A word from the Director of IDETCOM and Scientific Director of the SIRIUS Chair
Space activities are now experiencing a new age of evolution. After having experienced, during the last two decades of the twentieth century, a double movement of privatization and commercialization, they are entering the era of mass production of satellites and in-orbit assembly operations. Deep space is a place of exploration, while near space is at the centre of intensive exploitation activity. The pace of this evolution could accelerate with the launch and commissioning of constellations of thousands of small satellites and the development of in-orbit service activities. Through the many legal challenges, it poses to the international community, the development of space activities calls for innovative legal solutions and might constitute the laboratory of the international law of tomorrow, both public and private.
The international regime of space activities was established, as early as the end of the 1960s, in the context of the Cold War and while space activities were still largely experimental. Are the treaties and principles in force still adapted to the space activities market? Can we be satisfied with the current outbidding of national laws? Should existing organizations be allowed to draw up a body of non-binding rules (soft law)? Has the time come to draw a boundary between airspace and outerspace?
The debris accumulated in near space is now a real challenge for the future of space activities which it could jeopardize. Should the rules on the registration of space objects be reviewed? Can the accumulation of space debris be assimilated to "pollution", eligible as such under the rules of international environmental law? Are the solutions of the international law of the sea transposable to outerspace (liability regime, salvage clauses …)? What would be the contours of an international organization specializing in the management of civil space activities and their traffic in outerspace?
The development of space activities and the commercial prospects they open, stimulate the ambitions of multinational groups and nations. Is space data a new industrial or commercial "asset"? What adjustments should be made to the regime of frequencies and orbital positions? Is the principle of non-appropriation still relevant? Can the proximity of States and operators in the space club nations give rise to a dispute over State aid?
Beyond the activities of deep space exploration and exploitation in near space, outerspace is today won by the spirit of conquest which has marked so many episodes, happy or unfortunate, in the history of international relations. Will public international law apply to Mars? What right on the ground and according to what model (mines, seabed)? What rules will apply to lunar villages and their inhabitants, for long stays (births on the Moon or on Mars, retro-application on Earth of major scientific advances ...)?
Space is becoming militarized. France, after the United States, has created a Space Command, the objective of which is to "have a reinforced space defence" and "strategic autonomy" in the field of space. Are we moving towards new forms of armed conflict? Is the law of war applicable to space? What European space defence policy, beyond the initiatives of a few of its member states?