Planetary Radio • Feb 02, 2024

Space Policy Edition: Space isn’t black — it’s grey

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On This Episode

Laura delgado lopez portrait

Laura Delgado López

Visiting Fellow with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

Jack kiraly portrait 2023

Jack Kiraly

Director of Government Relations for The Planetary Society

Casey dreier tps mars

Casey Dreier

Chief of Space Policy for The Planetary Society

It’s a policy paper episode! Laura Delgado López joins the show to break down “Clearing the Fog: The Grey Zones of Space Governance” by Jessica West and Jordan Miller. Grey zones are harmful or disruptive space activities that fall short of provoking a military response — ideally. But the ambiguity, by its nature, could generate unplanned escalation and conflict.

What are these grey zones, and why do they exist? What are their consequences to humanity, even for those in nations not actively pursuing spaceflight? And by what means can we reduce the uncertainty and therefore the risk to space operations at Earth and beyond?

Laura Delgado López, has worked in space policy in the Washington, D.C., area for nearly 15 years and is currently a visiting fellow with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she researches and writes on international space cooperation in Latin America. She selected this episode’s paper, which can be accessed for free at the Centre for International Governance Innovation’s website.

Vienna UN Building with Starry Sky Montage
Vienna UN Building with Starry Sky Montage Image: Neale LaSalle/Alex Hammersmith/Casey Dreier


Casey Dreier: Hello and welcome to the Space Policy edition of Planetary Radio, the monthly show where we explore the politics and processes that enable space exploration. I'm joined by my colleague, the director of government relations here at The Planetary Society, Jack Kiraly. Hey Jack.

Jack Kiraly: Hey, Casey. It's great to be on.

Casey Dreier: As always, great to have you. Jack, this is another episode dedicated to a single space policy paper. The first one that we did was really fun, got a lot of great response, so we're going to be doing this on a regular basis every couple of episodes, and we're going to choose from a list and, again, I encourage our members to keep sending us paper ideas. This month though, I reached out to Laura Delgado Lopez. She's a longtime space policy expert in Washington D.C,, currently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies there. And I raised, I gave her some options and she actually proposed the paper we're going to talk about today. And this paper is called Clearing The Fog, The Gray Zones of Space Governance, written by Dr. Jessica West and Jordan Miller. Jack, this paper is a departure for us. It's going to be much more focused on space governance and immediate issues facing global, in a sense, peaceful operations of outer space, identifying gaps that are there in terms of identifying potential problems that can come from these uncertainties in space activities. It's really interesting to me, and I found it really a fascinating paper. Jack, how does this paper fit into your scope of work in what we think about here at The Planetary Society?

Jack Kiraly: Well, I see it as a natural evolution from what we normally talk about, which are the exploration missions, human and robotic into space, and governance is that evolution of capability, right? When you only have a few objects in the Solar System, it's very easy to keep them apart. Conjunctions are very rare, but the more congested and contested that space becomes, the more you need to be talking about governance. And now that it's going to be the next decade and longer and into the future, we'll see thousands of more satellites and exploration vehicles, including those crewed by humans. Governance is going to be a key factor to keeping space safe and accessible.

Casey Dreier: Yeah, it's almost like the foundation is we have to be able to get through earth orbit to do the types of missions that we here at the society are super interested in and making sure that we have a global agreement for peaceful use of outer space and that we're enabling new nations. And also, I think, and what Laura really brought up with this paper, that we will talk about, is the impact of these types of gray zone activities to a variety of nations and people who may or may not even really be invested in space exploration, that these are really global issues. So it was a really fascinating perspective. Again, it's a bit of a departure for us, but a really important one, probably some of the most important work going on right now. It ties into work going on at the United Nations, ties into work going on at the White House, regardless of which administration is in power, these types of activities and space and managing them. This paper is free to access, so no one has to pay for it. So I recommend if anyone is interested after this discussion, you can find it online, you can Google it, and of course we will link to it on our show notes here at And Jack, before we go into this discussion, let's actually bring up another really fundamental important issue related to space policy, which is, of course, supporting The Planetary Society.

Jack Kiraly: It's central. If you want to see a future where humans and our robot companions are exploring the Solar System, you got to become a member. It's an organization built for that purpose, to advance our understanding of the cosmos and our place within it.

Casey Dreier: Well put, Jack. Yeah, it's something that we, you and I, literally work on every single day, even most weekends, not just work hours. You are out there all over Washington D.C. pushing forward our agenda, and we're working really hard to establish the Society not just as a source, a credible source of information for policy makers, but as a way to channel the energy of our membership. And this is what I think is always worth reminding people, that as a member, whether you take part directly, which is obviously our preferred path or you support our activities, we're channeling ourselves as a society, as a group to take grassroots action and support of space exploration activities, to support NASA's budget, to support smart policies in space, to lower costs, and get us more places in the Solar System and beyond. This is something really unique in the sphere of space policy activities, and it's obviously an honor for us to do it, but it works best when we have our members, which is our primary source of resources here at the society. We literally depend on our members. So if you're interested in joining us, it starts at four bucks a month. That's If you're already a member, first, thank you so much. And if you are able to and would consider it, please think about upping your membership level to increase your support. There's many options for that. So that's our plug. Oh, and Jack, we have one more plug, don't we? In addition to membership.

Jack Kiraly: Oh, we sure do. We sure do.

Casey Dreier: Jack, what's that?

Jack Kiraly: So how about if you're listening to this and this episode really gets you excited about space exploration or any of the episodes on Planetary Radio and you want to make a difference, I'm inviting you to join me and Casey in Washington D.C. for our annual day of action. We are back in person. We had a huge successful event last year in September, and we're coming back to D.C. April 29th, training on April 28th. Registration is open now. This is the most direct way that you can make an impact on the federal budget, on national space policy. Please consider joining us April 29th here in Washington D.C.

Casey Dreier: In the year 2024.

Jack Kiraly: In the year 2024.

Casey Dreier: We should always [inaudible 00:06:46] that. What we do is we schedule meetings for you when you come to Washington D.C. We will schedule with your representatives, you will be in a group, you will meet with other representatives, you will have opportunities to drop into congressional offices all over the hill. We give you expert training, we give you talking points, we give you all the tools you need to be an effective, persuasive advocate. And it really is, as Jack says, literally the best and most effective thing you can do. It's not just us saying that, there's actual research demonstrating this to be the case. It's doing the hard true work of space advocacy, and I really hope you consider joining us if you haven't before. Most people, I say half of our every year I think is new people joining us and people tend to have-

Jack Kiraly: So you won't be alone.

Casey Dreier: You won't be alone and people tend to have an amazing time. People have a lot of fun. And it can be intimidating at first. It can be big, seeming or hard, but really at the end of the day, people want to hear what you have to say. And you get to talk about space and what a privilege that is. So if you want to find more about the day of action for 2024, that's at Information, videos, testimonials, registration, all the good stuff is there. Jack and I both really hope to see you there this year. Okay, so I think that's the end of our plugs, Jack.

Jack Kiraly: For now.

