Insight - 68th International Astronautical Congress

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

By Victoria Samson, Washington Office Director

On Sept. 25-29, 2017, the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) was held in Adelaide, Australia. This event with 4,500 delegates marked the annual gathering of the world’s space experts. The Secure World Foundation (SWF) used this opportunity to get very involved in the discussions being held by moderating and speaking on panels, presenting papers, supporting young professionals, and participating in planning committees.

A plenary session for the next generation of space leaders discussed “Innovative Methods for Assured and Secure Access to Space Resources.” Moderated by SWF Executive Director Michael Simpson, this session examined industry, academic, agency, national, and international efforts being taken to address the broad spectrum of human-made and environmental challenges which could interfere with assured and secure access to space assets. The panel allowed students and young professionals to speak about what legal and economic systems are needed to properly manage the space environment and ensure that it is safe for all to operate in and use for the long-term.

SWF Space Law Advisor Christopher Johnson was a panelist during the Global Networking Forum’s session on “Space Mining – Law, Politics, Perspectives.”  This session examined the legal and policy challenges arising from plans to use the resources of celestial bodies. Building off of work SWF has done elsewhere, including the Hague Space Resources Governance Working Group, Mr. Johnson spoke about how the Outer Space Treaty falls short of clearly and explicitly  precluding this sort of proposed use, and more generally on the role of international law in fostering emerging space activities.

SWF staff presented a variety of papers in various technical sessions. Washington Office Director Victoria Samson and Director of Program Planning Brian Weeden co-authored a paper with SWF advisory committee member Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan on “Stability, sustainability, and crises: The role tabletop exercises in space crisis dynamics can play in ensuring the long-term sustainability of space.” Mr.Johnson and Dr. Simpson co-authored “Lacunae and Silence in International Space Law - A Hypothetical Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice.” SWF Project Manager Ian Christensen presented a paper on “Norms of Behavior for Small Satellite Operations - Basic Principles,” which was co-authored with Dr. Weeden. SWF Project Manager Krystal Wilson presented a paper on “Broadening Benefit as a Pathway to the Widely Accepted Development of Extra-terrestrial Resources,” which was co-authored with Dr. Simpson and Mr. Christensen.  

Mr. Christensen presented on “Opportunities for Industry-Led Norms of Behavior in On Orbit Servicing” as part of the 32nd annual Joint IAA/IISL Round Table, which this year focused on the Technological and Legal Challenges for On-Orbit Servicing. Mr Christensen also served as rapporteur during a session of the IAC Business Innovation Symposium.  

SWF was delighted to be able to support the travel of selected young professionals so that they would be able to present papers that they had authored. As the premiere international space conference, the IAC offers a unique opportunity for young professionals to further their professional development and inject new ideas into the community and this scholarship is in line with SWF’s mission to promote the development of the next generation of space leaders. This year, we supported the travel of six very promising young professionals: Yashwanth Amara, David L.X. Ho, Matthew Richardson, Simona Spassova, Dimitra Stefoudi, and Natalia Indira Vargas Cuentas.

As well, SWF continued its tradition of supporting the Space Generation Congress (SGC) which was held the weekend prior to the IAC. This event was run by the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), which is in support of the United Nations Program on Space Applications, and just celebrated its 15th anniversary. Ian Christensen served as Subject Matter Expert for the SGC working group on Space Resources Governance.

SWF staff were very involved in the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) events held at the IAC. Dr. Simpson and Mr. Johnson co-authored the 2017 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court problem, which asked whether two countries with a long history of peaceful relations avoid hostilities when their values and operations clash on the surface of the Moon? This problem presented several issues that had never appeared in previous Space Law Moot Court Cases: it provided a scenario in which one of the parties to the case had withdrawn from the Outer Space Treaty, explored the possibility of resolving one element of the problem using the principles of ex aequo et bono, and involved a space mineral resources element that evoked ongoing discussions about commercial mining in space. Mr. Johnson also serves as the  the IISL Assistant Executive Secretary and was engaged in the IISL’s yearly activities at the IAC, including the 60th IISL Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space, the IISL Gala Dinner, and the IISL Board of Directors meeting and General Assembly.

Like the IISL, the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) partners with the IAF to hold its Academy Day events and Study Group meetings during the IAC.  A full member of the Academy and a participant in the IAA Study on Political and Legal Aspects of Space Mineral Resources activities, Dr. Simpson represented SWF at these meetings.

The SWF team also took advantage of the presence of participants from around the world and distributed over 300 copies of the SWF Handbook for New Actors in Space to selected paper sessions, subcommittee meetings, and SGC delegates.

Finally, the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) uses the gathering of space experts by the IAC to hold various planning meetings for future congresses and IAF efforts. This year, SWF staff participated in the space security committee and GEOSS subcommittee of the Global Earth Observation Committee. Dr. Simpson also represented SWF at both sessions of the IAF General Assembly.

Last updated on October 5, 2017