By international law, space is a global commons, that can be controlled by no single nation.
However, states may have a growing vested interest in controlling space and the revenue
generating economy it has become host to within the last two decades. With new
technological developments, satellites and the services stemming from them are becoming
an increasingly lucrative business. Billions of dollars have been invested and billions in
revenue are generated by top radiocommunication providers through satellites each year.
Furthermore, within the last decade private enterprise has been enabled to conduct earth
imaging via satellites for sale for commercial use. Over the past year, I have been
conducting research on these areas of the growing satellite economy to understand the
tension that has emerged between the understanding of space as a global commons, yet
the desire of states and private corporations for appropriation of space. In December, I
visited DigitalGlobe, the leading commercial satellite imaging company, in Colorado, for an
interview to gain insight on how satellite imaging is conducted and how it has grown in
recent years. I have also been researching the financial growth of the largest
radiocommunications companies. Finally, I have conducted research on how an
international organization, the International Telecommunications Union, plays a role in
governance and regulation of the satellite industry, as well as its relationship to the
economic activity in space. These pieces of research are instrumental in understanding
the size and growth of the space economy, why states and private business have an
interest in gaining access to it, and how appropriation of space is handled within the
international system while the understanding of space as a global commons remains in
Additional contributor: Raymond Duvall (faculty mentor).
Capturing the Space Economy: Private and National Appropriation of the Global Commons.
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