Casey Dreier: The two most important, for now, the two most important ones. But again, I'm really excited for this conversation. Laura Delgado Lopez, longtime space policy expert, brings in really excellent, interesting opinions and perspectives to this paper. This paper, again, is called Clearing The Fog, The Gray Zones of Space Governance. It is available online for free and we will link to it. You can find that at And just one thing before we go into this discussion, which I'm super excited to share with you, I just wanted to find in advance Gray Zones. It's coming from a military strategic term, and it is helpful just to keep in mind as we go into it because Gray Zones are basically activities that nation states or others can do in contested domains that can be irritating, can be harmful, but generally fall below triggering a full-scale response. So examples, Jack, that I can think of and please add anymore would be like hacking ground stations for satellite communications networks. Temporarily blinding are they call dazzling spy satellites with lasers. So you're not causing permanent damage to them, but you block their ability to see. Things like close proximity operations to other spacecrafts. So basically getting real uncomfortably close, but not then doing anything more than that to other nations. I think these can all be considered provocative things, but generally what would fall into this Gray Zone of activity. And these are largely tolerated, but the point of this paper, I think, is to call out that these are a problem that can be addressed not through military solutions, but through governance and through peaceful processes, globally or even bilaterally. Jack, does that pretty much cover it? Do you think that's the important thing to keep in mind as we go into this?

Jack Kiraly: I think that is because it can be a very confusing topic. And yeah, the idea of Gray Zones, a lot of space you will notice comes from, or terminology comes from military vernacular. So this is, again, that evolution of our understanding of space operations and I think it really opens the door to a very nuanced and interesting conversation that we'll have with Laura.

Casey Dreier: Perfect. And let's not wait, keep them waiting anymore. Here is our conversation with Laura Delgado-Lopez from the Center for Strategic and International Studies talking about the paper Clearing The Fog, the Gray Zones of Space Governance. Laura, welcome to this episode of The Space Policy Edition. Jack and I are really excited to have you here.

Laura Delgado López: Thank you so much for having me.

Casey Dreier: So before we go onto this paper that I am very excited to talk about with you, I wanted to give you a second to accurately represent what your current status as you have been working for NASA, but you are not at the moment. And I'd like to give you an opportunity to share, not just what you're doing but what's really occupying your attention these days.

Laura Delgado López: Sure. Well hi everyone. This is Laura Delgado Lopez. This year I am a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic International Studies. That's a think tank in Washington D.C. and I am supporting the Americas program. I am here thanks to a fellowship of the Council on Foreign Relations called the International Affairs Fellowship, and I am focused on studying Latin American space programs and international space corporation in the region. So I'm taking a sabbatical, so to speak, to have time to read and think and write and really draw attention to this topic. I think some of you, who I'm sure listen to the show, know that very back when we were in grad school, I graduated in 2011 from the Space Policy Institute, I started doing research on Latin American space programs, looked at the time at Chinese International Space Corporation in the region. And it's been a topic that I've just been dying to get back to for a long time and I think the time is really ripe. There's a lot going on and there's also a lot of gaps in our understanding. And so part of what I'm doing, and I have had a lot of success so far, I'm just excited to keep doing it for the next few months, is meeting and drawing attention to the work of just great experts in the region who are thinking about a lot of the same issues that we're concerned about.

Casey Dreier: That sounds really interesting and I'll direct readers to, you recently had an op ed in space news touching on some of these issues. We will link to it in our show notes, but also just congratulations on the fellowship. That sounds like a really fun opportunity to dive back into this stuff.

Laura Delgado López: Thank you.

Casey Dreier: And you said a wonderful time to do it is very germane to this. So when we reached out to you with this idea, the second episode of our series of Space Policy papers that we will go through, I presented you with some options and asked if you had any recommendations and you came back to us with this paper, which is called Clearing The Fog, The Gray Zones of Space Governance by Jessica West and Jordan Miller. What made you choose this paper? Why was this something you wanted to talk about today?

Laura Delgado López: One of the things I'm trying to do in my work, like I said, is really understand the other perspective. Understand how a country like Costa Rica thinks about certain issues or Argentina, et cetera. How experts in those countries, not just necessarily the government. And one area where you see this really nice and really interesting confluence of perspectives is space governance. And so it's been one of these rabbit holes, so to speak, that I've been following as part of this work to understand how some of these emerging space nations are coming to the table. I started reading it, I think, for my own edification of, okay, I want to make sure I'm using the term Gray Zone usefully or correctly, I should say, but I found it useful. So that was the lapses there. I found it a really useful way to talk about, okay, on the one hand the space lawyers and the academics are having this fascinating discussions over the definition of peaceful use for example, that we will get into. That's all great, but in terms of the practical and the why does this matter, there's very few, I think, items of literature of this length I think, and as you pointed out before we started, openly accessible that I think draw those connections so succinctly and I think so expertly. It was a discovery for me. And so I had just read it maybe three weeks before you reached out. So I think it needed to happen.

Casey Dreier: Well it's a great example because some of the papers that we have proposed to people before are historical and this is very much of the here and now as you point out. This is very relevant and will be relevant for a while, I think, given what we're seeing more globally. So let's get into it. So I mean, let's big picture. So if you haven't, the listener haven't read this paper yet, that's fine. We will go through this here in order. We will link to it. As Laura said, it is a freely accessible peer-reviewed paper, which is a wonderful opportunity for people just to read. But Laura, summarize this paper. If you had to say what this paper is about, what is this really hitting at here for us today?

Laura Delgado López: Sure. So the elevator speech is that you might run into the term of Gray Zone in Space Governance as part of your work as a space reader. And usually it refers to a type of activity that occurs in this nebulous space of it's not obviously a peaceful activity like a scientific thing that we might do but it's also not necessarily something that occurs in wartime. An example, again, at a very high level, sometimes we think of hacking or jamming a satellite or something that you shouldn't do it, but it's not necessarily illegal or it's not necessarily causing harm. And so that has a lot of implications to how states interact with each other and all that. And so in the paper they talk about what that means from a bigger picture standpoint than that, how it's not just about tactics, but it's really indicating where there are gaps in governance. And governance, you can define as simply as just saying what's right and wrong, what are the rules of the road or the rules of engagement in a certain area. So those gaps show up in these Gray Zones, but as the authors point out with implications and risks that are very real and that are very current, as you were saying, and that impact users, even people who may not be following the space conversation. And so they point to the overlap with other areas of the law and other types of activities that are important in our day-to-day society. So it's a really good, it's kind of a lengthy paper, but it really focuses on what this is and why it matters.

Casey Dreier: And I like at the end, they give some proposals for how to resolve some of these Gray Zone ambiguities to improve it, which I think we'll touch on here. So we'll go through this paper by its major sections, but I'll just add to that, that's a wonderful summary and what I really liked about it is that this idea that Gray Zones are in a sense a symptom of a failure of governance, they're basically taking this military strategic term and shifting it into more of a governance issue of saying, oh, okay, this is telling us something, as you were saying. And I was almost thinking of Gray Zones, we see, as you pointed out, hacking what they dazzling or blocking satellites, things that aren't physically destructive but disruptive. And in my head I was like, it's like when a mosquito is buzzing around in your ear, it's really irritating, but it's not sucking blood yet. It hasn't landed on you. You can swat it away and it can come back.

