A Revised and Stronger International Code of Conduct for Space

November 05, 2013

By: Dylan Rebstock

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. The third draft places increased emphasis on international cooperation in space, with particular emphasis on "the benefit and the interests of developing countries." The section most expanded deals with information sharing. Information sharing now includes a specific reference to "predicted conjunctions posing an apparent on-orbit collision risk." The section on information sharing now includes a specific reference to "security-related" space policies. This draft deletes all references to "non-Subscribing States," instead using the term "potentially affected Subscribing States." The new draft includes language on voluntary, invitational visits to space launch sites, flight control centers, other outer space infrastructure facilities, observations of launches of space objects, and demonstrations of rocket and other space-related technologies. If subscribing states develop practices to extend these invitations, this could be quite helpful in developing further measures to prevent an arms race in outer space. It places increased emphasis on consultative measures, calling for states to meet annually instead of biennially, and creates a chairmanship position for each session.  The third draft endorses funding for an electronic database for the use of Subscribing States. 

Overall, the third draft is a stronger, more useful document than its predecessor.  Specific changes are listed below.

 

  • Section 2 - "the responsibility of States, ... to promote the peaceful exploration and use of outer space" has been changed to "the responsibility of States, ... to promote the peaceful exploration and use of outer space for the benefit, and in the interest, of humankind."
  • Section 3.1 (b) - "UNGA Resolutions 59/91 (2004), 60/62 (2005), 63/64 (2008), 65/73 (2010)" changed to "UNGA Resolutions 59/91 (2004), 60/62 (2005), 63/64 (2008), 65/73 (2010) and 67/42 (2012);"
  • Section 4.2 - "refrain from any action which brings about, directly or indirectly, damage or destruction, of space objects unless ... justified by ... imperative safety considerations" changed to "... is justified: 1) by imperative safety considerations, in particular if human life or health is at risk."
  • Section 4.3 - "when executing manoeuvres of space objects, for example, to supply space stations, repair space objects, mitigate debris, or reposition space objects" changed to "any activities in the conduct of routine space operations, including during the launch and the entire orbital lifetime of a space object."
  • Section 5.1 - "1) scheduled manoeuvres... 2) pre-notification of launch of space objects..." changed to "1) scheduled manoeuvres... 2) predicted conjunctions posing an apparent on-orbit collision risk, due to natural orbital motion, between space objects or between space objects and space debris. 3) pre-notification..."
  • Section 5.2 - "including non-Subscribing States where appropriate" changed to "to all potentially affected Subscribing States."
  • 2012 Section 7 on Registration of Space Objects deleted.
  • Section 6.1 - "1) their space policies and strategies... 2) their space policies and procedures..." changed to "their space strategies and policies, including those which are security-related,... 2) their major outer space research and space application programs. 3) their space policies and procedures..."
  • Section 6.2 - "environmental conditions and forecasts..." changed to "environmental conditions and forecasts, including in particular on natural phenomena that may cause hazard to spacecraft..."
  • Section 6.3 - entirely new section - "Subscribing States, particularly those with relevant space capabilities and with programmers for the exploration and use of outer space, who are in a position to do so, are encouraged to contribute to promoting and fostering international cooperation in outer space activities, giving particular attention to the benefit and the interests of developing countries. Each Subscribing State is free to determine the nature of its participation in international space cooperation on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis with regard to the legitimate rights and interests of parties concerned, as, for example, appropriate technology safeguard arrangements, multilateral commitments and relevant standards and practices."
  • Section 6.4 - entirely new section - "The Subscribing States endeavor to organize on a voluntary basis, to the extent feasible and practicable, and consistent with national and international law and obligations, including non-proliferation commitments, activities to familiarize other Subscribing States with their programs, policies, and procedures related to the exploration and use of outer space, including:
    • Familiarization visits to improve international understanding of a State's processes and procedures for space activities;
    • Expert visits to space launch sites, flight control centres, and other outer space infrastructure facilities;
    • Observations of launches of space objects;
    • Demonstrations of rocket and other space-related technologies, in line with existing multilateral commitments and export control regulations;
    • Dialogues to clarify information on outer space activities; and
    • Thematic workshops and conferences on the exploration and use of outer space.
  • Section 8.1 - "biennially or as otherwise decided" changed to "annually"
  • Section 8.3 - entirely new section - "At the beginning of each regular meeting the Subscribing States are to elect by consensus their chair for the period until the beginning of the next regular meeting."
  • Section 9.2 - "Funding the development..." changed to "1) Funding the development...2) The electronic database is to be used exclusively in the interests of the Subscribing States."

 

Dylan Rebstock is an intern with the Space Security program.