The Stimson Center's Space Security Project focuses on how a properly crafted international Code of Conduct can enhance U.S. national and economic security and help avoid dangerous confrontations in space. Stimson’s programming objectives are to keep this initiative alive and to popularize it. China, Russia, and the United States are all gearing up military space activities, including testing techniques suitable for anti-satellite warfare. There is no commensurate diplomatic activity to ameliorate this situation. The Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, which has a mandate to negotiate, has been moribund. The pursuit of a Code of Conduct that covers military space activities is opposed by Russia and China, as well as some non-aligned states. Stimson first proposed this concept in 2003. Subsequently, the European Union championed the Code, but did not have the clout to make progress. A Code of Conduct can strengthen norms for the responsible use of space, while facilitating actions against those who act irresponsibly in this domain. But until Russia and China are ready to engage, the Code of Conduct can't come to fruition.
Stimson has published several analyses to promote an International Code of Conduct: Space Assurance or Space Dominance? (2003), No Harmful Interference with Space Objects: The Key to Confidence-Building (2008), and A Code of Conduct for Responsible Space-Faring Nations (2010).
Stimson’s Space Security programming seeks to advance an International Code of Conduct for responsible space-faring nations and to prevent dangerous military activities in space by convening public events and workshops in Washington, public speaking at conferences, engaging government officials, prescriptive analyses, and publications.
Early on, the program assembled a Distinguished Advisory Group to help guide the project’s research agenda and to help with drafting of the Code of Conduct.
Stimson presentations on an International Code of Conduct have been before diverse audiences, including the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, Deterrence Symposium convened by the U.S. Strategic Command, Hearings on Capitol Hill, and presentations at UNIDIR workshops.
Project publications include Space Assurance or Space Dominance? (2003), No Harmful Interference with Space Objects: The Key to Confidence-Building (2008), and A Code of Conduct for Responsible Space-Faring Nations (2010), and Anti-satellite Weapons, Deterrence and Sino-American Space Relations (2013).
Stimson has taken the lead in promoting and popularizing an International Code of Conduct to mitigate space debris, stop anti-satellite tests that produce long-lasting debris, refrain from harmful interference against objects in space, and implement space traffic management procedures.
What is the Code of Conduct?
A executive agreement among major space-faring nations that sets and strengthens "rules of the road" for outer space.
Why is it needed?
To increase cooperation in space, to assist the safe operation of satellites, and to reduce tensions that might lead to conflict in space or on earth.
What steps have been taken?
The EU has issued several iterations of a draft International Code of Conduct for outer space activities. To spark government interest, the Stimson Center drafted a model Code of Conduct.
What has been the response?
Multiple stakeholders have endorsed this approach, including governments, officials, non-governmental organizations, and military leaders. For more see: Endorsements of a Code of Conduct.
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Working in their individual capacities, individuals from Keio University, the Carnegie Moscow Center, the Center for Policy Studies in Russia, the Canadian Centre for Treaty Compliance, the Japan Science and Technology Agency, the Canadian Centre for Treaty Compliance, the French Institute of International Relations, and the Institute of Strategic Studies and Analysis helped with the drafting of Stimson’s 2007 Code of Conduct.
The European Union's third draft for an International Code of Conduct for responsible space-faring nations was publicly released on September 16, 2013. It replaces the EU's second draft ICOC that was released on June 5, 2012.
A July 2013 UN Group of Governmental experts report on transparency and confidence building in outer space provided further support for the concept of a Code of Conduct. For the first time, China and Russia endorsed the concept of a Code of Conduct, while withholding support for the EU's draft text.
A Code of Conduct for Responsible Space-Faring Nations, Michael Krepon, editor.
Anti-satellite Weapons, Deterrence and Sino-American Space Relations, Michael Krepon and Julia Thompson, editors.
A Stimson chronology documents diplomatic initiatives and U.S. policy toward them since the dawn of the space age. It is intended as a work in progress; we welcome additions accompanied by authoritative citations. The chronology is available here.