Laura Delgado López: Yeah, so you need not declare war against a mosquito.

Casey Dreier: Yeah, exactly.

Laura Delgado López: But you really want it to stop.

Casey Dreier: Yeah, it's super irritating. And so this idea of governance and, I think, really in the context here of an increasing number of actors in space and an increasing amount of, let's say, national security or military activity in space and being seen now as this domain of potential conflict, this starts to become really, really important to identify Gray Zones in advance. And I think at the end of the day, this idea of this ambiguity of a Gray Zone activity to what they point out in the paper, one nation's idea of a Gray Zone activity may not be shared by some other nation. And what type of response you get from that is inherently unpredictable by definition, which could lead to significant trouble as you point out, not just to us, but the fact that space is so integrated into our lives. So it's, again, very valuable thing to start thinking about and I'd say a little more down to earth in a sense for what we tend to talk about here on The Planetary Society. But again, I think this space policy right now is, this is probably one of the biggest issues would you say going on at the moment?

Laura Delgado López: I think so. And it's a perfect encapsulation of the evolution of the last 50, 60 years because I think it matters a lot to different actors, like you were saying, to companies that are making sure that their satellites the orbit on time so that they can launch the next tranche of a hundred, 200 to emerging nations, to established actors, to university students that are really excited about their first mission. I think it matters to all of them for different reasons. And as a result, I think it's worth our time to understand how are they approaching it and what are their priorities because I think we risk coming to the table, assuming everybody approaches it the same way, defines it the same way, et cetera. And then I think we're surprised that the conversation doesn't go in the direction we thought it would.

Casey Dreier: Governance is, at the end of the day, just a bunch of people deciding to agree on something or not. And I think as we've been seeing very visibly globally lately, but just historically, it's hard to get people to agree on things without having something against their back or some exogenous event to drive it forward. And so this is a difficult and ongoing work that is going to identify these. And ultimately, is it fair to say that in a sense governance is voluntary restrictions on behaviors? Is that an accurate way? So it's like nations are voluntarily deciding to say, "This is not allowed and I could do it, but we won't."

Laura Delgado López: I think that's fair.

Casey Dreier: And a broad consensus around it. So it necessarily requires stopping activities or slowing down activities or just removing a tool from a potential tool belt at the end of the day. So it's a restrictive process with the idea that it enables other activities. Is that too abstract of a definition of this? But it seems like that's the inherent, that's why people don't like to do it. That's why it's hard.

Jack Kiraly: If I can corporation it even more, it's almost, and this maybe jumps a little bit ahead in the paper, but it's not so much the stopping of activities, but the perceived stopping and the perception of your intent behind those activities that also matters or is part of this discussion. And I think broadly, this paper does a very good job of defining maybe the borders of this very nebulous topic. I mean you can only do so much in 20 pages, but this does a very good job of, I think, really trying to define what that abstraction is and offers solutions or maybe a way to think about those solutions, but illustrates that we are at an inflection point with the number of emerging actors, both state and non-state actors who are involved in space. The sheer, almost exponential, jump in the number of objects in orbit is illustrative of the growing need to address this concern.

Laura Delgado López: And just to pick up on something Jack raised, because I think it's really important, intent. Intent is at the root of space governance. And so I think we'll get to in the paper why trying to address space issues from a very siloed perspective is not going to be useful and hasn't been useful and I'm a big proponent on that, that's why I'm in a program focused on regional expertise of the region. They don't know anything about space. I'm bringing that perspective. But where space is unique is where, and they touch on it in the paper, we often say space people, we say, oh, satellites and space technology are dual use and all that. Well, it's not as easy to identify as say a gun as an item that in itself you can say is fit for a specific purpose. And so how, for space, then you really need to look beyond the technology, at intent. You need to establish trust. And so I know we'll talk a little bit about transparency and all that and where these discussions happen matter so much because of that. Because if they're happening in the back alley and it's only a few people, then even if the outcomes are agreeable, even if the content of what took place is agreeable, the fact that not everyone felt included is going to make them question the success of that effort because of that point of intent.

Casey Dreier: Wonderful point. I think that's really fascinating. And again, and this sounds more pejorative than it is, but in a sense governing is high school cafeteria but with real consequences. To some degree, right, it's rumors and clicks and groups and shifting power and people feel excluded and included really changes the outcome of that because at the end of the day, I think that was my point, it's just people and with all the inherent weaknesses and predilections we have as individuals, all of those play out writ large. Let's actually start at the paper because, Laura, you brought up something about space in a sense that how it intersects all these other policy issues and has been siloed in a sense, and that's what the paper makes this argument in the past. But let's just start at great place, the beginning, the introduction of this paper. So we're going to walk through this paper major section and that's how we would approach this. Just obviously reading it and the intent of these, I think, is a little bit is valuable to talk about why they're including and approaching it, maybe structuring the way this is. It's a pretty straightforward structure of a paper, but the introduction is interesting to me. We've all tried to write papers in place to start, so I appreciate the introduction of outer space is everywhere. It's like good point, yes, excellent point. Where do you begin with this? But it actually raises something to me. So I mean, the introduction goes through and starts to outline the idea of both why this is, I mean, this classic why is space relevant? And they talk about the growing economy and the number of people participating in this, the increasing national defense and strategic role of it, and then defines things like Gray Zones and this military background. But this idea of space being everywhere, I think, is actually hiding... The simplicity of that statement hides a deeper point that Laura is what you brought up. Maybe think about this, which is how we approach space policy can sometimes seem strange to me. So this is my simplistic uneducated background and I'll let you, both of you, correct me on this, but it seems hard. It's like saying we need an error policy for all things that have error in it, and it seems to be seeing it that way because just a physically distinct domain. Can you have a policy just of that and you then have these frictions of what about the things that intersect with that policy? So I mean, the point of this paper, Laura, I'll even let you say it, I mean what's the siloing issue? Because space isn't just in space. Space in space is fine, but that's not where we live as humans. We're on Earth. So the process of getting one information or things to the other, we're necessarily crossing domains from space into Earth.

Laura Delgado López: And I think even more bluntly, space doesn't matter because of space. Space only matters on Earth. So both the benefits, the risks, the consequences, are all, even looking at something like a near-Earth object that is a result of a natural phenomena, the consequences and risks and the what we would do about it all happens here on Earth. And so, to me, that means when you look at the realm of international politics, you need to understand what a country representative is bringing, that they bring into every single interaction that they have because they have their country's priorities, they have their concerns, they have... I'll give you an example. When Costa Rica signed on to the moratorium against testing anti-satellite weapons, as part of its statement it mentioned it talked about gender equity and lamenting that the policy and governance discussions tends to be primarily led by men and how that impacts the conversation. Now, if I just look at space, that statement means little to me, but if I look at gender equity as a priority of the Costa Rican government, then that bleeding through of the issue into this supposedly siloed realm makes sense to me. So where the challenge is though, the way we train our experts, destined to be pretty siloed. And so I had to take advantage of this. I'm really thankful of this opportunity and be able to expose myself in this different realm, but I could have continued my career in the US government not necessarily exposed to some of these other issues. So I think there's some issues related to that. But to your point, how you approach the conversation really I think benefits from recognizing that outer space is everywhere.

