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Our New Series of Online Events: Space Sustainability Talks

Space is an environment, too, although it is rarely viewed and treated as such. While the international discourse on space sustainability has evolved considerably over recent decades, much more could – and indeed needs to – be done to achieve it. The Space Sustainability Talks are a series of online events featuring experts from across Europe that explore how the space environment can be protected and used in a more responsible and sustainable manner.

Registration for the Space Sustainability Talks is not needed. You can find details about each event and links to our Zoom Webinars below. Most events will be recorded and presented on SichTRaum’s Youtube channel.


14.06.2021: Current European Efforts in Space Safety, Space Sustainability and Space Traffic Management

starring Tomas Hrozensky – Research Fellow, ESPI

Access via Zoom on 14th of June 2021/04.30-05.30 pm CEST: https://ruhr-uni-bochum.zoom.us/j/69341847127?pwd=YXd5U3oyNnFacTBTYWZhbU9LL3Uwdz09

European space actors have long stood at the forefront of major efforts towards increased space safety and long-term space sustainability. The rise of space safety & sustainability issues in the global space policy agenda is visible also in Europe, as evidenced by numerous new technical, policy and diplomatic initiatives launched in the recent period.

21.06.2021: Sustainability and Outer Space: Achieving the Unachievable

starring Rada Popova – General Counsel, Isar Aerospace/Lecturer at the University of Cologne

Access via Zoom on 21st of June 2021/04.30-05.30 pm CEST: https://ruhr-uni-bochum.zoom.us/j/62351514978?pwd=UG5BUE8wZldLRUZuaTcyQzdpZVY2UT09

At the latest since 1978 when Don Kessler published on his mathematical model predicting the dangerous growth of a debris belt in near-Earth orbits, awareness was raised about the substantial threat posed by space debris. However, more than half a decade later, neither the launch constraints, nor the operational procedures advocated by Kessler have become part of the binding laws governing space activities. To ensure that outer space will remain usable in the future, humankind relies completely on voluntary adherence to non-binding technical and policy guidelines. Despite the recognition of the role of sustainability in outer space, however, humanity is running towards its next tragedy of the commons. In this talk, we will explore the potential of legal avenues to counteract this daunting perspective at the backdrop of the exponential growth of space debris and the increasing dependency on space activities.

28.06.2021: Unstealing the Sky: Third World Equity in the Orbital Commons

starring Cristian van Eijk – Space Lawyer 

Access via Zoom on 28th of June 2021/04.30-05.30 pm CEST: https://ruhr-uni-bochum.zoom.us/j/64187413753?pwd=cVVSY2JjTkQvSitDZlB5VzJFLzNyZz09

No universal rule settles the legal status of outer space: to whom it ‘belongs’. The Outer Space Treaty article I qualifies activities, not areas; the Moon Agreement’s common heritage of humankind regime binds only 18 states. This uncertainty is not accidental – leaving space’s legal status to interpretation empowers the loudest interpreters. Space is considered res communis more by axiom than practice, despite decades of Global South proposals for stronger regimes.

Article I of the Outer Space Treaty is a battlefield fought with normative weaponry. Within it lie artefactual remnants of two opposing values – that states would use space freely, but also equitably. Article I promised a balance between the two, ensuring equity for all. But the ‘common-ness’ of space remains haunted by echoes of hegemonic contestation yet ongoing; epistemologically, space was long ago colonised. Is this the future the Global South was promised? Cristian van Eijk argues that the law of the space commons was formed by promises broken and silences made – and some of these silences weigh more heavily than others.


05.07.2021: The UN-COPOUS Working Group on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities – Challenges and Opportunities

starring Prof. Dr. Thomas Schildknecht – Vice-Director to the Astronomical Institute, University of Berne

Access via Zoom on 5th of July 2021/04.30-05.30 pm CEST: https://ruhr-uni-bochum.zoom.us/j/64997838517?pwd=YVAzQkRCTWp2WlJ3RmFXK1kzRlk2UT09

The proliferation of space debris and the increased probability of collisions and interference raise concerns about the long-term sustainability of space activities, particularly in the low-Earth orbit and geostationary orbit environments. During recent years the number of satellites launched to space increased by orders of magnitude in particular due to costs reductions enabled by miniaturization and rideshare launch opportunities, as well as due to the deployment of so-called megaconstellations by private actors. At international level the UN-COPUOS Working Group on the long-term sustainability of outer space activities identifies and studies these challenges with the view of raising awareness and building capacity, sharing experience, and considering new guidelines.


12.07.2021: How do we Measure Space Sustainability?

starring Dr. Francesca Letizia – Space Debris Engineer, ESOC

Access via Zoom on 12th of July 2021/04.30-05.30 pm CEST: https://ruhr-uni-bochum.zoom.us/j/64783398317?pwd=dmpqblU5VFRQZjFsMjNjTE0vZlZhdz09

The promotion of safe access and operations in outer space relies on the adoption and implementation of space debris mitigation measures. However, the current guidelines on space debris mitigation (and the current evaluation methods) do not fully capture the objective of sustainable space flight, which is defined as the ability of performing safe operations in space now and in the future. This talk will present some of the attempts of measuring sustainability in space for what concerns the space debris issue and how such quantitative approaches can support the efficacy of proposed mitigation measures.

19.07.2021: Legal Tools to Ensure Space Sustainability

starring Erik Pellander – Research Fellow, BHO Legal

Access via Zoom on 19th of July 2021/04.30-05.30 pm CEST: https://ruhr-uni-bochum.zoom.us/j/68551885210?pwd=bjA3RHpRV3padjRJd25Da1ozdFNkQT09

Ensuring the long-term sustainability of outer space requires legal tools that ensure responsible behavior by both State actors and non-governmental entities.  As non-governmental entities are not directly subject to existing legal frameworks, there is a need to flow down obligations to private operators through licensing procedures and mandatory statutory requirements under national space legislation. Some States are also considering setting incentives through conditions on liability and insurance, and via procurement and grant conditions. Moreover, ensuring long-term sustainability is strongly linked to endeavors such as on-orbit servicing or active debris removal, which also depend on a clear and predictable legal framework. The talk will assess whether and to what extent these legal frameworks may serve as tools to ensure the long-term sustainability of outer space.


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