Nasty, Brutish, and Short—The Future of Space Operations in the Absence of the Rule of Law

Addressing Congestion, Contestation, and Competitiveness in the New Space Era

Published in: NATO Legal Gazette, Issue 42, pages 53–67 (December 2021)

Posted on RAND.org on February 15, 2022

by Douglas C. Ligor, Bruce McClintock

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In 2013, U.S. Ambassador Jeffery Eberhardt stated that space is increasingly "congested, contested, and competitive ('three C's')." This was a prescient statement. Space, in many substantive ways, continues to be mostly ungoverned. This leaves nations, and their social, economic, and security interests, at significant risk. In this paper, we seek to first highlight factors that underlie the three C's. Second, we describe the inadequacies of the current system of space governance. Third, we offer some potential recommendations to address the governance dilemma by applying social contract theory, which may allow the international community to move with more alacrity toward ensuring a safe, secure, and prosperous space environment for all nations.

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