09-24.
  16. ^ "NASA: Artemis Accords". NASA. Retrieved 2021-09-24.
  17. ^ Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. - Resolution 34/68 Adopted by the General Assembly. 89th plenary meeting; 5 December 1979.
  18. ^ Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, Dec. 5, 1979, 1363 U.N.T.S. 3
  19. ^ "Institutional Framework for the Province of all Mankind: Lessons from the International Seabed Authority for the Governance of Commercial Space Mining.] Jonathan Sydney Koch. "Institutional Framework for the Province of all Mankind: Lessons from the International Seabed Authority for the Governance of Commercial Space Mining." Astropolitics, 16:1, 1-27, 2008. doi:10.1080/14777622.2017.1381824
  20. ^ "Agreement governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies". United Nations. Retrieved 2014-12-05.
  21. ^ "SETI Protocols". SETI Permanent Study Group. International Academy of Astronautics. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  22. ^ Billingham, John et al. 1999. Social Implications of the Detection of an Extraterrestrial Civilization (SETI Press, Mountain View, CA).
  23. ^ Paprotny, Zbigniew (1990). "Signals from ETI detected — What next?". Acta Astronautica. 21 (2): 93–95. Bibcode:1987brig.iafcQ....P. doi:10.1016/0094-5765(90)90133-6.
  24. ^ NASA (18 February 2010). "On-Orbit Elements" (PDF). NASA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  25. ^ "Human Spaceflight and Exploration—European Participating States". European Space Agency (ESA). 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
  26. ^ a b "ISS Intergovernmental Agreement". ESA. April 19, 2009. Archived from the original on June 10, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
  27. ^ "Memorandum of Understanding Between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States of America and the Russian Space Agency Concerning Cooperation on the Civil International Space Station". NASA. 29 January 1998. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  28. ^ "EU mulls opening ISS to more countries". Space-travel.com. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  29. ^ Canada renews pledge to International Space Station until 2020. The Vancouver Sun. 1 March 2012.

Further reading

  • Dolman, Everett C. Ed. Colin S. Gray and Geoffrey Sloan. "Geostrategy in the Space Age." Geopolitics, Geography and Strategy. Frank Cass: Portland, Oregon, 2003. pp. 83–106. ISBN 0-7146-8053-2
  • ^ Eric Cardiff of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, as quoted at http://www.physorg.com/news66314743.html

External links

  • Astropolitics.The International Journal of Space Politics & Policy
  • "Assault on the Sky", by Lucio Caracciolo, from Limes 5/2004