Space blocks: the future of international cooperation in space

There has been a phenomenal growth in commercial activities in space over the past decade. As a result, some researchers see a future of space cooperation defined by shared commercial interests. In this scenario, commercial entities act as intermediaries between states, uniting them behind specific commercial projects in space.

However, commercial enterprises are unlikely to dictate future international cooperation in space. According to current international space law, any company that operates in space does so as an extension and under the jurisdiction of the government of its home country.

The dominance of states over corporations in space affairs was clearly illustrated by the Ukrainian crisis. As a result of state sanctions, many commercial space companies have stopped collaborating with Russia.

Given the current legal framework, it seems highly likely that states – not commercial entities – will continue to dictate the rules in space.

Spatial blocks of collaboration or conflict

I believe that in the future, state formations – such as space blocs – will be the primary means by which states advance their national interests in space and on the ground. There are many benefits when nations come together and form spatial blocks. Space is difficult, so pooling resources, manpower and know-how makes sense. However, such a system also has inherent dangers.

History offers many examples that the more rigid alliances become, the more conflict is likely to ensue. The growing rigidity of two alliances – the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance – at the end of the 19th century is often cited as the main trigger for the First World War.

A key lesson is that as long as existing space blocs remain flexible and open to all, cooperation will flourish and the world can still avoid open conflict in space. Maintaining a focus on scientific goals and exchanges between and within space blocs – while keeping political rivalries at bay – will help secure the future of international cooperation in space.

Svetla Ben-Itzhak, Assistant Professor of Space and International Relations, Air University

This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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