Aerospace policy paper examines Outer Space Treaty

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (June 30, 2017) – The Aerospace Corporation’s (Aerospace) Center for Space Policy and Strategy announced today the release of an analysis of the Outer Space Treaty, which marks its 50th anniversary this year. The analysis by Dr. James Vedda, senior policy analyst at Aerospace, examines the treaty provisions that may affect space commerce and highlights both possibilities for updating the treaty as well as the risks in re-opening a longstanding international agreement.

Committees in the U.S. Congress are currently addressing the question of whether the nation should withdraw from or propose amendments to the Outer Space Treaty. The intended purpose of these actions would be to support more rapid development of space commerce.

“The treaty does not directly address orbital debris mitigation and remediation or enable salvage in space,” Vedda said, noting that the treaty also has the potential to inhibit commercial space development due to concerns about property rights.

However, Vedda urges caution. “It is difficult to identify any significant, enduring benefits to the U.S. from unilateral withdrawal” from the treaty. “From the commercial development perspective, this action increases risk by removing current protections without enabling commensurate benefits.”

Amendment of the treaty also has risks. It would require considerable time and effort, without a guarantee that the end result would be better than what is already in place. “The amendment process may not remain limited to the one or two issues that prompted it,” Vedda said. The treaty has numerous signatories with different stakes and objectives in space, “any one of which could bring up its own amendments, which could be objectionable to the major stakeholders.”

Executive Director of the Center for Space Policy and Strategy Jamie Morin observed, “Space capabilities and ambitions are growing worldwide with more than a hundred nations now party to the Outer Space Treaty. Objectively evaluating the complexities involved in reopening an agreement like this is exactly the sort of problem our Center is dedicated to studying in order to help inform policymakers.”

After a half century, the Outer Space Treaty is starting to show its age, but as Vedda points out, “Space agreements exist in a dynamic environment and attempts to alter them must be undertaken with eyes wide open.”

To read Vedda’s paper and others related to space policy matters, visit www.aerospace.org/policy.

The Center for Space Policy and Strategy is a specialized research branch within The Aerospace Corporation; the corporation provides objective technical analysis for programs of national significance. The Center for Space Policy and Strategy was established in 2000 as a Center of Excellence for civil, commercial and national security space and technology policy; it examines issues at the intersection of technology and policy and provides nonpartisan research for national decision makers.

 

The Aerospace Corporation is a California nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center and has approximately 3,600 employees. It provides guidance and advice to military, civil and commercial customers to ensure the success of complex, technology-based programs. The Aerospace Corporation is headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., with multiple locations across the United States. For more information on Aerospace, visit www.aerospace.org. Follow us on Twitter: @AerospaceCorp.

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Dianna Ramirez
Media Relations, The Aerospace Corporation
Office: (310) 336-2030
[email protected]