Insight - SWF 2020 in Preview

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

By SWF Staff

In 2020, the space community will continue to experience the multifaceted challenges to the sustainability of space activities that have been growing for a number of years, as well as confronting more novel challenges that may arise from new kinds of space activities. In our efforts to promote the sustainable and peaceful uses of outer space, Secure World Foundation (SWF) will continue to engage in the United States and abroad on issues affecting the safety, stability, security, and sustainability of outer space. What follows are snapshots of some of the priority activities SWF will work on in the next 12 months.


SWF works to raise the salience of space sustainability issues among public and private sector space actors and national, international, and multilateral decision makers, and supports efforts to use structured cooperation to advance such issues. Projects focusing on this intention include the continued dissemination and Spanish translation of the Handbook for New Actors in Space, dialogues on space situational awareness, engagement with the space weather community, support for the implementation of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities, and others highlighted below.

SWF encourages commitment to responsible and sustainable space operations among commercial actors. As the emerging commercial space economy becomes increasingly international, there is a need to examine the context through which the investor community can work with industry to encourage and implement responsible space operations practices. Following a July 2019 workshop in Tokyo, SWF, in partnership with the Singapore Space & Technology Association, will organize another workshop in this series on February 5, 2020. As a side event to the 2020 Global Space and Technology Convention, this invite-only event will discuss the evolution of the commercial space industry, industry-driven responsible space operations principles, and perspectives on the role of the investors. Similar workshops will follow later in 2020 in the United States and Europe.

SWF is looking forward to the second Summit for Space Sustainability, to be held in Washington, DC, on June 2-3, 2020, which will build on the highly successful inaugural Summit that was held in June 2019. This high-level event will focus on the various space sustainability issue areas and provide a platform to stimulate dialogues with a view to generating fresh ideas on effective ways to promote the safety, stability and sustainability of space activities. Arrangements for the Summit are being led by Summit Chair, Krystal Wilson. SWF looks forward to working with our partners and sponsors for this event.

Policy and Law

SWF engages with governmental organizations all across the world to promote the development and implementation of policies and laws that can have positive influences on sustainability. Projects in this theme include the promotion and continued analysis of the Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group’s Building Blocks, sponsorship and planning of the Sixth Annual Observer Research Foundation Kalpana Chawla Space Policy Dialogue (link to 2019 event), participation in the MILAMOS and Woomera manual-creation projects, and others highlighted below.

SWF will continue to engage in the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS), the leading international forum for the progressive development and codification of treaties, principles and guidelines related to the peaceful uses of outer space. SWF holds Permanent Observer Status at COPUOS, a status that enables our participation in various COPUOS Working Groups, coordination of technical presentations, and delivery of official statements, led by Legal Advisor Chris Johnson

As rhetoric and state action related to the military use of space continues to escalate, SWF is continuing our work to bring real analysis and increased communication into this high-stakes arena. Director of Program Planning Brian Weeden is leading our third consecutive year of producing the Global Counterspace Capabilities report. This project has analyzed the kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities to disrupt the use of satellites by China, Russia, the United States, Iran, North Korea, and India. The next edition of this report will be released in April 2020 and will include more analysis about space situational awareness capabilities, information on recent ASAT tests, as well as enlarging the scope of countries covered in the report.

Building off of the counterspace research and SWF’s international engagement, Washington Office Director Victoria Samson is organizing a series of regional space security workshops. The goal of the workshops is to create awareness of the relevance of space security issues among participants from the host region, both at the national and regional level, as well as improve capacity of expertise on space security and stability issues in their region. The first workshop, Operating in Space: Current Multilateral Policy Issues and Challenges, will take place on Jan. 14-15, 2020 in Singapore, sponsored by Wilton Park and in association with the Australian Government, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and SWF. Other workshops in different regions will take place throughout the next few years.

SWF is also working to promote communication and stability in areas of commercial space development where the potential for tension exists. Working with the Chinese Society of Astronautics and the Caelus Foundation, SWF has participated in the organization of a series of workshops focused on the potential for space commercialization related information exchange between the U.S. and China, as an exploratory effort. The first workshop was held in Changsha, China in April 2019, and additional events are under planning for 2020, under the leadership of Director of Private Sector Programs, Ian Christensen.

Human and Environmental Security

Space services, including positioning, navigation and timing systems, Earth observation satellites, and telecommunications satellites, provide significant benefits in support of human and environmental security for a wide variety of applications. Far larger than the traditional space community, the users of satellite-derived information are spread across the globe, often dependent on space data, and also often unaware of the space sustainability challenges that threaten their data. 

Director of Space Applications Programs Krystal Wilson leads projects in this area that focus on creating effective policies to promote the utilization of space-derived information, and outreach to the space-dependent communities to enlist their help in promoting space sustainability. Partnerships in this area include the Group on Earth Observations, the ISS National Lab, Geeks Without Frontiers, and others. 


Beyond the targeted work of the aforementioned projects, SWF also maintains a group of projects focused on more general outreach related to space sustainability. Audiences for this outreach include the local space communities in the Denver, CO and Washington, DC areas,  the U.S. Congress, other nations developing their own space-related activities, and young space professionals from around the world. 

Project Manager Josh Wolny leads SWF’s efforts focused on young professional engagement and support. This project includes SWF’s support of the Space Generation Advisory Council’s Fusion Forum and Space Generation Congress, as well as the SWF Young Professionals Scholarship Competition. Since 2012, SWF has made available partial travel funding scholarships for young professionals to present their papers at the International Astronautical Congress. In 2019 SWF sponsored 12 young professionals. The call for applications for the 2020 IAC in Dubai will be released on May 1, 2020.

SWF thanks its partners for a productive 2019 and looks forward to continuing to contribute to conversations in 2020 leading to the sustainable long-term use of outer space.

Last updated on December 17, 2019