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SpaceWaves: Avoiding celestial anarchy (with video)

Economics professor Alexander Salter talks governing rules of space with Dooner and The Dude.

Determining how government jurisdiction will extend past Earth’s gravitational pull

We made it to space, now who makes the rules?

Who governs space? And how do they get the jurisdiction to govern it?

Those are questions that haven’t quite been answered yet but are at the front of the conversation with commercial space flight on the near horizon.

Alexander Salter hears these questions and more from his students at Texas Tech University, where he teaches economics. 

Salter says the existing rules for governing space were written during the Cold War when the biggest concern was overreach and militarization by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. 

These rules did not account for space commercialization, as it seemed like the stuff of science fiction. 

As established nations get closer to making money off a space economy, eight have come together to draft some rules about what flies and what doesn’t. 

The Artemis Accords have been signed by the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates and put some jurisdiction on resource allocation and private property establishments on the moon and in low-Earth orbit. 

Salter says the privatization and increased accessibility of space launch has expedited the need for governments to make regulations, but that no one really knows what the regulations need to be yet. 

“Practice is going to run ahead of theory,” said Salter, when it comes to establishing rules. 

With the U.S., China and Russia still being the big three players in the space industry, Salter thinks the biggest question is, “How do we find rules people agree to but that will still generate good behavior?”

Kaylee Nix

Kaylee Nix is a meteorologist and reporter for FreightWaves. She joined the company in November of 2020 after spending two years as a broadcast meteorologist for a local television channel in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Kaylee graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2018 and immediately made the Tennessee Valley her home. Kaylee creates written summaries of FreightWaves live podcasts and cultivates the social media for FreightWaves TV.