Handbook for New Actors

The Challenge

The space domain is currently experiencing a rapid diversification and increase in the number of actors involved in space activities. More than 70 states, commercial companies, and international organizations currently operate more than 1,500 satellites in Earth orbit, which together provide a wide range of socioeconomic benefits. The number of space actors is accelerating, driven largely by the commoditization of space technology and the lowering of barriers to participate in space activities.

The increased availability of space technology and capabilities has both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, it is leading to greatly increased innovation, lowering of costs, and greater access to beneficial capabilities and services available from satellites for all countries. However, the growth in space activities and the influx of new actors also has the potential to exacerbate many of the current threats to the long-term sustainable use of space, such as on-orbit crowdingradio-frequency interference, the proliferation of space debris, and the chances of an incident in space sparking or escalating geopolitical tensions on Earth.

What is the Handbook?

In order to help address this issue, SWF has developed the Handbook for New Actors in Space. The Handbook is intended to reach two categories of new actors in space: states developing national space policies and regulations; and start-up companies, universities, and other non-governmental entities beginning their first foray into space activities. The goal of the handbook is to provide both groups with a broad overview of the fundamental principles, laws, norms, and best practices for peaceful, safe, and responsible activities in space. By doing so, we hope to maximize the positive benefits and minimize the negative consequences of the growth of new actors. This will help ensure the long-term sustainable use of space so that humanity can continue to derive the many benefits space activities have to offer for the foreseeable future.

The Handbook is the result of a collaborative effort between SWF experts from governments, satellite operators, academia, and civil society. In June 2015, we held an initial workshop to discuss the Handbook outline and the topics that should be included to provide a comprehensive overview of important issues. In May 2016, we held a second workshop to discuss the draft text of the handbook, and get feedback from representatives of our target audience on how well it meet their needs. We also engaged in a series of bilateral discussions with many more experts on specific sections of the Handbook.

How Do I Get a Copy?

An electronic version of the Handbook can be downloaded here. SWF staff will also be bringing physical copies of the Handbook for distributions at many of the events we attend throughout 2017.  If you would like to inquire about obtaining a specific number of physical copies, please send us an email

What Comes Next?

SWF welcomes your feedback on the current edition of the Handbook. We are interested in comments on the existing content, as well as topics and ideas for future versions. Our goal is to refresh the printed version of the Handbook every few years.

In the meantime, SWF is developing plans for an interactive online complement to the Handbook. The goal is to have a resource that can provide more details on the topics and issues discussed in the Handbook, and can be updated more frequently than a printed publication. We are actively exploring potential partnerships and sponsorships with governments, academia, and private sector entities to assist in this process. If you are interested in inquiring about a partnership, please let us know.


Last updated on January 26, 2017