Safety, resilience and sustainability continue to be central topics in the space sector, not only due to the increased number of space actors and space objects in outer space, but also due to the growing role of space technology, data, products and services in meeting societal needs and responding to current challenges, notably on security and environment, and the increase in cyber threats.

So much so that, in September 2023, during the State of the Union, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the Commission's priorities for 2024. Among these priorities is the introduction of the EU Space Law (EUSL), with a public consultation having been opened in September 2023. Recently, the Commissioner for Internal Market of the European Union, Thierry Breton, in his speech in the 16th edition of the European Space Conference, emphasised that the future EU Space Law arises from the need to create a true EU single market for space. The EUSL will encompass three key pillars: the safety pillar will focus on ensuring safe satellite traffic to mitigate the growing risk of collisions and damages caused by space debris; the resilience pillar aims to systematically safeguard EU and national space infrastructures and assets against detrimental threats, notably cyberattacks; and the sustainability pillar is designed to secure the long-term viability of space operations. The proposed legislation is expected to be put forth in 2024, at any moment now.

This initiative follows others focused on cybersecurity and resilience, which for the first time apply to the space sector (the NIS2 Directive and the CER Directive, which will become applicable on October 2024), and on space traffic management (with the EU Approach to Space Traffic Management).

It is important to note that national space laws mostly address debris mitigation, with some addressing also sustainability and cybersecurity: this is the case, for instance, of the UK, including its initiatives on space sustainability, in particular the proposal for a variable limit of liability for orbital operations linking liability limits to sustainable operations, as indicated in the consultation on orbital liabilities, insurance, charging and space sustainability.

As such, it is to be seen, for EU countries, how the future EUSL will coordinate with existing EU and national laws dealing with the same topics.

Other countries are also developing approaches to sustainability: for instance, in late 2023, the US Senate unanimously passed the Orbits Act, the primary focus of which is to reduce space debris and promote safe space activities in both low earth and nearby orbits.