International Code of Conduct Relevant to Security of Space Environment

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With space as operating domain for over sixty nations and government consortia, the United States is pursuing an International Code of Conduct for the security and sustainability of the space environment.

On his remarks today at National Space Symposium, Deputy Assistant Secretary Frank A. Rose for Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance National today said that n 1962, space was the domain of two superpowers, and the United States was racing against a single adversary in a “space race” for security and prestige.

Today, the situation is much more complex where threats to the space environment have grown and changed dramatically, Mr. Frank added.

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Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt standing next to a boulder at TaurusLittrow.

Space is now the operating domain of numerous commercial enterprises and academic institutions around the world, all with diverse technological and economic capabilities, and strategic and political orientations, Mr. Rose noted.

“Space is being increasingly contested in all orbits.” -Mr. Rose

Mr. Rose stresses that space systems and their supporting infrastructure confront a range of natural and foreign threats that may deny, degrade, deceive, disrupt, or destroy assets.

As more nations and non-state actors develop counterspace capabilities over the next decade, threats to U.S. space systems and challenges to the stability and security of the space environment will increase, he highlighted.

He notes that space debris, whether created through accidents or calculated actions, does not discriminate when it comes close to national space systems.

Over fifty years of space activity has littered Earth’s orbit with debris; and as activities in space increase, the chance for collision correspondingly increases, Mr. Frank cited.

Mr. Rose underlines that unless the international community adopts pragmatic and constructive measures to avoid accidents and respond to the danger of irresponsible behavior in space, the environment around our planet will become increasingly hazardous to both human and robotic spaceflight.

He notes that as part of the President’s National Space Policy, the United States is pursuing bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures to strengthen long-term sustainability, stability, safety, and security in space.

On 17th of January, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the U.S. decision to initiate consultations and negotiations with the European Union (EU) and other spacefaring nations to develop an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

United States believes that the EU’s latest draft is a useful foundation and constructive starting point for developing a consensus on an International Code.

“An International Code will establish a set of non-legally-binding transparency and confidence-building measures.” -Mr. Rose

He notes that it is not a legally-binding treaty or an international agreement that would impose legal obligations on the United States.

He cites that all departments and agencies involved in U.S. economic, commercial, and national security space activities have been, and will remain, fully involved in the on-going U.S. interagency efforts to formulate a U.S. government policy and final decision on subscription to an International Code.

He adds that as revised drafts of the Code are developed in multilateral diplomatic negotiations, U.S. positions will be fully coordinated across the U.S. Government.

Obama Administration would not subscribe to an International Code if it constrained or limited the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense, its intelligence community programs or operations, or its ballistic missile defense systems or capabilities, Mr. Rose noted.

“We are confident that all U.S. national security and intelligence equities will remain protected.” -Mr. Rose

In the symposium, the United State believes such a Code would enhance the long-term sustainability of the space environment, which is fundamentally in the national security and economic interests of the United States.

He says a widely-subscribed International Code would establish internationally adopted transparency and confidence-building measures including “best practices” or “rules of the road” which can help avoid collisions and identify irresponsible behavior.

The International Code would encourage all spacefaring nations to act responsibly in a space environment that is increasingly congested and contested, reducing the hazards of accidental and purposeful debris-generating events, he added.

The International Code would also increase the transparency of operations in space to reduce, for example, the danger of collisions.

Considering the serious and long-lasting threat posed by orbital debris and potential collisions, Mr. Rose stresses that states can all agree that cooperation is necessary to address and mitigate this growing problem.

“A Code of Conduct would also help reduce the risk of misunderstanding and misperceptions among subscribing and non-subscribing nations, thus improving the stability and security of the space environment.” -Mr. Rose

He says the United States has consulted with the EU over the past four-plus years, and it will continue to shape an International Code through its active participation in international consultations and negotiations throughout 2012 and beyond.

On January this year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the United States has decided to join with the European Union and other nations to develop an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

In response to challenges faced by the space environment, the United States reached a decision to formally work with the European Union and spacefaring nations to develop and advance an “International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities”. The European Union’s draft Code of Conduct is a good foundation for the development of a non-legally binding International Code of Conduct focused on the use of voluntary and pragmatic transparency and confidence-building measures to help prevent mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust in space.

An International Code of Conduct, if adopted, would establish guidelines for responsible behavior to reduce the hazards of debris-generating events and increase the transparency of operations in space to avoid the danger of collisions.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.