Space Policy


by Ntorina Antoni

Since the dawn of the ‘Space Age’ the use of outer space occupied a range of policy areas, with the multifaceted political dimensions of the use of space becoming evident. The term ‘Space Race’ not only signified the competition of the two superpowers during the Cold War, but also developed into a distinct area of international relations -that of space policy- with broadly conceived diplomatic efforts leading to international regulation. The inherent dual-use character of space activities led to a dominance of space utilization as a crucial security factor. During the past six decades, space policy has been unfolding on this undertone. With the growth of more and more specific uses of outer space and the international proliferation of space technologies, leading to more than 70 countries owning their satellites as of today, the complexity of space policy is growing accordingly.

by Maria-del-Carmen Muñoz-Rodriguez

Space activities have been successfully developed over 45 years in Europe in the framework of the European Space Agency (ESA). The mission of this European International Organization is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. In the case of the European Union (EU), is it a European Organization for the space? Before 2007, this question would have a negative answer as the European Communities Treaties did not have a specific legal basis for space. Nevertheless, some actions and decisions were adopted with references to other articles of the European Community Treaty related (industry, transport, research and technological development). The EU could have this competence conferred on it by the 2004 Constitutional Treaty; however, it did not come into force. At last, the 2007 Lisbon Treaty creates a legal basis enabling the EU to conduct a European Space Policy.  The development of a “European Space Policy” (ESP) is essential for the EU, ESA and Member States due to the strategic value of the outer space and the space activities for the wellbeing of the European society, the economic growth and the achievement of numerous public policies. So, it is necessary to regulate it in the EU Treaties given that the European integration project requires to have specific legal basis for actions and decisions; to have the political legitimacy (e.g. to legitimize the spending of EU funds); and an internal and external symbolic force. The Treaty of Lisbon has designed a very special legal regime for the ESP, reinforcing the national limits around this competence (to satisfy the Member States), but praxis proves the necessity of more cooperation/integration. After the legal basis is established, the next step is the implementation of the ESP, in which a strategy is essential. However, the economic and financial crisis of the last years in Europe has not been the best context for that and the Communication Towards A Space Strategy For The European Union That Benefits Its Citizens (2011) was probably more a declaration of intents than a real strategy. Later on, the Communication Space Strategy for Europe (2016) seems to be a real strategy, but it is crucial to put it into practice through programmes on the ground, taking advantage of the envisaged end of the economic and financial crisis in Europe. Fortunately, the European Space Programme (2021-2027) has been adopted and EU and ESA have signed a new Financial Framework Partnership Agreement in June 2021. These steps are crucial for the future of the European Space Policy.

by Ntorina Antoni

Space policy is today a visible and recognized field with a continuously growing impact. With the growth of more innovative uses of outer space and the international proliferation of space technologies, leading to more than seventy countries owning satellites as of today, the complexity of space policy is growing accordingly. Space policy matters because it deals with an issue area that is critical for the functioning of modern society and, on the international level, vital to the maintenance of peace. Topics such as the status of outer space, space traffic management, and space security are only a few critical elements in a multifaceted spectrum that combined within space policy are crucially relevant to security, welfare, and modern society. Space policy and space law are inextricably intertwined. Today, a space lawyer has to understand space policy, and vice versa, a space policy expert cannot do without a solid knowledge of space law. In particular, the nature of outer space as a global commons, governed by the non-appropriation principle, connects policy and legal aspects incredibly tightly. All political questions are based on legal considerations, and all legal questions have political implications. The reciprocal relations among space policy objectives and legal framework enable the comprehensive understanding of the theoretical and practical interactions and provide a more sustainable and consistent foundation for their implementation. ‘’Space policy consists of the objectives, means, and actions of governmental actors in their uses of outer space under given circumstances’’. This definition and the elaboration of the elements therein are provided in the forthcoming 2021 Research Agenda for Space Policy edited by Kai-Uwe Schrogl, Christina Giannopapa, and Ntorina Antoni (Edward Elgar Publishing). In this publication, expert international contributors set out a forward-looking research agenda for the 2020s, identifying fundamental problems and conflicts related to the topic and exploring policy, regulatory approaches, and diplomatic mechanisms to reach possible solutions.