To Fight to Save...In Space: A Legal Argument that a Space 'Coast Guard' Is Increasingly Necessary for Effective 21st Century Space Governance

57 Pages Posted: 17 May 2018 Last revised: 17 Jun 2018

Date Written: April 21, 2018


Recently U.S. President Donald Trump delivered a speech calling for the creation of a U.S. Space Corps to advance U.S. space interests. Congress has also pursued similar ideas. The United States, however, does not need what would very likely be a heavily defense-centric, single mission new space service. If the United States is going to create a new space agency it would be better served by establishing a “Space Guard” modeled after and organized similarly to the existing U.S. Coast Guard. Indeed, it has become increasingly apparent the United States may need to establish such an agency sooner, rather than later to ensure that it meets its international legal obligations and to address widening authorities and capabilities gaps in existing U.S. space “governance” programs.

A pending “space boom” led by private actors and businesses, and indeed encouraged by the United States government, makes it more and more likely that existing international legal regimes will prove inadequate governance structures as increasing numbers of state and private actors take to the stars. Further, the United States government currently divides responsibility and authorities for space operations amongst several departments and agencies, which is burdensome, inefficient, and unlikely to be agile enough to keep pace with, let alone effectively regulate and manage private space ventures.

This paper argues that establishing a Space Guard is a critical first step in how the United States can contribute to 21st century space governance, while at the same time also protecting important U.S. interests, because only an agency modeled on the Coast Guard’s ability to exercise broad, interdependent authorities across every aspect within an entire domain, and with the organizational culture to responsibly wield those authorities, will be able to effectively and efficiently manage future U.S. space activities.

The views presented within this paper are the author's and not representative of those of the U.S. Coast Guard or the Department of Homeland Security.

A version of this paper will be published in Issue 4/5 2018 of Air & Space Law.

Keywords: Space, Space Guard, Space Corps, Space Force, Coast Guard, Outer Space, Outer Space Treaty

Suggested Citation

Sinclair, Michael, To Fight to Save...In Space: A Legal Argument that a Space 'Coast Guard' Is Increasingly Necessary for Effective 21st Century Space Governance (April 21, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

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