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Abu Dhabi summit could shape global space policy

Many of them will be among the aerospace and space experts gathering in Abu Dhabi Global Aerospace Summit to discuss the rapidly changing shape of space policy and regulation.

By Staff Reporter

Published: Sun 28 Jun 2015, 11:57 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:09 PM

Abu Dhabi - With rapidly growing private space industry, questions on space regulation and policy are at the forefront of aerospace policy makers. When Abu Dhabi hosts the third Global Aerospace Summit next March, experts in the field will be looking into this topic, according to the organisers.

Today, there are approximately 700 companies dedicated to commercial space exploration around the world — up from 100 in 2011 — building rockets, offering mission planning services and monitoring planetary risks.

Many of them will be among the aerospace and space experts gathering in Abu Dhabi Global Aerospace Summit to discuss the rapidly changing shape of space policy and regulation.

“Investors have ploughed US$10 billion into the private space industry over the past ten years, of which 75 per cent has come from venture capital funds and private equity firms,” pointed out Oisin Commane, group director of Streamline Marketing Group, which organises the summit.

“As the international space industry continues to grow, questions on space regulation and policy also increase; the summit will be looking to unearth some of the answers,” he added.

So far, the international space law framework consists of five United Nations treaties and five main sets of principles. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa) serves to foster inter-state cooperation, manages adherence to the five UN treaties on space, and provides a forum for law and policy issues in respect to outer space.

These treaties prohibit nations from deploying or stationing nuclear weapons in outer space or on celestial bodies, or even claiming real estate on them (the Moon or Mars). In addition, they establish national responsibility for private space ventures.

While there has not been much consensus on how private business in outer space should be regulated, this has recently become more of a focus for the industry.

The increase of investment and interest within the industry has prompted the US Congress to lay the foundation for the new surge of space-based industries. Its recently passed the Space Resource Exploration and Utilisation Act (the Asteroids Act) allows companies to sell any resources extracted from asteroids in space and provide some legal measure of assurance for non-interference in these activities.

Regulation of private enterprise has traditionally been the province of national governments. Some have suggested that a United Nations panel be set up to regulate space mining.

An alternative model might consist of a consortium of space-faring countries, or even non-governmental stakeholders, establishing a celestial authority for governing and coordinating international endeavours in space.

“These structural concepts are not without their legal difficulties, and whether an inter-state alliance or private commercial consortium is established, any prospective entity must comply with the principles and obligations of the international space legal framework, which holds space access and use open to all countries for peaceful purposes,” said Sara Langston, an aerospace lawyer and CEO of Senmurv Consulting LLC.

The UAE is among the latest nations to join international space policy makers and the first Arab nation with a mission beyond gravity borders. The recently established UAE Space Agency is developing the country’s space policy, regulation and legislation.

“As a pioneer for the Arab world in space exploration and under the forward thinking government of the leaders of the UAE, it would be logical to expect that the UAE’s space policy and regulatory systems adopted will definitely be forward thinking,” said Carol Anderson, from the International Institute of Air and Space Law, Leiden University. -reporters@khaleejtimes.com

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