“Stronger Together”: 2022 Abu Dhabi Space Debate Shows Cooperation is Both Key and a Challenge

The future of public and private space use is being defined in real time, as the possibilities for commercialization, further scientific discoveries, and key government projects expand their horizons. A critical part of the next phase of space projects will be deciding how various countries’ projects will seek a helping hand from across national lines, whether in a formal partnership or a crowdsourcing of expertise. Luckily, the 2022 Abu Dhabi Space Debate is one of the hubs leading this important discussion for the role of cooperation in

The 2022 Abu Dhabi Space Debate, hosted by the UAE Space Agency, is an international two-day conference acting as a global forum for space industry researchers, policy makers, whole nations, and business leaders to “address the issues facing growth and innovation in space.” The Presidents of India and the UAE, along with top leadership at UAE, Saudi, French, Norwegian, Polish, and EU space agencies, gathered for keynote speeches, moderated debates, and collaborative discussions on topics like foreign policy strategy, space sustainability, national security, and the rise of the private sector in space exploration and development.

What were the main takeaways from the show? And what stands in the way of a unified approach to exploring the stars and creating commercial value from everything from in-orbit satellites to space tourism? Ryan Duffy, managing editor at modern space media brand Payload, and a speaker at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Space Debate, weighs the push and pull of mutual benefit for future space projects.

Ryan’s Thoughts

“Big takeaway is there’s a lot of reasons to be optimistic. You know, stronger together. Cooperation is better than competition in space. There are many situations where one plus one can equal three and it’s advantageous to work together. That said, many of the leaders that I spoke to, acknowledge that there are factors like national security, prestige, self-interested national policy that drive space programs.

Another theme is that space is being democratized. You know, more and more countries are creating their own space agencies and pushing forward into the stars, say for launch, maybe, because only a fraction of the countries that space agencies have their own sovereign launch capabilities.

Another theme don’t look to the stars with entirely rose-tinted glasses. You know, there’s overcrowding of key orbit, risk of space debris, militarization of space assets, cybersecurity vulnerabilities of on orbit hardware. But by and large, it’s a fast-moving space pun intended. And I saw a lot of positive signs and reasons to be optimistic. In fact, just when I was on the plane home from Abu Dhabi, 155 nations voted yes on a UN resolution calling for states not to commit destructive anti-satellite missile tests.”

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