Jack Kiraly: And touches everything, in some way, shape or form. You can't walk down the street without interacting with something that involves space. And does that mean that you need to care about space? No. You as a citizen of the world, as a voter in your district or country don't need to know everything or know even anything about the space domain, but you interact with it. And so then the decision makers, the people that represent you, whether it's in your state government, your national government, on the international stage need to know that the values that you hold. I think this is maybe one of the underpinnings of the even need for norms and procedures and standards and as the paper calls it, the coloring of the Gray Zone, is that you need to be able to say these are our values as a civilization, as a nation, as a group of nations. And it's vitally important because there are 8 billion people on Earth that all rely on space in some way, shape or form.

Casey Dreier: The introduction, again, classically goes on to just outline what they're going to do in the paper, which is always helpful to get that primer and, again, highlights this idea that we talked about at the very beginning of that they're shifting this idea of Gray Zone from a matter of military tactics to governance. And what I really liked about that shift, and this is where I don't have a ton of background in military strategy or policy frankly, and so this is new to me, but what I found useful about this reframing is that it made it more relevant by that shift. And to then say that then solutions aren't military solutions, they don't require conflict to resolve them, that by putting this into a governance domain, then the solutions themselves are a function of ideally peaceful governance. And through this process, Laura, of what you were saying of this broad consensus making effort that can include a variety of perspectives and inputs from ideally a more representative part of the globe. I think that, to me, is almost like one of the core ideas of this paper is this reframing from strategic conflict to peaceful governance.

Laura Delgado López: And saying that is within reach that I think, yeah, the second point being where they explain it is a problem of governance, but a problem for governance. I like that for means you can address it, you can begin to color integrate as Jack was pointing through governance.

Casey Dreier: And that's frankly, I feel we are at a relatively cynical point in, I would say, maybe even a global approach to democratic governance ideas that it's either seen as ineffective or feckless or pointless even in the worst case. And this is a very non-cynical paper, which is what I liked about it as well, that it is really building upon some experiences that can still be frustrating at the UN. Laura, you were going to jump in and say something?

Laura Delgado López: No, sorry, I'm agreeing. I'm a cynical person by nature, I think.

Casey Dreier: Are all policy people pretty cynical, but in some it's a weird tension.

Laura Delgado López: I think you have to be.

Jack Kiraly: The ebb and flow of getting your hopes up and dashed.

Casey Dreier: Yeah, right, dashed.

Laura Delgado López: Without being too idealistic because I do still read, there's certainly people out there writing about let's create say an international space treaty and a new international organization. All of the countries of the world join and we all agree we are going to prevent war and do all these things that are... I think, we should still aim in that direction, but I am definitely with the opinion that we will fail along the way. Now we will end up in a better place than if we hadn't started. But, to me, this paper is a good, it speaks to people like me who are like, I want to be hopeful, but I need to know that there's little steps I can take in that direction that aren't necessarily one day claiming that there's never going to be conflict in space.

Casey Dreier: Yeah, I mean you could see Dr. West seems to base a lot of this from her experience on one of the UN working groups that has gone through this process and you can see that it didn't necessarily resolve to a particular outcome, but I always get that it's the action and process of doing it, even if it doesn't necessarily resolve, it's still really valuable. It's almost the activity itself, the means are itself inherently valuable even if the outcome is less than ideal.

Laura Delgado López: It's a frustrating process. I think readers will look at it and there's so many acronyms and there's group of governmental experts and there's things and there's open-ended working groups and there's all this terminology that just feels like you went off of it soup. So there is a little bit of that. So again, if you want to join us in, it's a bit hard not to get frustrated. It is frustrating. But then when you take three steps back and then do a little bit of this and you see, okay, where did we start? Where has there been stalemate for 20, 30 years? So suddenly there's progress. And to your point, it's because the process has suddenly been way more open. It's been able to incorporate the views of civil society and the private sector, which are part of that explosion of activity that we've been seeing that we talked about in the beginning. And so how that is really helping build momentum and me pointing Costa Rica out, I think that's so significant. They only had their first CubeSats launched a couple of years ago. And so, I think, the paper helps make a point that I'm trying to make through my work too, that there's a bit of pushback sometimes on, oh okay, country X or Y, don't they have bigger problems, they shouldn't be looking at space outside of server, who knows better. But I think to the point that Jack was making earlier, they see space as a way to address those real pressing needs that they have. And so that's why they're investing limited resources in showing up into these conversations even though they're frustrating, even though they're lengthy. So I think that that's really important to keep in mind.

Casey Dreier: And by even giving the opportunity, it's almost works the other way too where giving them the opportunity to participate starts to make it relevant and provides that relevance itself. So it's a two-way street on that I would think. And otherwise just cordoning it off to who has an endogenous launch capabilities would make it absolutely irrelevant for a large swath of the globe at least seemingly and create that distrust that we mentioned earlier. We've zoomed or merged into the main section of this, which is fine, the Gray Zones as a governance challenge where the authors make the argument of what we were just taking them at their assertion that this is a governance challenge and not just a piece of military strategy. I was going to actually pose, Jack, to you as a thought. What did you think about their argument in this section, just as how they constructed it and why they included this here? Was it valuable and did it succeed in what it was trying to do in making this argument successfully to you?

Jack Kiraly: I feel like it did. I mean, it really took, as Laura you were saying, the very clunky acronym filled militarized vernacular and strategy and applied it to something that is universal and really defines this not just as, hey, here's this problem. There's umpteen thousand papers and opinions out there talking about the problem, but defining that problem in a way that is addressable by governments. And I just want to go back a little bit to, Laura, one of the things you said is about countries that are spending their resources and being involved in space, that it is seen wherever you go on the globe. Space is seen as that next step for your nation, for your community, for your society to advance economically, to advance scientifically, to advance militarily, prestige-wise that you don't want to be left behind. So you want to be a part of these conversations and the only way to be a part of the conversation is to show up. And that, I think, goes to the argument made in this paper that governance is decided by those that show up and by those that buy into the overall strategy for it. If you don't see that there's a problem, why would you want to talk about it? Only because there is this problem does it offer this opportunity. And this opportunity has come up quick. I think as we've alluded to that with the explosion in commercial participation, in non-traditional actor participation, I mean just as an aside, we've almost doubled the number of nations that have landed on the moon successfully in the last 365 days, and that's only going to become more active. The cislunar space, low-earth orbit geo are all going to become more active. So defining this now, it's almost like the burden of being right, talking about it early and carrying this with you saying, we need to solve this problem, we need to solve this problem when nobody else might be listening. Initially is important because now we need to be listening and deciding on what norms and procedures and standards we need to set in space.

