Nikita Chiu on Promoting Space Sustainability Through Global Space Governance

Oxford University's Centre for Technology and Global Affairs welcomed Dr Nikita Chiu on the topic of "Avoiding Tragedy: Promoting Space Sustainability Through Global Space Governance". Dr. Chiu is Research Fellow in Robotics at the Centre for Technology and Global Affairs at the University of Oxford. She is also a Research Affiliate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at University of Cambridge.

Dr. Chiu began the presentation with an illustration of our dependence on space technology, such as GPS, in our daily lives. As well as GPS, satellites are also used to obtain detailed imagery of the Earth's surface, to calibrate atomic clocks which are used to maintain clock precision in computers, and to provide Internet access in remote areas. She proposed conceptualizing space orbit and radio frequency as essential global commons, whose governance requires international co-operation, and looked at challenges in moving forward space orbit governance, paying particular focus on ensuring space safety and sustainability through the introduction of on-orbit servicing operations.

She emphasized the development of standards which would help prolong the lifetime of satellites. This is particularly important when considering the potential future commercialization of refuelling, repairing, and debris removal operations in orbit. Space debris poses a serious threat, especially in low earth orbit, and its removal and management should be considered a priority by stakeholders in the space industry as well as governments.

The discussion revolved around the effect of privatization in the space industry on the development of international norms, possible militarization of space, and the development of customary international law in this area based on a shared understanding.