Governing the Final Frontier: A Polycentric Approach to Managing Space Weaponization and Orbital Debris
60 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2011 Last revised: 3 Jul 2014
Date Written: December 14, 2013
Effective space governance has become increasingly important to spacefaring and non-spacefaring powers given the interrelated problems of space weaponization and orbital debris, but thus far the applicable frameworks remain limited and outdated. For example, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST) establishes space as being free from national appropriation, while setting out certain property rights. But legal ambiguities persist, such as regarding what weapons are permitted in space since the military use of space has not been forbidden, only the placement of weapons of mass destruction in orbit and the establishment of military bases on the moon or other celestial bodies. Consensus has been difficult to build since the failure of the Moon Treaty thereby limiting the effectiveness of the United Nations that had been so central to the development of space law. As a result, polycentric regulation is increasingly been undertaken. This move away from the United Nations is accelerating resulting in the potential fragmentation of governance, which has been brought about at least in part by the resistance to the Common Heritage of Mankind concept in the Moon Treaty. It is critical to assess whether such polycentric action is addressing the outstanding security and environmental issues in outer space, including space weaponization and junk. Significant scholarly attention has not been paid to the evolution of space law in this manner, nor holistically comparing the changes in space law to what is transpiring in the rest of the global commons, including the atmosphere.
Keywords: Space Law, Orbital Debris, Space Junk, Space Weaponization, Polycentric, Common Heritage of Mankind, Sustainable Development
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