Casey Dreier: Yeah, absolutely. And I think this relevancy, what they try to make this argument for in this section, and Laura, I was going to ask you about this, they make a few claims about the concept, why this is important, even. I like this.... They quote a few other authors on this, the idea that it's exploiting uncertainty and it's an exploiting ambiguity, but something also really resonating. It was exploiting in a sense, unwillingness to enforce existing rules. And Laura, I was going to ask you if you think this is another aspect of its relevancy right now, of do we have an overall global situation where the rules-based order is under increasing challenge and then we're seeing this as an expression of that just in the space domain itself. And they're just identifying a larger trend where I don't know what you would even say as we in this case, the UN or broader rules-based consensus order in the globe is unable to maintain that consensus.

Laura Delgado López: So I think there's two pieces to this. One is that sometimes I hear from some experts, we should start over because you're right, the rules-based order is not being followed. We should start from zero and create, let's go binding in the paper. They go over the environment where we're in, where there's binding conversations going on, but there's actually a lot more progress in the non-binding side of things and how they could, and I think they will intersect eventually. But there's a camp that thinks that creating, defining even more strictly binding rules, it's what's going to assure success here. And the cynic in me will point out, as you're saying, if you just open the news, you will see that just having the laws, having the rules of warfare, et cetera, it's not necessarily preventing some actors from violating those rules. So that's why I believe in the framework and the approach that is more participatory, creating trust, pulling in, creating all these invisible threads that I think increase the costs of actors to not follow the rules or even better, increase the benefits to them for actually following it. It's creating those incentives that, I think, it's less going to be about whether someone follows the law or not, but what are those incentives in that path that we created so that there's responsible behavior at the end of the day. But the other piece of this that I don't know the answer to and that I'm hoping to find out through my work is how much of the lack of those implementation mechanisms is lack of awareness? How much of it, for example, they point in the jumping very much ahead, to the solutions. They talk about domestic measures and implementation. I think that's so critical. In some other countries I'm looking at, they could be very active in the international sphere, have signed on to all the treaties, et cetera. You look at their national frameworks, they don't have a national registry in place yet. They don't have a way for the private sector to oversee or supervise their activities, which as you know is an issue that we're dealing with here in the United States for some of the novel space activities. So it's certainly evolving. But they don't have interagency mechanisms for providers, operators, and users to talk to each other and to make sure that they're on the same page. So I think those gaps threaten governance as well, and I don't know if that is, I don't think it's an intentional, oh, we don't want to follow the rules. It may be a lack of awareness that you need that for governance to be successful. So I don't have the right answer there, but I think there's a bit of that.

Casey Dreier: We'll be right back with the rest of our space policy edition of Planetary Radio after this short break.

CaLisa: Hi, I'm CaLisa with The Planetary Society. We've joined with the US National Park Service to make sure everyone is ready for the 2024 North American total Solar Eclipse. Together we've created the new junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer activity book and it helps kids learn the science, history and fun of eclipses. If you live in the United States, call your nearest National Park and ask if they have the Eclipse Explorer book. You can learn more at

Casey Dreier: How much of that aspect in terms of domestic governance and structure do you think is just a function of space being relatively new and even I would say as a relevant force, I'd say that has changed even significantly for a lot of countries in the last 20 to 30 years. Is it just a function of suddenly being something to think about that it wasn't inherited? I mean this is my whole thing in a sense is, humans didn't evolve or develop society with space as an option. And so we have all these inherited common law traditions of various countries being applied as a basis of global law or maritime law and other things. But there's no one intuitive space law that we have. We're grafting on other domains onto the space domain as an example because we didn't have ancestors figuring that out through custom 10,000 years ago. But as the same consequence of that, we don't have it built into the political process necessarily, as you were pointing out, or the administrative process or bureaucratic process of these, a variety of countries that don't inherently have that kind of superpower access to space that were developed in the mid 20th century. But it is relevant. I think that's what you're saying, it's actually quite relevant in this day and age.

Laura Delgado López: It is relevant and it's very much more interconnected. I think it's both a function of lack of awareness and also a point we were talking about earlier, the silos. If you create a structure based on your understanding of the technology that day. For example, we have in the United States NOAA issues the licenses for commercial remote sensing satellites and one of the questions that has had to grapple with the last few years through the revised regulations is, okay, what about other types of satellites that might be sensing, but it's not imagery. We didn't signals intelligence or things like that that suddenly are capable in the private sector. I don't think you could have envisioned that necessarily. And so I think part of it is a function of just how fast these things have evolved and governments are slow to catch on. I think the other thing that I've seen, at least in some of the countries I'm looking at, is the expertise, again, is so contained in a few people that then when those people leave, the institutions have to start over. Sometimes you have to start over even to remind your precedent, your newly elected leadership that this is something that you would do and that it's important. So that is certainly a challenge where institutionalization is one of the things that helps something like a space program both be integrated into a country but then also survive.

Casey Dreier: Really good point. And there's one more aspect of this opening section on just establishing the relevancy of this. That's something you highlighted and have already mentioned, but I just want to bring back up again, this idea that the consequences of Gray Zone activities escalating negatively or even the activities themselves and they highlight things that stop short of physical destruction of satellites in space can have wide reaching ramifications, and I'm quoting here, including critical infrastructure, electricity grids. Basically this idea that it has a broad impact particularly to civilian populations and whether or not if you're among those civilian populations, have a notable space program or related to those, if you're depending on US GPS system for navigation or timing or a variety of other issues, if those go away, you suddenly have big problems even if it seems otherwise irrelevant to you.

Laura Delgado López: Even if you don't know, exactly. So not knowing doesn't protect you. So I think we've seen this explosion. We've seen regions of the world like Latin America adopt a digital revolution at a pace that is just unbelievable. And so a cyber attack has particular implications there. Maybe not necessarily consistent with the infrastructure as you would think, but yes. One example that my colleague, Victoria Valdivia Serla who I wrote that space news article that you referenced is she said, "Okay, let's imagine a situation where Country X is buying SATCOM from a company. That company's assets get attacked in conflict because they're also being used somewhere else and the disruption impacts the ability of that country to respond to a disaster scenario and to be able to find people in that remote location that are in danger." They have nothing to do with the conflict, but it's an example of, I think, a very real scenario given all the extreme events, whether events that we've been having, et cetera, that that could happen and that would have direct potential human loss, potential economic and other losses as a result of what I think we would all call a space event and that to people on the ground, they're not even thinking about space.

Casey Dreier: Let's move on to the next section which talks about identifying, we're building on basically what you use as an example, Gray Zones in space governance. So they identify what I would say three major areas and even a few sub areas within those, but first they start with this discussion, which I think may be on the minds of a lot of our listeners, which is don't we have governance in space through the outer space treaty and the various other, they point out, I think UN Charter applies in space and we have laws and there's space lawyers and things that we can and can't do in space. What are we missing here? Why is that not good enough? Can we talk about some of the ideas of, particularly the outer space treaty, what is it not doing that we need it to be doing, I guess, in this situation?

