Every call made, every financial transaction completed, every webpage loaded relies on satellites in the Earth’s orbit. Satellites serve as the backbone of global communication. As well as offering GPS guidance for transport and travel, they grant us unparalleled views of our planet, providing essential data for accurate weather forecasts, disaster management, and monitoring climate…
The peaceful use of space can contribute to more security and prosperity on earth. New satellites can bring fast Internet to remote corners of the earth or provide us with important data in the fight against climate change. Cooperation in research and the management of common security risks such as solar storms or meteorites offer the chance for mankind as a whole to move closer together. But international space law is not prepared for some of the important developments of recent years. To prevent conflicts, we urgently need an update!
New rules for Space
The activities of states in the exploration and use of space are regulated by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. It states that the universe belongs to all of us, and all states have the right to explore the space. All activities in space should be carried out peacefully and for the benefit of all mankind.
With its fundamental commitment to the exclusively peaceful use of space, the Treaty was and is an important legal document in the context of international understanding. However, today the treaty is no longer up to date.
With the founding of Space Forces, we are currently experiencing a new wave of militarization of space. China and Russia have already established their own partial armed forces for space as early as 2015. France and the USA followed in 2019. International law must react consistently to these developments. I advocate for a ban on all military actions in space.
Moreover, international space law is currently not prepared for the increasing private-sector use of space. It urgently needs to be revised to create legal certainty. For example, binding rules are needed to distribute the limited space in orbit. In addition, private-sector actors must be obliged to dispose their space debris.
At a time when the private-sector exploitation of resources in space is within reach, ownership issues are also pressing. Space is a common good and we must not allow individuals to enrich themselves from the property of all. The wealth of the universe must be distributed fairly.