Exploring The Frontier: Evolution And Regulation Of Space Technology

Space technology has long captivated the imagination of humanity, representing the ultimate frontier of exploration and innovation. From the early days of the Space Race...
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INTRODUCTION

Space technology1 has long captivated the imagination of humanity, representing the ultimate frontier of exploration and innovation. From the early days of the Space Race2 to the present era of commercial space ventures, the evolution of space technology has been characterized by remarkable achievements and rapid advancements3 . However, along with these advancements comes the need for robust regulation to ensure safety, security, and responsible use of outer space. This article delves into the evolution of space technology, examines international regulations governing space activities, and discusses the regulatory landscape in Nigeria with insights into the efforts of organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the International Trademark Association (INTA).

EVOLUTION OF SPACE TECHNOLOGY

The journey of space technology began in the mid-20th century with the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, by the Soviet Union in 1957. 4 This historic event was followed by the launch of Explorer-1 by the USA on 31st January, 1958. In April 1961, Yuri Gagarin from the Soviet Union became the first human to go into space. United States of America followed immediately with Alan Shepard' becoming the first American and the second man in space on 5 th May, 1961. Soon after, on 20th July, 1969, Neil Armstrong also from the United States of America became the first man to walk on the moon.

Since then, space technology has advanced rapidly; driven by scientific curiosity, commercial interests, and national security imperatives. Satellites have become indispensable tools for communication, navigation, Earth observation, and scientific research. The advent of reusable rocket technology, pioneered by companies like SpaceX, has revolutionized space access, making launches more frequent and cost-effective. Meanwhile, ambitious projects such as the International Space Station (ISS) demonstrate international collaboration in space exploration and research. 5

GLOBAL REGULATION OF SPACE ACTIVITIES

The conduct of space activities is governed by a complex web of international treaties, agreements, and regulations aimed at promoting peaceful and responsible use of outer space. The cornerstone of space law is the Outer Space Treaty,6 adopted by the United Nations in 1967. This law establishes principles such as the exploration and use of outer space for the benefit of all countries, the prohibition of military activities on celestial bodies, and the prevention of harmful contamination of space.

In addition to the Outer Space Treaty, other key international agreements include the 1968 Rescue Agreement,7 1972 Liability Convention International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects,8 and Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space,9 which address aspects such as the rescue and return of astronauts, liability for damage caused by space objects, and the registration of space objects, respectively. It is also worthy to mention the 1979 Moon Treaty10 which provides that the Moon and other celestial those should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and that the United Nations should be informed of the location and purpose of any station established on those bodies.

There also exist specific regulations on licensing and supervision of space activities such as the 1977 Geneva Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any other Hostile use of Environmental Modification Techniques and the 2002 Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. Furthermore, organizations like the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) play a crucial role in facilitating cooperation and coordination among spacefaring nations.

Footnotes

1. Space technology simply put means technology for use in outer space. It Includes space vehicles such as spacecraft, satellites, space stations and orbital launch vehicles; deep-space communication; in-space propulsion; and a wide variety of other technologies including support infrastructure equipment, and procedures.

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2. The Space Race was a 20th-century competition between two Cold War rivals, the United States, and the Soviet Union, to achieve superior spaceflight capability.

3. NASA's 10 Greatest Achievements, (https://science.howstuffworks.com/ten-nasa-achievements.htm), accessed on 9th March, 2024.

4. The world's first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball (58 cm. or 22.8 inches in diameter), weighed only 83.6 kg. or 183.9 pounds and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path.

5. "The future space economy is booming. What benefits can it bring to Earth?" (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/future-space-economy-booming-what-benefitscan-bring-earth-santosh-g-hsfqc/), accessed on 25th March, 2024.

6. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs , "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies"(https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html), accessed on 9th March, 2024.

7. The Rescue Agreement was considered and negotiated by the Legal Subcommittee from 1962 to 1967. The Agreement, elaborating on elements of articles 5 and 8 of the Outer Space Treaty, provides that States shall take all possible steps to rescue and assist astronauts in distress and promptly return them to the launching State, and that States shall, upon request, aid launching States in recovering space objects that return to Earth outside the territory of the Launching State.

8. The Liability Convention provides that a launching State shall be liable to pay compensation for damage caused by its space objects on the surface of the Earth or to aircraft, and liable for damage due to its faults in space. The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.

9. The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1974 and went into force in 1976. As of February 2022, it has been ratified by 72 states.

10. United Nations Office for Outer Space, "Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies" https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/intromoonagreement.html, accessed on 9th March 2024.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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