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Legal and Ethical Considerations for Policing Nongovernmental Actors in Space
International Society of Military Ethics (ISME) Conference (2019)
  • Sara Langston, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

The increasing scope of private actors engaging in the use and exploration of outer space, now and in the future, is proffering a myriad of activities directed towards and conducted in outer space. These include human space transportation, space resource utilization, space tourism, space stations and prospective human settlements, as well as an influx of supporting space-based assets and platforms. Consequently, it is likely that as access to space opens and the number of multi-national/ multi-cultural space actors expands, the interests and concerns for protecting the rights, safety and security of these nongovernmental entities and their agents will become a priority. Three primary questions are raised here concerning outer space:
(1)  Under the current space law regime (and in light of the extreme space environment), what practical, legal and ethical mechanisms may be employed by space actors to police and protect their safety, security and interests while guarding against conflict;
(2)  Particularly, to what extent would such policing or protection measures be deemed ‘non-aggressive’ and in compliance with the current space legal framework; and
(3)  What protocols/guidelines can nongovernmental actors apply if conflict ensues between space actors.
The purpose of this work is two-fold. First, this paper will address the intention and scope of public/private safety, security and law enforcement, as well as lay the foundation for the application of law and long-arm jurisdiction over private space actors off-Earth. Here we also raise pertinent ethical issues, challenges and concerns and identify where law, policy or normative frameworks are silent, inadequate or lacking for space. Secondly, this paper will address analogies and trends for nongovernmental entities (e.g. long-distance corporations historically and common carriers today) in regard to private enforcement protocols for public safety, security and managing conflict, highlighting comparisons and distinctive concerns particular to space. In conclusion, we will highlight pertinent issues for consideration in the application of safety and security practices for private entities and persons in space, as well as optimal mechanisms and recommendations looking forward.
  • space law,
  • ethics,
  • commercial space,
  • space governance
Publication Date
Summer June 30, 2019
Colorado Springs, CO
Citation Information
Sara Langston. "Legal and Ethical Considerations for Policing Nongovernmental Actors in Space" International Society of Military Ethics (ISME) Conference (2019)
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