Friday, September 25, 2009

The Difference Between Butter Knives and Bayonets

Adam Côté, an MA candidate at the Norman Patterson School of International Affairs at Carelton University believes that comprehensive legal structures governing space based activities are vital in order to provide the appropriate framework to undertake space based scientific, engineering, business and technical projects in much the same way as the works of Hugo Grotius, Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili laid the foundations for modern international law and contributed to the growth of trans-national trade, exploration and discovery beginning in the 17th century.
And the key to any international treaty or legal structure, according to Côté, is a credible verification regime.

He will be speaking at the upcoming Canadian Space Summit, being held on November 20-22, 2009 in Kingston, Ontario as part of the law and policy track, which is focused on space traffic management, potential legal regimes for space debris removal, international space surveillance/situational awareness and space arms control.

According to Côté, verification is the process of gathering and analyzing information to assess compliance or non-compliance with an international agreement through the development of defined criteria to distinguish between harmful, space based devices and benign satellites.

Simply put, we should be able to tell the difference between a "butter knife" and a "bayonet," the latter of which generally doesn't work well when spreading marmalade.

"The design of a space system, which is constrained by the initial launch and by the space environment, is generally closely related to its function which can be extrapolated from form, location and observed activities," states Côté. "Plus, the development of verification mechanisms based on observational evidence is something that has been done many times previously as part of a international treaties on trade practices, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.”

So what's the real difference between a space based butter knife and a space based bayonet?

Côté won't tell me that over the phone. He says I need to go to the 2009 Canadian Space Summit and attend his presentation in order to find out.

For more information on the 2009 Canadian Space Summit, please contact the Canadian Space Society.

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