From Sea to Outer Space and Back: Political, Economic, and Environmental Considerations for Ocean-Based Space Launching Activities
The connection between space activities and the marine domain exists since the early days of the Space Era. Auxiliary tasks such as position tracking, telecommunications, and space object recovery conducted by vessels and installations were already part of the routine since the 1960s. Eventually, various experimental and operational rocket launchings were being carried out by vessels, submarines, as well as platforms, though mainly suborbital. During the last decades, a new trend has emerged that entails not only launching but also landing of space objects from and at the seas (hereafter “Ocean-Based Space Activities” – OBSAs). Such a kind of activity involves various advantages in financial, safety, and operational terms, but since it has not been widely practiced or studied, there are certain potential threats and knowledge gaps that ought to be examined further on. The scope of this paper is to highlight the prospects and dangers for Launching States on the one hand and on the other to emphasize on the priorities and rights of Coastal States and other ocean users.