Laura Delgado López: I think part of it just boils down to any instrument of this nature is going to reflect the time it was created in. And so this was the Cold War, and so one of the biggest concerns was nuclear warfare. So you will notice that nuclear weapons are one of the few things that are expressly called out as you shall not do. And the fact that so many countries, including the two superpowers engaged in the middle of the Cold War could agree to that. It was a big win, but they weren't necessarily thinking about, oh, what about this other type and what about ground based anti satellite weapons that are not violating the treaty because they're not in orbit and they're not weapons of mass destruction? So I think some of it is we have reached a point where we are able to do things in space that our predecessors could just not have imagined. So I think we owe them a little bit of grace. It isn't just evil superpowers trying to find loopholes. It's also, I think, just that we could not have envisioned that. But I think that's my way of saying some of the issues that we have today are the lack of specificity and language that, yes, is part of law. It's not a wild wild west, but there's so many scenarios we can think of that are way more complicated and that are just not envisioned in that original language.

Casey Dreier: Something that was a good reminder for me in this paper they point out that the definition of peaceful use is never made in the outer space treaty and it's left up to signatories to define that themselves, much less of course, there's no real enforcement mechanism broadly for the treaty as well. The idea here that you're bringing up this, I think that's a good point, we can give them a little grace when they put this together in-

Jack Kiraly: In 1967.

Casey Dreier: Right, in 1967 when I was just, I think Apollo computer had just been finished and that was a 10 billion crash project to make a computer that could fit into a telephone booth. And obviously now we've made a few strides in that area. And also just the number of participants in space and companies and also the deployment of, as you were using as an example earlier, these assets for communication and navigation that are just integrated in our pockets, they clearly couldn't... Even Star Trek thought that these strike orders were these big clunky things. They identify, again, I want to talk about these three major Gray Zone areas because I think we've been acknowledging them a little bit, but let's list them out that they talk about. They identify one as the Earth space continuum, which we've acknowledged a little earlier. The idea that anything in space has to get to Earth somehow, whether it's through computers. So you open up cyber warfare issues. Data and data spoofing, which I thought was, I hadn't thought about that before. Manipulating data that is otherwise used for AI training or geographic analysis. And then strategic early warning and nuclear weapons, which is always a good shield down one's spine of what identifies that. So this intersection, and I think this is what you've been talking about a lot, Laura, this space is this cross domain issue, and that's what I'm trying to say very inelegantly, this idea that we've cordoned off space as this separate thing in a way that doesn't really acknowledge how it's used. And they raised, and this is what I found interesting, several instances in this paper about finding pushback from various nations within the UN structure of trying to talk about space cross sectional issues like this within areas not classically associate like cyber warfare because it's "not a space domain." Do you think that's a purposeful convenience or just a genuine misunderstanding about how space is relevant? And maybe that's too broad of an ask for you to make, but it could be maybe both.

Laura Delgado López: Because I'm going to punt and I'm going to say both. I think in some cases some actors are going to benefit from saying, Nope, we're not going to talk about that here. I think one example is even in the UN where a lot of this comes together, one of the debates has been, okay, COPIUS, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, it's in the title, should only be for the peaceful uses of outer space. And then it's in the conference on this armament that you're going to address security issues. And then it's been years of the conversation trying to point out well, but it's not clear. And then also these issues are impinging on peaceful uses, so you can't just let something like scope defined in a very particular time in history inhibit where you need to take conversation today. So I think it's both. It's probably both.

Casey Dreier: Yeah, and it's just also this reminder that these are not, we're drawing these borders around these topics for discussion. They're all very porous into each other and the interfaces into them are constantly changing. And I think that's the essence of if you limit your policy making to cyber warfare without the acknowledgement of what satellites in space are doing and whether you define that or clarify acceptable and unacceptable activities, that's I think that absence of governance that they're highlighting and that's a functionally then a choice of how we as people are governance structures themselves choose to engage on these issues. And that's where, again, this overall outer space is everywhere starts to really have that deeper meaning to it, I think, as we look at this. I'm going to move forward a little bit. Is there any really other important aspects of this particular section just of identifying these Gray Zones that are worth discussing? Because I think we can intuitively mention it. Maybe the last bit, the humans in the loop, which I found interesting, this idea. I mean, at the end of the day, what you said earlier, Laura, nothing means anything without someone to perceive it, which is an interesting solipsistic philosophy, I think, but valuable for someone needs to be worried about.

Laura Delgado López: The tree falls in the forest.

Casey Dreier: Yeah, exactly.

Laura Delgado López: I mean there's a little bit of that for sure, but no, I think that's a really important point just because I think back to some of the other topics that you all talk about more frequently in Planetary Science World, some of the issues that we had with some of the major NASA programs were down to human error. So removing humans out of that loop just seems bizarre, but we do, and so I found it really valuable that they point that out, that even in our standard definition of a space system, we think very much of the hardware and the communications pieces and the data flowing and all that, we don't think of humans in that loop, but they absolutely are.

Casey Dreier: And they really, again, go on to this more discussion of the human protection, particularly for civilians. I like this point they make here that there remains a significant gap between governance that protects civilian during times of war, and the reality that civilian harm can come from these activities below this threshold is what we were acknowledging earlier. And that's also just astonishing to me that that hasn't made it into that discussion, and I think this, whether that's intentional or not, that is the essence of the motivation really behind this paper, I think, of this. How is this impacting, as you keep saying, Laura, groups of people who may not even really think about the fact that this is a space-based issue?

Laura Delgado López: And that the impacts are going to be disproportionate, right? If you think about a country like Chile investing in space, it is such a huge country. It has completely different climate zones. It has no other option to really reach some of its most remote communities in terms of telecommunications basic services if it were not for space. So if conflict were to happen or, again, these cases where we talked about that occur in the Gray Zone where it's maybe involving a commercial actor or maybe it's involving a partner nation on which Chile depends to receive access to some of these capabilities, then it is those remote communities that are going to suffer. And they're not even going to know or be participating in the conversation to really protect those interests.

Casey Dreier: I mean, Chile is basically one long beach protected by mountains, so not the easiest to put cell phones, towers and other ways of communication. That's really wonderful, the role of geography in terms of how this impacts some of the state and remote communities within that geography. This is actually an area that I really wish, that I would've liked to see much more discussion about in this paper, that they state this a few times, and I think you just provided a really wonderful example of how that would play out. That's something I could have seen more of. I would've appreciated a little bit more of examples because I think that's so critical to this overall argument and understanding the mechanisms by which, and I wonder if that would help inform some of the direction of policy then to move forward. What are the most threatened communities that could happen through these activities based on examples like you just given? And does that help prioritize some of the activities moving forward, I think, would give some extra shape and value to the paper as a baseline for action subsequently.

