WASHINGTON — Armenia signed the Artemis Accords regarding safe and responsible space exploration June 12, the tenth country to do so this year.

In a ceremony at NASA Headquarters, Mkhitar Hayrapetyan, minister of high-tech industry in the government of Armenia, signed the Accords. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson was in attendance along with officials from the U.S. State Department and Armenia’s ambassador to the United States.

“By signing these accords, Armenia joins a community of nations dedicated to advancing the frontiers of human knowledge and capability in space,” Hayrapetyan said in a statement. “Our involvement will not only enhance our technological capabilities, but also inspire a new generation of Armenians to dream big, to innovate and to explore the world and universe.”

The Artemis Accords, unveiled in 2020, outline best practices for countries participating in space exploration, based primarily on the Outer Space Treaty and related agreements. The provisions of the Accords range from transparency and interoperability to utilization of space resources and deconfliction of space activities.

The signing is part of increased interest in the Accords. Of the 43 nations that have signed the Accords, 10 have done so this year: Armenia, Belgium, Greece, Lithuania, Peru, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay. U.S. officials have said they are seeing more countries approaching the United States about signing the Accords.

“As the number keeps growing, there’s more and more interest,” said Valda Vikmanis-Keller, director of the Office of Space Affairs at the State Department, at the Meridian Space Diplomacy Forum April 30. “Countries are looking around and realizing that their neighbors, other international partners, have signed, and I think there’s a growing curiosity.”

“Today’s signing builds on an important foundation. Armenia long has looked to the heavens and helped humanity understand them,” Nelson said in a statement about Armenia’s signing. “As the 10th nation this year to sign the Artemis Accords, we are proving that exploration unites nations like few other things can.”

Interest in the Artemis Accords has outpaced that in the China-led International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). Serbia joined ILRS in May, the 11th country to do so. Other nations that are part of ILRS are Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Egypt, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Thailand and Venezuela.

To date, no nations have both joined ILRS and signed the Artemis Accords, although U.S. officials say there is nothing on their side that would prevent a country from being part of both. Some companies and organizations that have signed agreements regarding participation in ILRS are based in countries that have signed the Artemis Accords, like Swiss company nanoSPACE AG and the UAE’s University of Sharjah.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...