Efforts to establish laws for space boosted by Ukraine partnerships

Pioneering work into establishing international co-operation in space activity is taking place at the University of Leicester, thanks to links established with academics in Ukraine in the wake of war.

The University’s pioneering £100 million enterprise hub Space Park Leicester recently hosted a unique conference from 25-26 May titled ‘International Cooperation in Space Activity’. It drew experts from the UK, Ukraine and beyond working in fields such as tech, law, and research, to consider solutions and develop a new understanding of the complex situations that space activity presents.

It was organised by Dr Inesa Kostenko, a Research Fellow at the University of Leicester and a representative of the Ukrainian Association of High-Tech Enterprises and Organizations (KOSMOS) in Great Britain. She fled Ukraine, together with her two children, in March 2022, joining the University of Leicester as a Lecturer in Space Law via the British Academy-funded Researcher-at-Risk Fellowship scheme run jointly with CARA

The schemes help academics who are being forced to flee by the risk of imminent imprisonment, injury or death, and works with them to find them temporary refuge in universities and research institutions until they can one day return home to help rebuild better, safer societies.

Dr Kostenko said: “It is very important for me to look for different opportunities that could help Ukraine to develop new partnerships and networking in space activity. We are incredibly appreciative to the University of Leicester and Space Park Leicester for giving us the chance to hold an international conference because the University is funding this event.

The conference discussed a wide range of pressing issues in space law and international co-operation, including:

  • new technologies 
  • aerospace products and security challenges
  • law and international relations
  • education and research
  • future perspectives

This interdisciplinary approach involves drawing appropriately from several disciplines to redefine problems outside of normal boundaries and reach solutions based on a new understanding of complex situations.

Dr Kostenko adds: “The main goal of the conference was to promote new collaborations and provide, in the future, new opportunities for academics and non-academics in the fields of space activity and industry. The conference “International Cooperation in Space Activity” reflected new issues of security and legal challenges, new ideas and perspectives for space sustainability, and highlighted why international cooperation plays a key role in strengthening space activity.

“I do hope that our primary goals are achieved and that further cooperation with the implementation of many new ideas will definitely happen, thanks to all the fantastic speakers who made a huge contribution to this event.”

As well as offering support to Ukrainian academics via the researcher-at-risk scheme, the University has signed twinning agreements with Kremenchuk Mykhailo Ostrohradskyi National University (KrNU) and with Poltava State Agrarian University (PSAU), to conduct joint research and educational projects, as well as immediate support such as online English language classes, and staff training to support young people affected by the trauma of war. Leicester has also hosted four Ukrainian students where they are continuing their studies with us.

Geoff Green, Registrar and Secretary at the University of Leicester, said: “As a recognised University of Sanctuary, it’s wonderful that Leicester has been able to host Inesa’s fellowship, and provide an environment in which her work can flourish and it complements the wider work of the University.  More broadly, across the University we are proud of the work we are doing towards the long-term re-building of Ukraine, of which Inesa’s work is an important part.”