Jack Kiraly: I mean, if not better defines the problem, defines the motivations for other nations to participate in a standard setting process, that you then have that momentum. We don't want to be making rules after a cataclysmic event happens and disenfranchises or disconnects people in remote parts of the world or people in urban areas or whatever the specific Gray Zone attack results in. We want to be thinking forward about it. And I think it's mentioned a few times in here, the Artemis Accords as this model, right, of this is, that's specifically about the moon and about the return of humans to the moon and future use of the moon. But that maybe is in part a model of, well, it's the United States spending the lion's share of the money, the huge majority of the money to return humans to the moon, but is making a concerted effort to engage now 34 other countries in establishing those norms. Something similar, right, needs to happen. Clearly there are 34 countries. A lot of them do have space industries or have something within their nation that may benefit from the Artemis program or broadly US investment and space exploration. But there's a lot that aren't. Notably, there's nations in Africa who are just now on that emerging trend in being involved in space and they see it as this aspirational thing, as this thing that they as a nation want to be a part of. And I think part of that motivation is ensuring security and safety for future generations. And that's, again, this is only specifically Artemis, but I think this applies more broadly to space security and to addressing this Gray Zone, is that there are incentives already built in. We don't have to come up all the time with new reasons to keep people involved, but it's about engaging people on the ground level, on Earth. What are the benefits to us solving this problem here and now and what are those norms and who's going to take the lead in developing it? Again, I think one of the underpinning themes that we're talking about is these things aren't just going to happen. There's not just going to be the next outer space treaty going to come on down and everyone's just going to sign it. No one's going to know who authored it. There is going to be authors of it, right. There's going to be a motivating force behind that and how we can leverage the intrinsic motivations within nations around the world to better humanity as well as the maybe economic and prestige motivations in the great powers and emerging powers that have already, I'll say, seen the light, seen what space can do for them as a society. But it really does affect all 8 billion people. And so all 8 billion people should have a part in solving this problem.

Laura Delgado López: And I think one thing I struggle with and I don't have an answer is it costs something to engage in those discussions. And we've touched on so many. Another one that I know is emerging is the idea of the dark and quiet skies to be able to do astronomy and all that stuff. I wouldn't put that in the same, no one's asking me, but I wouldn't put that in the same category in terms of priority as the one we just talked about with those communities, remote communities being able to access critical services. If someone were to ask me, we could come up with criteria for how you prioritize. I think it's going to be very dependent on a given nation. But I do worry about, we're talking very positively about this wave of all these different actors engaging. I do worry about losing stamina and the fact that countries have, especially small countries, have to prioritize and focus on specific things, that it's going to get very diluted and that we're going to maybe not make as much progress in areas that are very ripe for progress like space debris mitigation and management and space traffic management because it got so diluted that we're talking about terraforming on Mars or whatever, which is fascinating, also important to definitely do it, figure out those principles and those governance structures before we go, but I just personally wouldn't put on the same list right now.

Jack Kiraly: And that sparked a thought in, there's the section about what space means for us humans and the culture that underpins everything that we do. We all are a part of a culture somewhere, and that space has been a part of humanity for as long as there's been a humanity, we've looked up. And there is something that happens, and I think maybe this illustrates a problem, maybe an impediment to future agreements is especially within our communities, the space enthusiast community, we often put very high priority on those things. Astronomy, planetary science, security in space, the access to the high frontier. We put all these priorities on those things, and that does not always translate to the people in positions of power. It can be the most important thing to you. And this is, I mean, I think just part of being a good advocate, is it may be the most important thing to you, but that doesn't mean that it has to be or that it is the most important thing for somebody else. But meeting somewhere where it is important to them and important to you is, I think, one of the benefits that space has. I mean, you get as many space advocates or people in a room, they all have a reason to support space. Some of them it's commercial, some of them it's national security, some of them it's scientific, some of them it's academic, but everyone has a reason. But we have to find those reasons to build that consensus. And you're right, terraforming Mars, huge topic that I know a lot of people within our community very excited about the prospect of these large aspirational goals, but that's not everybody's large aspirational goal. For some people, it's making sure that their community is connected to the rest of the world through the internet and making sure that whatever governance structure we come up with for whatever it is in access to space, that we are prioritizing the things and not belittling. And I feel like I do see this sometimes that like, oh, well, they're not really a space enthusiast and they believe in this other thing, so it's not important so they shouldn't be part of the conversation. And that's just not the right tone. I mean, we live in a diverse and multicultural society and thinking about these problems in an intersectional way is important to solving them these problems to begin with, otherwise you don't even have the buy-in to get started.

Laura Delgado López: And I think to just quickly on that last point, it's not just a matter of, oh, you're allowing certain people to participate. It's also that you should recognize that the way a lot of these governance structures and framers are going to be tested is whether they're following the rules as well, whether they're invested enough. So when we think about debris again, we know that you don't have to be that sophisticated to screw it up. And so that should be part of the incentive to get as many of the actors to participate as well. But yeah, I think that comes back to something that motivates a lot of my work is understanding what are those priorities of the different countries. The fact that they are different, the fact that they're going to be very context-dependent is going to show up here. As we move along the paper, one of the things I like about the recommendations they make on how to color in the gray is that they're not specific to an issue. Defining what peaceful use means cuts across a bunch of different things, but then some of the others, transparency, national governance, I think they're going to be useful no matter what issue you're trying to address. And so they didn't prioritize the Gray Zone challenges, which maybe I would've liked perhaps, but I also still think that it's very valuable that the recommendations that they gave, I think could be useful across the board.

Casey Dreier: That's a really fascinating perspective about the application of it, and it's almost like a framework for solving these than giving specific answers for it. So I mean, we're firmly into this. It's coloring the gray, the last section here where they say, what can we do to reduce these Gray Zones? And I think clarifying use. Now, some of these though at the same time, easy to say, but maybe very difficult to implement. I'm like, well, let's just decide what to say was peaceful use or not. This is where I wonder if that's the activity of attempting to do it has inherent value even if you can't necessarily get to a really strong outcome because even acknowledging the issue seems to get you closer to solving it in some way. So these rules of peaceful use, they said identifying threatening and non-threatening activities. Again, always a challenge. Mariel Borowitz, who was on the show in the past has written a lot about the inherent dual nature of everything in space that moves at 17,000 miles an hour. Everything is a kinetic impactor if you want it to be, but I think that's where intent and openness. So that was the one thing I wanted to mention here was that what struck me is inherently the fundamental baseline of approach is just being open and the data sharing and integrative and allowing inputs, but also to say, here's what we're doing, here's what we're doing. And that's almost in a way so simplistic but amazing that just gets you so far. And I think this wraps way back at the beginning of this discussion, Laura, of your concept of intent. Can you establish trust and intent? And I guess you just do that by saying what you're doing a lot and then doing what you say.

Laura Delgado López: And doing what you're saying, exactly. And I think also establishing parallel and appropriate ways of communicating. So for example, the PLA shouldn't be calling NASA to let them know of some military space exercise they're going to do. No. They need to contact their counterpart in the space force or in wherever it might be. NASA is more appropriate talking to another civil operator. And so I think evolving those channels because I think it's going to just help build in more trust or contain the mistrust into something that, okay, we have a way to verify whatever you're saying. And I think where technology is going to be helpful is as our ability to say, for example, improve our space situational awareness, that is going to help build in that trust even if there isn't inherent trust among the countries and the actors, because others are going to be able to verify what's going on.

