The Geopolitics of Outer Space


60 years since the first man landed on the moon, Astro-politics, also known as the geopolitics of outer space, is entering a new dawn. Technological developments and recent successes of ambitious space programs such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are bringing outer space and the Moon back to the geopolitical debate. The foundation of activities in outer space finds its roots in the Cold War and reproduces the distinctive geopolitical dynamics of that historical moment. The diverging interests between the two states (US and Russia) were reflected in the political tensions that characterized the competition to reach outer space.

Today new players are emerging including non-state actors. What is the domain for space regulation? What are the rules of engagement in a largely evolving landscape in the wake of new terms such as space colony, space force, space tourism and space economy? These issues are reflected in increasing legislation, adopted to regulate space activities on a national and continental level. Furthermore, space activities are relevant for the well-being of humankind. Many services provided by public and private companies, such as satellite broadcasting, weather forecasts, or satellite navigation, have a strong socio-economic impact. A great reference point is the development of space in Africa.

Africa is looking to space to meet the rising demand for connectivity, fueled by fast-changing data consumption patterns and the growing need to bridge the digital divide by leveraging Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTNs). By April 2019, eight African countries including Kenya, Ghana, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa and Angola had launched 32 national satellites into orbit, according to the annual African Space Industry report 2020. How can Africa exploit the promise of the space economy? What does leading in space mean in a world where space technology is increasingly easy to access? Is there room for cooperation in space?

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