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  • Writer's pictureKiran Mohan Vazhapully

Unified Heavens: Global Space Law and Policy Newsletter, Vol. 2 (1)

I2U2 Group Launches Pioneering Joint Space Venture

I2U2 Group Launches Pioneering Joint Space Venture

In a landmark announcement at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the I2U2 Group, comprising India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the United States, has unveiled a collaborative space venture. All four nations, signatories of the Artemis Accords, are set to harness their collective space-based observation capabilities to address some of the planet's most pressing challenges.

This venture aims to develop a state-of-the-art space-based tool designed to aid policymakers, institutions, and entrepreneurs in their efforts to tackle environmental and climate change issues. By leveraging space data, the tool will serve the broader interests of humanity, providing invaluable insights and fostering international cooperation.

The I2U2 Group, established during the inaugural leaders' summit on July 14, 2022, represents a unique alliance dedicated to confronting global challenges. With focus areas spanning water, energy, transportation, space, health, food security, and technology, the group is committed to driving positive change. This latest venture in space exploration underscores the group's innovative approach and dedication to collaborative solutions.

By pooling their expertise and resources, the I2U2 nations are poised to achieve significant advancements in space research. The development of this space-based tool promises to revolutionize how we approach environmental and climate-related challenges, offering stakeholders accurate, timely data to inform their strategies and decisions.


UK Advances Space Safety with New Satellite Sensing Requirements

UK Advances Space Safety with New Satellite Sensing Requirements

In a proactive move to ensure the safety and sustainability of space operations, the United Kingdom is contemplating a policy that mandates the inclusion of space domain awareness (SDA) sensors in British satellites. This initiative comes as the space environment becomes increasingly congested, raising concerns about potential collisions and mishaps in orbit.

The decision, announced during the DSEI conference in September, emphasizes that satellites without the capability to understand their immediate environment are not maximizing their potential. Commodore David Moody, who leads the UK Space Command, highlighted the importance of these sensors in ensuring that satellites can co-exist safely with the myriad of objects in space.

The Growing Concern of Space Debris

The urgency of this initiative is underscored by data from the European Space Agency (ESA), which reports over 170 million pieces of space debris in orbit. The US has also observed a 16% increase in tracked space objects from 2022, now monitoring around 47,900 objects. Given the potential catastrophic consequences of even a minor collision in space, the UK's move towards mandatory SDA sensors is both timely and crucial.

To support this initiative, the UK government has earmarked £1.4 billion for the development of emerging sensor technology, as detailed in the National Space Strategy in Action Plan. This investment aims to bolster the protection of satellites and ensure they possess the capability to detect and respond to approaching hazards.

A Holistic Approach to Space Safety

Furthermore, the UK has already laid down a set of principles to enhance SDA, as outlined in the Cross Government SDA Requirements Publications. The strategy involves a holistic approach, integrating data from various sensors with operational and intelligence sources to provide comprehensive space domain awareness.

In line with international collaboration, the UK has joined forces with the US to establish the JCO-UK tracking cell, focusing on commercial SDA sensors. This partnership underscores the global nature of space safety challenges and the importance of collaborative solutions.

Innovations in SDA Sensor Development

Several companies are already making strides in the development of SDA sensors. London-based Lumi Space has equipped Space Forge’s Forgestar-0 with tracking instruments, while Lockheed Martin's Australian division has developed wide-field-of-view sensors for comprehensive orbit surveillance. Additionally, The Aerospace Corporation has designed a sensor payload named Catcher, dedicated to identifying potential hazards in a satellite's vicinity.

As space activities continue to grow, the UK's focus on space domain awareness and the safety of satellite operations sets a precedent for other spacefaring nations, emphasizing the importance of proactive measures in the ever-evolving space environment.


Artemis, Ethics, and Society: A Glimpse into the Future of Space Exploration

Artemis, Ethics, and Society: A Glimpse into the Future of Space Exploration

In April 2023, NASA’s Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy (OTPS) convened a landmark workshop in Washington, DC, titled "Artemis and Ethics." This gathering marked a renewed focus on the ethical and societal dimensions of space exploration, a topic that NASA had previously explored during the Apollo era and through its astrobiology initiatives. The workshop brought together 55 experts from diverse fields, ranging from social sciences and humanities to technical disciplines. Over two and a half days, these participants delved into pressing ethical challenges, drawing parallels with projects like the Human Genome Project, and brainstormed potential policy solutions. The insights and discussions from this workshop were systematically analysed to produce the report "Artemis, Ethics and Society: Synthesis from a Workshop."

