The NewSpace State: The Commercial Space Sector & State Formation in Outer Space

Authors: Rory Rowan*, University of Zurich
Topics: Political Geography, Economic Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: Outer Space, NewSpace, State Formation, Extraction, Neoliberalism, State Theory
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon B2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


One of the dominant narratives surrounding the so-called ‘second space age’ is that the emergence of NewSpace – the rapidly expanding commercial space– has marked a profound shift in the human presence beyond Earth. Indeed, the transition from space exploration, monopolized by powerful nation states - leveraging science and spectacle off-Earth to gain geopolitical power and prestige on it - to space exploitation, where corporate interests competing for profits play an increasingly important role, is arguably the most significant shift in the organization of social relations in outer space in the post-Cold War/post-Apollo era. Nonetheless, there is a risk that narratives emphasizing the novelty of NewSpace overlook the continued centrality of nation states in shaping human activity and social relations in extra-planetary space. Indeed, the role of the state is perhaps nowhere more important than with regard to the emerging NewSpace sector. This paper seeks to explore the changing relationship between private industry and state formations in outer space. More specifically it examines how the emergence of NewSpace extractive industries has relied upon, and effected, transformations in the imaginaries, practices and structures of ‘spacefaring’ states, both new and old, taking the United States, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates as case studies. Is it possible today to speak of the ‘NewSpace state’ as a particular state formation emerging around the commercial space sector? Can these transformations be understood in relation to existing (earthly) patterns of neoliberal governance or might they mark a shift in the structure of state power.

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