As space becomes more commercialized, parallels with the high seas become more obvious.
Breaking Defense had an interesting post suggesting that we need an organization modeled on the US Coast Guard to function in space.
The author is a Coast Guard officer,
Note on the author from the referenced post: “Michael Sinclair is an active duty Coast Guard officer with 20 years of service. In addition to eight years working as a judge advocate he has served as a patrol boat captain in the Arabian Gulf. He Is finishing a Masters of Law in National Security from Georgetown University and will soon be the Coast Guard’s legislative counsel. The views here are his own and do not reflect those of the Coast Guard or the Department of Homeland Security. For a more in-depth analysis on the prospects of a “Coast Guard” for space, read this draft of his forthcoming academic paper.”
“… America would be better served by consolidating all commercial launch-to-orbit-to-landing oversight and regulatory functions within the “prevention” arm of a new “Space Guard.”A Space Guard, initially conceived of by Cynthia McKinley in 2000 and later expounded on by James Bennett in 2011, should optimally mirror the organizational structure of the Coast Guard, which generally separates its mission functions into broad categories of “prevention” and “response.” Prevention authorities are essentially regulatory authorities and response authorities are best categorized as operational authorities.”
He sees a number of parallel missions
- Regulation and facilitation of navigation
- Derelict destruction –Space Debris Mitigation
- Search and Rescue
- Construction standards
- Vessel Traffic Control
“In order to truly establish effective space governance, the U.S. government should more fully consider capabilities, capacity, and partnerships for search and rescue, and really, the full spectrum of space activity.The authority to act does not mean a whole lot if there is no capability to execute the action, or the capacity is not sufficient to prove meaningful. Specifically, in the space search and rescue context, this would likely mean some sort of (optimally international) rescue coordination center working with in-space assets that were themselves permanently stationed and in sufficient numbers so that they would be available to render assistance, as needed.”
He sees a “Space Guard” as less escalatory than a “Space Force”
“…such an agency operating under the idea that it is at its core, a humanitarian organization focused on rescue and protection of all space actors, may be sufficiently de-escalatory so as to help mitigate against a potential arms race in space—a source of concern dating back to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik itself, and seemingly resurgent with the increasingly aggressive postures of both Russia and China within the domain.”
For all the parallels with the oceans, space is yet to evolve many of the mechanisms we have regulating activities a sea.
- Much of the Coast Guard’s authority is dependent on international acceptance of the idea of territorial sea and EEZ. There is nothing comparable in space.
- As traffic increases, who will allocate orbits to prevent collisions?
- If we are to have standards, we will need an equivalent to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
- What will stop the equivalent of flags of convenience in space?
The concept of a “Space Guard” tied to the concept of a Coast Guard in space may seem innocuous to Americans, but to the Russians, a “Guards” unit is an elite military unit. Such an organization will need to be international if it is to be seen as impartial and benevolent.