Since the dawn of space related activities in the fifties and sixties of the last century, instruments and mechanisms have been needed and developed to avoid a clash of interests in the exploration and utilisation of outer space. The development of such tools took place hand in hand with the evolution of socio-political and technological challenges. From the times of the Cold War and the division of power between the USSR and the USA to a multifold scene of (powerful) space faring nations like China, India and Brazil and the engagement of many other nations (the development led to the establishment of 70 and more governmental space agencies all around the world). From mainly governmentally driven activities and governmental organisations to a broad private sector which is engaged in space related activities and commercialization. From “massive” satellites, limited in number, to CubeSats (small satellites) and the instalment of mega constellations. From more or less a limited benefit of satellites to the fact that satellite application devices used by more than 200 states around the world as means of satellite communication, navigation, climate monitoring, weather forecasting, or remote sensing etc. became essential tools. From astronauts/cosmonauts/taikonauts to space tourists. From the adoption of hard law regulations to the steering of human behaviour by soft law regulations and other forms of non-binding activities (“norms of behaviour”) like nudging. From the space-race of states to a broad cooperation in the field of space related activities.
The instruments to govern the activities were more or less exclusively oriented towards overcoming respective individual and specific problems. On the contrary, global space governance is a comprehensive concept. The overarching (achievement) goal is laid down in Art I, paragraph 1 OST: The exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries. The (performance) goal is the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. This sustainability is defined as the ability to maintain the conduct of space activities indefinitely into the future in a manner that realizes the objectives of equitable access to the benefits of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, in order to meet the needs of the present generations, while preserving the outer space environment for future generations (UNCOPUOS Guidelines for the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities).
Exploration and utilisation of space are seen as drivers of the socio-economic development with regard to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals to Transform our World (see the document “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.) This is concretised in the Space2030 Agenda with its four pillars, space economy, space society, space accessibility and space diplomacy. In a Memorandum of Understanding, signed in May 2019, UNOOSA and ESA announced to develop a new Space Solution Compendium.
As a conclusion, space governance is an important tool to ensure sustainability.