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Exploiting the High Frontier: A Framework for Stateless Space


Current frontier exploration efforts in space will eventually transition to the exploitation phase which may be either research or economic in nature. In either case, a regulatory framework will be required to coordinate and govern any activity in the new realm. The Earth orbital regime has entered the exploitation phase with the advent of a permanent research facility in the form of the International Space Station (ISS) and increasing activity in the private sector. The lunar regime, and perhaps near-Earth asteroids, will be potentially entering the exploitation phase within the next two decades. Current treaties and agreements in outer space do not adequately address the requirements for a balanced and fair regulatory environment where capital-intensive projects may deliver adequate, and protected, returns to the principals in the form of intellectual property protections and cost-benefit sharing. However, a regulatory structure in the form of an international agreement using elements similar to the Antarctic Treaty and the Intergovernmental Agreement for the ISS may be used as an example of how a potential structure governing the exploitation of the extraterrestrial environment might be constructed. Inevitably, economic development will follow the research phase if not specifically prohibited in any future treaties or agreements. To manage these activities, an organization similar to the World Trade Organization could form the basis of a management body for economic activities.