The Evolving Diplomatic Side of Space Sustainability

On the Space to Grow podcast, Astroscale’s Chris Blackerby and Charity Weeden bring their compelling experience and expertise to map out the technology, international policy, and scalability that will define the next generation of space exploration.

 

Space sustainability includes many facets. There’s the science, and there’s the policy. However, both have to be part of the conversation to achieve objectives. Space to Grow hosts Chris Blackerby and Charity Weeden spoke with esteemed physicist and space policy leader Dr. David Kendall. Dr. Kendall was the Chair of the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the Director-General of the Canadian Space Agency, and a faculty member at the International Space University.

The hosts asked Dr. Kendall if it was harder to be a scientist or diplomat. “They are both challenging in different ways. Science is a singular activity that requires full immersion. Diplomacy puts you out there talking to people.”

Dr. Kendall had no formal plans to transition, but a conversation with his wife made him apply to become the Director-General of the Canadian Space Agency. “Then I saw the other side of the coin and how decisions are made. The space business really is a team effort, globally.”

“The legal and scientific committees don’t talk to each other but must. We also need to find a way for the commercial sector voices to be heard. And we need to move a lot faster.” -Dr. David Kendall

One of Dr. Kendall’s most significant contributions to space policy was his work on the 21 Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities guidelines. He was part of the working group and then the chair. It required all nation-state approval and was finally approved in 2019, with all 90 members saying yes.

“Creating 21 new ways of working together was an accomplishment. But there’s more to do on many issues like active debris removal and space traffic management,” Dr. Kendall said.

After serving as chair, Dr. Kendall highlighted the next challenges that the organization needed to consider. “The legal and scientific committees don’t talk to each other but must. We also need to find a way for the commercial sector voices to be heard. And we need to move a lot faster.”

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