by Jessica West and Gilles Doucet
Thank-you to everyone who took the time to complete the survey on space norms that Gilles Doucet and I organized in May and June of this year. The feedback that we received was incredibly detailed and thoughtful. Reading through the comments felt like having over 100 conversations with people from around the world. That quality of feedback is even more valuable at a time when having these conversations is particularly difficult.
Attached you will find a summary of key takeaways, as well as a more detailed reporting of the results of the survey.
Gilles and I will be organizing a series of small, online workshops in October to further refine the findings of our research, which in addition to the survey includes our norm mapping and coding exercises, and suggestions for next steps. If you are interested in being a part of that conversation, please reach out.
Once again, thank-you for your time and contributions to this effort.
In all, 102 individuals from 15 countries completed the survey. Responses point to a chasm between current and developing military and security practice, on the one side, and established safety and sustainability norms of activity in space, on the other. Fortunately, responses also provide some clues on how to span it.
Specifically, respondents highlight the following issues with respect to norms of behaviour in outer space:
- Safety and sustainability norms have a positive impact on the outer-space environment.
- While these norms have not been fully adopted by military actors, they are directly relevant to military and security actors and activities:
- security in space is not possible in the absence of safety and sustainability measures;
- at the same time, participants repeatedly claimed that military activities in space were a threat to both safety and sustainability.
- Seventy-seven per cent of survey respondents indicate that they think that there are norms or practices specific to security that influence military or defence activities in space. These norms provide value, by reducing the number of mishaps and misperceptions, as well as the risk of conflict escalation.
- However, responses convey the sense that the values and practices that influence military security in outer space are shifting and in some cases new capabilities are challenging historical perspectives . Specific examples include:
- non-consensual rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO),
- ASAT testing,
- potential weaponization/use of force,
- potential tensions arising from competition during lunar activities and resource ex- traction.
- Participants identify the emergence of a striking range of military activities of concern, linked to a broadening range of action seen to be permissible.
Feedback from survey participants indicates that a present opportunity exists to extend norms of best practices rooted in safety and sustainability into the domain of security. Several specific measures stand out:
- debris prevention and mitigation in the context of weapons tests or the use of force;
- enhanced sharing of Space Situational Awareness data;
- rules to enhance the safety of non-cooperative rendezvous and proximity operations;
- expanded notification for a wide range of activities, including launch, orbital manoeuvres, weapons tests, and potential radio frequency interference;
- better identification of strategically sensitive satellite systems such as those linked to nuclear command and control or verification of arms control agreements;
- efforts to better coordinate and protect the radio-frequency spectrum.
Many paths can be taken to reach these new behavioural norms; no doubt, many must be taken simultaneously. But a key message is that states must make a major contribution to improving the collective safety and sustainability, as well as security, of the space environment. Some state or group of states must be prepared to lead, in partnership with commercial and civil-society stake-holders.
For further information, please reach out to Jessica West
The entire report can be downloaded here.