SWF Sponsors Space Generation Congress (SGC) Working Group on Policy and Legal Aspects of On-Orbit Servicing

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Secure World Foundation sponsored a working group at the 13th Space Generation Congress (SGC), the annual meeting of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), held in Toronto, Canada from September 25 to 27. The working group, comprised of 21 student and young professional delegates from 12 countries and a variety of academic disciplines, considered the legal and political implications of on-orbit servicing, an emerging opportunity in the commercial space industry with significant political and security issues.

Please find the final Working Group (WG) Report on On-Orbit Servicing (OOS) here.


Meeting for three days, the working group consulted with Daniel Rey, Head of Systems Engineering in the Space Exploration division of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and with Robert Bell, the Executive Director of the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI). SWF Project Manager Chris Johnson also attended and advised the group on the international and national laws applicable to the proposed activity.

On-orbit servicing includes ranging, proximity, and rendezvous operations with spacecraft already in orbit, and includes their refueling, refurbishing, and/or removal from orbit. Opportunities include servicing telecommunications satellites, science missions, or Earth-observing spacecraft. However, these spacecraft might not have been built to be serviced once in orbit, and security-minded nations might be wary of spacecraft capable of such activities.


Robert Bell, Executive Director of the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI), goes over the financial opportunities of satellite servicing with the working group.


In order to better understand the political, legal, commercial, and security concerns of affected stakeholders, delegates in the working group simulated a governmental hearing considering the licensing of commercial on-orbit servicing. A board of regulators, played by the delegates, included representatives from executive, legislative and regulatory offices, including advisers on science & technology policy, foreign ministries, civil aviation administrators, and military representatives. Delegates also simulated the views of foreign governments who might be wary of commercial activities which might impact their military assets in space.


In the end, the working group realized that some degree of transparency amongst stakeholders, with the opportunity for confidential information sharing and consultations, would be a practical solution to allowing commercial on-orbit servicing to develop in a manner which does not destabilize the existing space activities of sovereign nation states.


Space Generation’s Working Group Moderator Adam Vigneron leads group discussion on identifying key stakeholders in commercial on-orbit servicing.


Last updated on December 11, 2017