Study raises new concerns about lack of governing norms in space

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New CSIS report looks at three key governance issues: orbital debris mitigation, rendezvous and proximity operations, and insurance requirements

WASHINGTON — Commercial and government activities in space keep growing and yet nations are making little progress in establishing rules and norms of behavior, says the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a new report released Sept. 3.

The report looks at three key governance issues that CSIS analyst Kaitlyn Johnson contends need more international attention: orbital debris mitigation, rendezvous and proximity operations, and insurance requirements.

“The global landscape of national space policies concerning space sustainability, rendezvous and proximity operations, and insurance requirements is uneven and irregular,” Johnson says.

“Without clear national regulations and policies, the challenge to find international consensus and define technical standards for key issues in space governance remains bleak,” she says.

Some central points made in the study:

  • The lack of agreed international norms and processes for space traffic management increases the risk of collisions in space which is damaging to space sustainability and can be devastating to companies.
  • There is little to no consensus on definitions for space situational awareness, space traffic management, space debris mitigation or space sustainability.
  • Without coherent international actions to address the risk of debris, it falls on private space companies to adopt responsible satellite design and operational practices to ensure a sustainable space environment.
  • Rendezvous and proximity operations are poorly defined and there is a need for international norms of behavior and technical standards.
  • Space insurance represents a global mismatch. Some nations require higher levels of liability insurance, requiring startups to spend on average 33 percent of the satellite cost on space insurance. Additionally, there is a flux of insurance providers entering and leaving the market, causing further uncertainty.