Casey Dreier: I was actually surprised I didn't see more discussion of that particular of space situational awareness in this paper because if you have an open accessible database that you are readily sharing very accurately of everything that you're tracking in space that can help reduce ambiguity of was this an intentional collision versus an accidental collision? And that seems really relevant to this issue. I want to just go back to this little discussion on defining the peaceful use of space because this is where can you say if spoofing or dazzling spy satellites or cyber attacks are explicitly non peaceful, and that's what their idea is, can you color in these spaces? Can you reduce what we would consider a Gray Zone? And that, again, by definition is basically nations limiting their tool set. And this is what I was curious about. You're asking nations to limit what they're able to do in the realm of acceptable or semi acceptable activity. And that's a lot. It can be seemingly a lot to ask people or nations to voluntarily limit themselves like that. So I don't know if there is a pathway there, but I mean we clearly have seen it in the past for very, very destructive things. And they give some examples of previous agreements they note here, Chemical Weapons Convention, I think they also highlighted some of the issues around air pollution and others. But those are pretty nasty things. And I wonder if things that don't instinctively create some kind of fear or loathing in human existence is going to be powerful enough to get us over that hump in terms of self denial of action.

Laura Delgado López: I think the momentum we've seen recently on kinetic anti satellite testing is probably the closest to what we've come to something like that. And I think it comes from the same logic that right now destroying other satellites doesn't give you that big of a military advantage and comes at really high risk for orbits that you yourself want to use. And so it seems to be garnering significant support, 37 as of last year, the end of last year, I believe. And if you get into the nuances, to your point about restricting behavior, the US, which started this whole process isn't necessarily saying we're not developing them. They're saying we're not testing them. But it shifts it away from the technology and the thing that you can label as a gun or not into the behavior and the act of testing, there's just no way to define that as peaceful. I think the shift to behavior is very positive. I think we will hopefully get into technologies that are more fuzzy, like the types that are going to do rendezvous and proximity operations. But if their intended use is X and there is transparency and then there's a way to verify and there's all these other things, then we don't necessarily need to jump to oh, it could be repurposed to, well, it could be, but hopefully we can build a framework around it. Let me put it this way, creating the incentives that it isn't.

Jack Kiraly: And is there trust, right? Is there trust in that transparency that a capability is being developed that could have military application, that could have a violent application in space? And do you trust your partners? Have you built that bilateral or multilateral relationship to say, I know they could, but I trust that they won't.

Laura Delgado López: And I think the complicating, one of the complicating themes here is going to be that the private sector and that in countries where for historical reasons, for good and bad reasons, there might not be trust of private sector actors. And in the world we're in today, you are going to have to trust the country under which other jurisdiction is that they're saying they're going to do A and not do B. But inherently you might not trust the commercial sector actor. So I do recognize that that raises a lot of complications. So how do you build trust to a company like SpaceX? That is going to be a challenge. I have no easy answers for that.

Casey Dreier: I want to just mention one or two more things before we wrap up here. We talked about earlier, stronger domestic governance. And I think, Laura, you highlighted and, Jack, through your discussion of the Artemis Accords, give two examples of how that can happen. So countries themselves can just improve the overall behavior because it's a sense everyone in space, because everyone orbits everyone else, can help improve and set standards and norms of behavior, which they also identify here, norms of behavior, improving communication and data sharing, enhanced cooperation. Just lots of this, I don't know, meat and potatoes governance work and communication. And I just want to highlight one thing at the end here that threw me a bit for a loop, which is at the beginning of this section of coloring the gray, they said maybe Gray Zones actually aren't all bad. Maybe it's okay to have some. They said flexible rules can be reinterpreted. Facilitating evolution in governance and arguments for the tolerance and management of Gray Zones. It also can allow certain types of activities to go without having to provoke a serious violent response or start a conflict. Having some kind of ambiguity may actually be useful. I just wanted to mention that because it threw me for a loop at the end of this about getting rid of Gray Zones. Like, well, maybe not all of them and maybe some of them at times are okay. I don't know if anyone wants to add anything to that, but I just thought I'd mention it as an interesting counterpoint to remember. And maybe if one had to critique a paper, and one wanted to, that may be what area they might want to critique. Like maybe this isn't all that bad to have some ambiguity. That gives people some flexibility in case they mess up or need time to reset.

Jack Kiraly: I would just say that it at least acknowledges that even terrestrially, our activities, military and civilian activities, there are still Gray Zones and we've been doing these things for tens of thousands of years and there are still Gray Zones. And I think it acknowledges that there is never going to be a perfect paradigm, and we need to allow for that human error, for those opportunities, for things to maybe go wrong a little. That we acknowledge that that's going to happen, but not in a way that then causes a cataclysmic event or hurts future use in a peaceful use of space and give people that opportunity. We just need to, I think it just acknowledges the fact that there's always going to be a little gray and maybe part of it is good to be part of the gray.

Laura Delgado López: I agree with that. And I would add that part of it is, I think, recognizing that if we were to say today, oh, we're going to list every possible use, every possible scenario before we wrap this thing up with a bow, we're never going to be done. And so it's where can we get to agreement now that helps reduce the death of that gray, but allows us to revisit it in 20, 30 years when we're hopefully still around or 50 or whatever it is. And then I think to what Jack was trying to say, I would hate to draw that red line in such a big bold color that if something were to happen, a country couldn't say, well, I don't want to retaliate, or I don't want to take that action. I want to pursue this other path. If that country feels pressure because the system's built in a certain way, then I don't think that's going to succeed anyway.

Casey Dreier: Excellent point. So Laura, you brought this paper to us. We had a good amount of time, and thank you for your time to talk about it. I'd like to leave you with the last word if you want to wrap up and summarize some of what we felt or you felt through this discussion and about the paper itself and maybe how you're going to use this paper in your work going forward and how you think people should really integrate this.

Laura Delgado López: Thank you for being willing to go through it with me. It's one of those things where you read something that excites you, that makes you think, and you want to talk about it with other people. So I appreciate that opportunity. I still think, for me, the value is, one, it taught me something how to approach the topic, but it's also very practical. And I live in this world where I'm trying to deepen understanding about what's going on in a certain region of the world and also just go back to the so what, because there's so many things going on. And so I really appreciate this paper giving me just examples, ammunition, just really useful explanations and things that I can use in that dialogue to, like I point out in the paper that we referenced earlier, that's in Space News, why should something like space security that is so seemingly so separate from the day-to-day lives that I think are important, that is why it's important, why they matter. So thank you for the opportunity and we could have kept talking about this for a few more hours. So I look forward to listening to other episodes with other papers.

Casey Dreier: Well, thank you Laura. It was a delight to have you. Really enjoyed the paper and best of luck on your research and leave from NASA this year at CSIS, and I look forward to reading the work that you produce from that. Maybe we'll have you on to talk about that in a year or so. So best of luck to you.

Laura Delgado López: Thank you so much.

Casey Dreier: That was Laura Delgado Lopez. Again, you can find this paper online at So thank you for joining us this month. As always, you can find more episodes of this show, The Space Policy Edition, as well as our weekly show, Planetary Radio, all at or in pretty much any major podcast distribution network. If you like what you're hearing today, if you like this show, please consider subscribing, sharing it, or even giving us a review on those networks. It really helps other people find this content. The Space Policy Edition is a production of The Planetary Society, which employs both me and Jack and is a member-supported, independent nonprofit space outreach organization based in Pasadena, California. Anyone can join us and memberships start at just $4 a month at So until next month, Jack, ad astra.

Jack Kiraly: Ad astra.