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Symposium stresses need for space policies

Abu Dhabi, UAE: Space and space-based activities are driving development of nations. While space science and technology are taking rapid strides, policies that guide these activities are quite limiting in scope. The symposium, ‘Earth Observation System: Policy and Coordination Framework’ on the second day of Map Middle East 2010 tried to understand the several issues and the need to formulate space policies at national and regional levels.

Opening the symposium, Prof AR Dasgupta, Honorary Managing Editor, GIS Development, said space doesn’t belong to anyone and cannot be colonised. Time has come for people to look at space in the regional context. As space started impacting the lives of common people, it is time to look at national and regional implications.

In his welcome address, Gen Khalid Abdullah, Former UAE Air Force and Air Defence Commander, observed that space law encompasses national and international laws to govern space activities. Many countries have passed national space legislations. UAE has also started discussions to formulate its own space law. He opined that the development of many commercial space activities is making countries think of streamlining these activities.

The day started with a keynote address by Dr Scott Pace, Director, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University, USA. Dr Pace observed that the world of ‘space’ has evolved since Cold War and today space-based capabilities of a country are paramount for national security, public safety and for several other sectors. Many developments in space are a cause for celebration but at the same time, a cause for concern too. He said that being in space carries responsibilities for a nation, apart being a collective concern.

He said the first thing for countries to realise is that real money is on the ground, not in space. The second thing to realise is that space applications benefit most when there are large economies of scale, so thinking on an open national, regional and even a global basis is more beneficial than closed, proprietary solutions for a single firm or district. He then detailed the efforts of USA in bringing nations of European Union and Japan to discuss the code of conduct for outer space activities.

Detailing the efforts of the United Nations in formulating a space policy, Ciro Arevalo–Yepes, Chairman, Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, United Nations (UN-COPUOS), said the UN looks at space as an object of global governance and UN organisations are major users of space applications.  Since 1959, UN-COPUOS has been relentlessly working to bring consensus among the nations to formulate a legal and policy framework for outer space.

He said it is important to have a UN space policy to achieve a more integrated approach to use space for orderly and predictable behaviour of users of orbital environment and for a supportive environment for new space users and space faring countries through regional and inter-regional dialogue.  He then detailed the guiding principles of such a policy that include –
– Activities in outer space should be conducted for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of all humankind. Security on Earth is increasingly linked to security in space. This underscores the importance of preserving the space environment for peaceful uses.
– Space environment should be used in a fair and responsible manner and supported by best practices.
– There should be an integrated multi-lateral approach – to bring in coordination and coherence among UN family entities for effective decision making.
– There should be an integrated international and interregional approach to space activities based on cooperation.
– International community at large should encourage mechanisms to improve all states’ abilities to access the benefits of the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space.
– The UN should support states in the development of their national space policies.
Discussing the emerging world space order and its implications for national space policies, Prof S Chandrashekhar, Indian Institute of Managment, Bangalore, India said while looking at the practical benefits that space technology can provide, it is important to look at issues like debris and resolve them.

He described the time between 1957 and 1991 as the golden age of space where the two super powers maintained a balance. Many of the international treaties were signed during this time. But after the Cold War ended, there is an asymmetry in power balance and US is dominating the scene. There are reasonable capacities like China, Japan, India and Brazil and there is an opportunity for cooperation. Prof Chandrashekhar then detailed the Indian space programme and the learning from the Indian experience.

Dr Joon Lee – Head, Strategic Planning Department, Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), South Korea, briefed the audience on the ingredients of Korean Space Law. The Korean space programme, which started in 1989 with just a budget of USD 200,000, has been growing fast and today is USD 360 million programme. Over the years, Korea has increasingly felt the need for a legal framework to bring in all the stakeholders under one umbrella and for the domestic implementation of international space law. The national space committee oversees the implementation of the space law in Korea. Another milestone achieved by KARI is the enactment of Korean National Spatial Information Act of 2009. The purpose of this Act is to build a national spatial info framework and promote the use and management of spatial information and easy public access to it.

Providing an overview of the fundamentals of earth observation policy, Dr Gunter Schreier, Deputy Head, German Space Institute, Germany, gave examples of German and European missions and briefed on the policies established through the Global Monitoring of Environment and Security (GMES) in Europe.

Earth observation has become a ubiquitous tool and imagery is now available on the Internet and can be accessed even through smart phones, he said and observed that there is a new dimension of earth observation on liability, on ownership and intellectual property. The sheer amount of missions and the quantum of data are also necessitating a policy framework. The global monitoring of environment and security (GMES) is one effort to this effect, at least in the European point of view, he opined.

Through GMES, data pertaining to land, marine, emergency response, security, atmosphere and climate change will be made available to the public for free and listed the GMES dedicated missions that would be launched over a period of ten years. Gunter then enumerated the GEOSS data sharing policies and also detailed how TerraSAR-X data is being effectively produced and used through a public private partnership model between DLR and Info Terra.

Talking on third party liability insurance, Christian Barnabe, Executive Director, Aon Risk Services, France, observed that space insurance industry has become a major contributor to the commercial development of space. He outlined the main characteristics of space liability insurance and its drivers, the main buyers and providers and the main characteristics of the available insurance policies. Christian then cited examples of USA national space law which imposes a maximum amount of liability to each private entity based on the concept of maximum probable loss. He then discussed the basics of space liability insurance for the benefit of space and remote sensing community present in the session.

Captain Khalfan Alkaabi, Space Reconnaissance Centre, Abu Dhabi, spoke on monitoring and control of remote sensing satellite imagery distribution and services. He said satellite imaging technology in UAE in the past few years has increased the use of imagery. The launch of Dubaisat necessitated a policy framework for the proper utilisation of its imagery. He then discussed the goals and implementation of commercial satellite imagery policy of UAE. He opined that the policy implementation must address the diplomatic concerns, re-export of data and services and UAE obligations, treaties and international security agreements etc.
UAE’s space policy aims to organise and not restrict space-related activities in the nation. It also aims to protect and defend its legitimate rights and interests and enforce equality of parties before the law. It also aims to protect UAE government against potential international liabilities, he concluded.

The symposium also witnessed an interesting panel discussion. Liam Weston of Ball Aerospace recommended a three-point formula for a safe and effective space law of any country. According to him, national security, legality and liability of the government and protection of the interests of private players are paramount while formulating space policy. While a policy should regulate space, it should also promote the peaceful usage of space. Col Ali Al Shhahi of Space Reconnaissance Centre, UAE, made his concluding remarks and said UAE is actively pursuing the formulation of a national space law and will actively consider all the deliberations and suggestions made by experts in the field at the symposium.

Source: By Our Correspondent