1. Historical Throwback
Ever since the first attempts of the human race to be entering and exploring outer space, the importance of dialogue and discussion amongst countries evolved have gained more and more importance. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik on the 4th of October 1957 and the US followed 1960 in their famous space race during the Cold War. Since then over 40 countries have followed and left their footprints all over outer space – resulting in over 1886 satellites currently operating in space.
1.2 The UNOOSA
Dealing with this ever-developing circumstance one can address many different aspects. Whether satellites are being used for navigation, telecommunication or Earth Observation – establishing the necessary frameworks regulating outer space with both political actors, countries and private companies being involved is inevitable. Although the meteorological use of satellites has proven of more importance then the military use, the peaceful use of outer space needs to be secured and amended accordingly in constant dialogue. That’s why in 1958 the UNOOSA was established: the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs operates in coordination and collaboration with national governments and regional organization and bodies just like the European Space agency. The UNOOSA is the secretariat of the COPUOS, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, with 87 members (as of 2017) it has subcommittees (scientific and technical as well as legal) handling the different spheres of the topic. The UNOOSA holds different responsibilities and the main goal is to promote international cooperation for the peaceful exploitation (and exploration?) of outer space. This is done by defining regulatory frameworks and implementing space law. Beyond that, the UNOOSA supports and assists in the development of capacities regarding space-relevant technologies and manages the UN Platform for Space-Based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-Spider).
1.3 Commercial use of outer space
After the Cold War having been one of the most groundbreaking and important occurrences regarding the international community’s involvement in space, we are now seeing a new trend in the development of this relationship. Private companies have started to reach out to the stars, dreaming of space tourism and their share of the exploitation of the mysterious black out there. With the ambition of space tourism comes the temptation to reach out to other domains: companies such as SpaceX for example have already signed contracts with the US government regarding military work in outer space.
This history of American endorsement for the private sector to invest in space technologies started very early: Beginning of the 20th century pioneering scientist started the trend to ask for financial assistance and funding from both private investors but also from public bodies. The US government has passed multiple acts since to encourage private companies in their aspirations to leave our mother planet. Not only the United States have sent out signals to accelerate the commercial space race: the European Union has created Arianespace and since 2017 Luxembourg has passed laws to allow citizens to have rights to space materials. The more years pass, the more technical and scientific progress we make the more pressing the issue becomes. 2018 already marked the year with the first privately owned vehicle floating around between star constellations.
To sum this up it is safe to say that apart of government reaching out to private companies in the development for space programs, especially for launch services, there are a number of other lucrative sectors for them to focus on. There is for example personal space flying, asteroid mining as a form of exploitation and surely more sectors to be explored while doing research for this topic.
Focusing on the military aspect of the exploitation of outer space, there are two actors that need to be separated: Defense Contractors and Private Military Companies. The difference between the two is very slight, but important, nonetheless. PMC’s being private companies that can be employed by governments (they are not restricted to that though) they defer from Defense Contractors which provide military services and space technology within governments. With private companies reaching into the lucrative business of military space technology (for example the development of highly movable missiles, smaller communication satellites and data processing sensors) and PMS’s being actively used in conflicts zones (for example in Iraq and Afghanistan) it seems like a privatization of space-based security is approaching rapidly and regulations need to be defined.
1.4 Agreements and Legislation so far
1.4.1 Even though there have been a number of resolutions and treaties addressing outer space and (mainly) governmental actors, reading this you may have concluded already that there is the pressing need for more guidance and legislation – especially in regards of private companies getting more and more involved. The following list of treaties, acts, regulations etc. is not complete – but it is a nice start for more research.
1.4.2 Outer Space Treaty (1966) – basic framework for international space law (only includes one proper guideline for non-state actors, which is that their activities need authorization of the respective government). In total 108 countries have signed the treaty and another 23 are in the process of doing so as of January 2019.
1.43 The Moon Treaty (1979) - jurisdiction to the moon and other celestial bodies, stating international law.
1.4.4 Commercial Space Launch Act (1984) – United States federal law, considered to be the start of the US liberalized commercialized space investment trend.
1.4.5 United Nations Mercenary Convention (1989) – Most applicable regulation for PMC’s, limiting their possible actions. Whoever big players like China, France, India, US etc. have not ratified it.
1.4.6 Commercial Space Law Amendments Act (2004) - United States Congress Act enabling individuals to fly high.
Space Commerce Free Enterprise Bill (2018) – The American Government stating that they do not hold liability for American private space companies. This goes against the Outer Space Treaty.
2. Our Debate
We will be focusing on both the commercial exploitation of outer space by private investors and companies but also the military prospects that lay within it: With countries narrowing their investments in space technologies and giving more freedom of action to actors other than countries we now face the problem of regulating this development. The necessity for guidelines, resolutions and frameworks regarding the use of outer space by all actors involved is pressing.
2.2 Structure of the Debate
During our debate political individuals will be representing governments interests in outer space, therefore some of you are advised to read into the respective laws and legal frameworks of the country you represent. Keep in mind that this is a UNSC committee – there will be veto voices and resolutions are therefore aimed to be as unanimous as possible. However, there will be delegates representing non-state observers as for example private companies, a unique possibility to be stepping into MUN unusual roles and raising controversial and provocative voices. The debate will start in the year 2020 – from there we will witness how the rapid development of technologies and the ever-fast-shifting power dynamics on the international political playground shape the future.
2.3 Go do some research!
- Introduction into Space Activities
- Governments and their space programs
- Space racin’
- COPUOS and UNOOSA
India and an unauthorized satellite launch
- Space Technology and Disaster Relief
- The mysterious Wagner Group and the Russian Government
- Luxembourg and capitalism
- The ISS
- Europe and the ESA
- “space race” in development of new missiles
- Anyone curious what space mining is?
- Private Money gets you out of this world
- Dr. Who? Spacetravels!