Insight - “Strengthening Space Governance” at the Summit for Space Sustainability

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

The 5th Summit for Space Sustainability taking place in New York City is now less than six weeks away! This milestone event will host a unique gathering of global stakeholders from government, industry, and civil society. It will feature keynotes, interactive sessions, panels, and networking designed to highlight opportunities and challenges for developing solutions for space sustainability. The event will focus on several critical themes, including reinforcing space sustainability through corporate performance, strengthening space governance, and building a sustainable cislunar space economy. In the next few months leading up to this event, Secure World Foundation is sharing short topic previews, providing context and probing questions which will be expanded upon at the conference. This piece provides a preview of our second theme: strengthening space governance. 

First and foremost, it is important to note that space sustainability is not just about space activities themselves, but rather about providing benefits back to Earth. Connecting what we do in space to the global challenges that humanity faces on Earth can help build support for why space sustainability matters to all nations and help develop solutions for solving those global challenges. Thus, this year’s Summit for Space Sustainability will begin with a focus on this link between space sustainability and sustainability on Earth. The opening session, “Why Space Sustainability Matters and Its Impact on Our Global Future,” will discuss what role space can play in addressing global challenges and specifically the role for space in the United Nation’s preparations for the 2024 Summit of the Future

Space governance is built on the foundation of international law and the principles enshrined in the core space treaties, as well as the norms and behaviors that support the interpretation and implementation of those principles. However, there are new and emerging areas of space activities for which the governance framework is uncertain or underdeveloped, and which could pose threats to sustainability if not addressed. The 5th Summit for Space Sustainability will focus on two specific areas. 

The first is on the challenges in developing governance frameworks for sharing space situational awareness data between all space actors, a task made more challenging by the breadth of space actors and the lack of existing technical standards. While there have been many discussions about what lessons the space domain might learn from air and maritime worlds for solving this problem, the session, “Can the Space Community Actually Learn Something From Internet Governance?” takes a different approach to look at how similar challenges are addressed in Internet governance. Specifically, it will explore how multistakeholder organizations that include companies, governments, and civil society are used to establish standards and govern key parts of the Internet and what aspects of that experience may be applicable to space.

The second specific area is space security, and here the Summit for Space Sustainability will focus on why more governments and companies, and not just those operating satellites, should be participating in space security discussions. Discussions on what to do about space threats have traditionally been dominated by the major space powers and perceived as something that the commercial sector need not weigh in on. However, given that space is a shared domain, everyone - governments, industry, and civil society - has a role to play in ensuring the predictability, stability, and security of the space environment. The session, “Space Security is YOUR Problem Too,” will discuss why space security is relevant to all institutions and how non-traditional space powers and the commercial sector may play a role in shoring up space security for all. Additionally, we will have several spotlight talks throughout the two days of the event that provide perspectives on why destructive anti-satellite testing is a critical issue that needs to be addressed now, and why all space actors should support moratoriums on destructive anti-satellite testing and progress towards a global ban.

These sessions linked to the theme of strengthening space governance provide an opportunity for participants in the 5th Summit for Space Sustainability to engage and help develop solutions that enhance space sustainability. You will be able to connect with experts from around the globe to ask questions, have insightful conversations, and take steps towards the long-term sustainable use of space on this and many other space sustainability topics. Additionally, there is a registration discount for young professionals as part of our commitment to shoring up the next generation’s awareness of space sustainability issues. Learn more about the conference and register here!

Last updated on June 30, 2023