UN space threats group to hear from University of Leicester expert

The United Nations is to hear from a University of Leicester expert on space politics on how to regulate military activity in space.

Dr Bleddyn Bowen from the School of History, Politics, and International Relations will be addressing the UN’s Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on Space Threats today (Thursday 15 September).

Dr Bowen will explain ‘space to Earth’ threats on a panel with other experts from the US and Russia. He will make the case for the OWEG to focus on ‘low hanging fruit’ for areas of agreement in making everyday space activities safer and more predictable and regulated, rather than aiming for vague and lofty ambitious of preventing an arms race or conflict in outer space in its entirety.

Instead, Dr Bowen will argue for agreement on practical, technical matters such as providing more information in the UN’s registries of space objects, more space traffic data sharing, weapons test bans, agreeing on ‘rules of the road’ for traffic in space, space debris clean-up rules and ‘keep out’ minimum safe distances.

The UN’s Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on Space Threats is a body tasked by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to discuss common security and safety issues in outer space. If common problems can be defined, then the OEWG may move onto common solutions. This is a result of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s successful effort to get the UNGA to pass a resolution on forming norms of responsible behaviour in outer space.

Dr Bowen said: “I am very grateful to be asked to present my views on space warfare to the UN’s OWEG on space threats. As I have explored in my research, Earth’s biggest military powers will not stop using Earth orbit for military purposes, and it ensures that space warfare remains a risk that can’t be entirely done away with. Those arguing for the prevention of all conflict in space risk wasting diplomatic energies on chasing something that the big space powers will never agree to.

“However, I hope to steer thought towards more practical avenues of identifying less contentious and more common problems, leading towards common solutions that may reduce the risks of unintentional dangers and accidents in space.”

Dr Bleddyn Bowen has an extensive background in researching and teaching the politics of space. As well as teaching and supervising students in astropolitics at the University, he has published War in Space: Strategy, Spacepower, Geopolitics (2020) and is due to publish Original Sin: Power, Technology and War in Outer Space (2022).

You can watch the presentations and Q&A session from 15th September here.