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Outer Space Governance In the Age of Private Actors

September 19, 2021 at 12:30 am - 3:30 am SMT

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In this salon, Interintellect hosts Zac Yap and Geffen Avraham lead a discussion on the commercialisation of space through private actors, and how it impacts the governance of outer space.

By 2030, as many as 10 million people could travel to space, with 80,000 guests staying at space hotels and other facilities annually. The launch of cubesats into orbit is becoming increasingly accessible, even to space hobbyists and small-scale startups. Natural resource extraction from space is becoming more viable as a future industry. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, known as the Magna Carta of outer space, was negotiated in the Cold War era when the only space-faring nations were the Soviet Union and the US. Although the negotiators of the treaty at that time had in mind the possibility of a future where non-state actors could participate in space activities, it is unlikely they fathomed the extent of the private space industry which we see today.

We discuss questions including:

  • Should we allow private property ownership of or on the Moon, Mars and other Celestial Bodies? 
  • Should states continue to be imputed with direct state responsibility and liability for the actions of private, non-governmental organisations in outer space? Given that private space activity often involves territorial use, registration, financing and nationals from multiple states, which state(s) should bear liability and responsibility?
  • How do we prevent private actors from fuelling the militarisation of space?
  • What’s a fair way to allocate access to radio frequency slots and the congested low earth and geostationary orbits?
  • When is space debris a problem and how do we address it? Was SpaceX’s launch of Elon’s Tesla Roadster into heliocentric orbit illegal, and should it be?
  • Is irreversible contamination of the environment on Mars as a result of our exploration missions a real concern? How about backward contamination?
  • Is space resource ownership permitted under international law? If space is part of the global commons, how should we manage the extraction of space resources through activities like asteroid mining?
  • Will provisions on the ‘rescue and return’ of astronauts in international law also apply to space tourists on commercial flights?
  • Should nuclear power and propulsion in outer space be allowed?
  • What will you do in space?



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September 19, 2021
12:30 am - 3:30 am SMT
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Zac Yap
Geffen Avraham