Defining Responsible Behavior in Space

, senior scientist | February 17, 2011, 8:21 pm EDT
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                                 Image courtesy of European Space Operations Centre

The National Security Space Strategy, which sets out the defense and intelligence community’s space security strategy for the next decade, stated that developing norms for responsible space operations will be a key component of its approach. The leading diplomatic effort to establish a system of norms is the European Union’s Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, which the United States is considering signing on to.

Recently, a group of 37 Republican senators spearheaded by Senator Jon Kyl wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing concerns about how such norms might impact U.S. activities, most notably missile defense.

While the senators are exercising their duty and right to be asking questions, inhibiting these initial efforts to establish norms is shortsighted and counterproductive. A Code of Conduct provides a useful starting point for developing broad norms about the way responsible space users should act. It is a modest step to improve the safety of space operations and the space environment, and to set expectations that space assets should not be the focus of aggression.

The Code of Conduct is a good start, but we should be seeking more, not less.

Read UCS’s take in The Hill.

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