Notably, the emphasis on benefit sharing in space activities, as highlighted by Article I of the Outer Space Treaty, stands in contrast to its absence in the Artemis Accords.

Key Observations

1. Cross-Cutting Ethical Questions:

Benefit Sharing: How can NASA ensure that space activities benefit all of humankind, as mandated by the original Space Act?

Core Values for Exploration: What values should guide future space exploration?

Sustainability: How can we define and ensure sustainability on the Moon, especially when terrestrial concepts might not apply?

Shared Access: How can we manage access to key lunar sites, avoid contamination, and preserve heritage?

Cultural Sensitivities: Recognising the Moon's sacred status in many cultures, how should NASA approach activities like resource utilisation?

2. Challenges in Addressing Ethical, Legal and Societal Implications (ELSI):

Cultural Challenges: Bridging the communication gap between social scientists, humanities scholars, and space engineers.

Engineering vs. Reflection: The need for a balance between rapid progress and ethical reflection.

Resource Allocation: Allocating resources for ELSI studies without compromising mission objectives.

Diffuse Responsibility: Addressing ELSI that involve multiple stakeholders, including international and commercial entities.

Anticipating Future Concerns: Proactively identifying and addressing unforeseen ethical issues.

3. Potential Solutions:

Policy Integration: Incorporate ELSI expertise into policy structures and use public values to guide NASA's objectives.

Management Focus: Emphasize ethical reflection within NASA's internal management.

Research Initiatives: Establish frameworks for addressing ELSI and engage in participatory assessments with the public.

Public Conversations: Foster dialogues with diverse stakeholders, including the public, experts, and underrepresented groups.

Education: Enhance understanding of ELSI among space professionals, students, and the general public.

The report underscores the importance of considering the ethical and legal implications of space exploration. As NASA prepares for the Artemis III mission, the first human landing on the Moon in over five decades, it is crucial to engage in dialogues about the societal and ethical challenges that arise. By addressing these nuances, NASA can ensure that the future of space exploration is both ambitious and ethically grounded.

Find the report here.


Space Safety and Sustainability Momentum: ESPI Report Summary

Space Safety and Sustainability Momentum: ESPI Report Summary

As space activities continue to expand, ensuring the safety and long-term sustainability of space operations becomes increasingly vital. Policymakers worldwide are recognising the importance of these challenges, with the private and public sectors both venturing into new commercial space activities. The European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) has undertaken a comprehensive study to provide evidence-based support for future policy-making in the realm of space safety and sustainability.

Policy Momentum for Space Safety & Sustainability

1. Surging Prioritisation in National Space Policies:

  • Concerns about space safety and sustainability have significantly influenced recent space-related policymaking.

  • Beyond international efforts like the UN LTS Guidelines, national policymakers are emphasising safety and sustainability in their space strategies.

  • ESPI's research, spanning over 50 national strategies, shows a clear uptick in the relevance of space safety and sustainability topics over the years.

2. European Leadership:

  • European countries are at the forefront, with many recently updating or releasing new national space strategies.

  • Countries like Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Germany, Greece, Poland, and Finland have either released new strategies or are in the process of updating their existing ones.

  • These strategies often highlight space sustainability as an urgent matter, emphasize the importance of multilateral instruments, and prioritize space debris mitigation and removal.

3. New Regulatory Perspectives at the EU Level:

  • The EU is expanding its space engagement beyond just programmatic initiatives.

  • The EU is considering new regulatory actions in compliance with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), even though space regulation traditionally falls under national competence.

Four Policy Considerations for the Way Ahead

  1. Risk of Widening Capability Gap: Europe faces the challenge of potentially lagging behind other space powers, especially in areas like Space Situational Awareness (SST/SSA).

  2. Leveraging Commercial Solutions & Services: There are growing opportunities to utilize commercial solutions for space safety and sustainability.

  3. Translating Political Awareness into Funding: The challenge lies in converting the increasing awareness about space safety into tangible funding and resources.

  4. Reassessing Risk in Light of New Activities: With the increasing complexity of space activities, there's a need to re-evaluate risk assessments. This includes considerations for the rising LEO satellite population, cis-lunar situational awareness, the changing nature of human spaceflight, the proliferation of small satellites, and the emergence of new space actors.


Global Conference on 'Resource Mining in the Outer Space: Artemis Accords and Beyond’

The Centre for Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi, in collaboration with the Centre for Aviation and Space Laws at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences and the Centre for Research in Air & Space Law at Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai, is delighted to announce the Global Conference on 'Resource Mining in the Outer Space: Artemis Accords and Beyond'. Scheduled for 14th October 2023, this online conference aims to foster dialogue and research collaborations by bringing together scholars from India and abroad.

