Space Community is growing rapidly and is becoming more fast paced than ever before. Exciting technologies and new actors are emerging, we are celebrating successes and breaking down the barriers between the impossible and achievable. Countries all over the globe are creating and establishing their own domestic space laws and policies, and we can’t deny that we witnessed a dramatic increase in space activity in the last decade. Are regulations and international legally binding norms regulating space activities following fast enough? At a first glance it might seem like the international legal regime remained static and that we see a decline in adoption of legally binding norms. Yet, we must take into consideration a number of domestic laws and practices that are legally binding and inform the international law.
Space Traffic Management (STM) is widely and internationally acknowledged as a concept for regulation of space activities. While it is true that we currently do not have a formal work plan, or an internationally adopted legal regime for STM, we do see STM as a regular item on the agenda of the Legal Subcommittee of UN Committee for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. This is a clear indicator that the wide international community acknowledges STM as a potential framework for the future.
Our common goal should be protecting both the Earth, and the outer space. The measures we are adopting should reflect our reality, and not be adopted just for the sake of regulation. Climate monitoring, satellite navigation and Earth observation, are all giving us the tools that are necessary for contributing to the betterment of all lives, but the question remains: how do we identify what is of utmost importance for consideration, when it comes to protecting the Earth and outer space?
The concerns for long term sustainability of outer space are identified in the Long-Term Sustainability Guidelines, adopted in 2019 in the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. These Guidelines are crucial for the necessary development of tools for space situational awareness, space debris mitigation and for the establishment of both regimes and frameworks for the regulation of space activities, as well as for the guidance for those, who are involved in such activities. Finding ways to successfully implement these guidelines is the challenge that States, and international intergovernmental organizations, will be facing in the near future.