The Artemis Accords, a non-binding multilateral agreement, has stirred the international arena with its provisions enabling mining on the Moon for scientific missions. Drafted by the US Department of State and NASA, the Accords aim to establish a framework for collaboration in the peaceful exploration of the Moon, Mars, and other celestial bodies. The Artemis plan envisions a permanent human presence on the Moon, with missions serving as a precursor to manned Mars expeditions. However, the Accords have sparked debates, especially concerning space resource utilization, the preservation of lunar heritage, and the potential for international conflict over resource extraction.

Thematic Areas of Focus:

  1. Artemis Accords within the International Space Law Framework.

  2. Artemis Accords vis-a-vis the Working Group on Space Resources.

  3. Space Resource Utilization.

  4. Preservation of Lunar Heritage.

  5. Debris Disposal Framework.

  6. Deconfliction of Activities and "Safety Zones".

  7. Registration Aspects.

  8. Artemis Accords and India: Opportunities and Challenges.

  9. China and Russia's Response to the Artemis Accords.

Esteemed Speakers:

Scholars from around the world, including Dr. Kai-Uwe Schrogl, President of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL); Prof. Steven Freeland, Emeritus Professor of International Law at Western Sydney University & Vice-Chair, United Nations COPUOS Working Group on Legal Aspects of Space Resource Activities; and Dr. Rossana Deplano, Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Centre for European Law and Internationalisation (CELI) at the University of Leicester, will be gracing the event with their insights.



Centre for Research in Air and Space Law, MNLU Mumbai Announces Collaborative Two-Day Event on Aviation and Space Law

The Centre for Research in Air and Space Law at MNLU Mumbai is joining forces with the Centre for Aviation and Space Laws at the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, and the Prof. V.S. Mani Centre for Air and Space Law at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar. Together, they are set to host two significant events: the 'International Symposium on Aviation Law and Practice' on 7th October 2023, followed by the 'International Workshop on Space Policy & Roundtable on Indian Space Policy 2023' on 8th October 2023.

The two-day conference promises to be a knowledge-packed event, featuring around 20 distinguished speakers from various domains of law, academia, and industry. Some of the notable speakers include:

  • Hon'ble Shri Justice Sharad Bobde, Chief Justice of India

  • Adv. (Dr.) Birendra Saraf, Advocate General of Maharashtra

  • Prof. (Dr.) Dilip Ukey, Vice Chancellor, MNLU Mumbai

  • Prof. (Dr.) Sanjeevi Shanthakumar, Vice Chancellor, GNLU

  • Nitin Sarin, Managing Partner, Sarin & Co

  • Prof. Dr. P. Paul Fitzgerald, Institute of Air and Space Law, McGill University

  • Laura Pierallini, Founder & Partner, Studio Pierallini, Rome, Italy

  • Dr. Anna Marie Brennan, University of Waikato

  • Prof. V. Balakista Reddy, Mahindra University

  • Prof. Sandeepa Bhat, NUJS & UNIDROIT Correspondent for India (2022 - 2025)

  • Prof. Sudarshan Kumar Vatsyayan, IIT Bombay

  • Prof. Gurbachan Sachdeva, NALSAR University of Law

  • Prof. Deva Prasad M, IIM Kozhikode

  • Syed Tamjeed Ahmad, Spaviatech Law

  • Dr. Aruna K, ICFAI Law School

  • Prof. Divya Tyagi, GNLU

  • Prof. Jessica Los Banos, Universitas Pelita Harapan, Indonesia

  • Prof. Benarji Chakka, VIT-AP School of Law

  • Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Observer Research Foundation

  • Rishiraj Baruah, AZB & Partner

  • Adithya Variath, MNLU Mumbai

I too will speak in these events on (1) Indian space policy and international law and (2) carbon offsetting mechanisms in civil aviation.

This collaborative event aims to provide a platform for experts to share their insights, discuss the latest developments in aviation and space law, and deliberate on the future of space policy. With such an esteemed panel of speakers, attendees can look forward to enriching discussions and a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the fields of aviation and space law.

Submit your abstracts before 27th September 2023.

More details:

About the Author:

Kiran Mohan Vazhapully is the resident Space Policy Fellow for Trivium Think Tank's StraTechos website. He is a senior lawyer working for an intergovernmental organisation based in New Delhi. He was an Erin J.C. Arsenault Graduate Fellow at the Institute of Air and Space Law, McGill University, where he specialised in space law. He is also a visiting professor at National Law School, Bangalore.



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