When Hurricane Katrina reached New Orleans in 2005, U.S. disaster relief agencies asked the world for satellite images to survey the flooding. The first to convey the damage’s extent arrived from a Nigerian-owned satellite.
U.S. officials recognized this moment 17 years later at the inaugural U.S.-Africa Space Forum. The December 2022 conference spotlighted the Rwanda Space Agency’s new teleport and satellite antenna and Nigeria’s plan to provide nationwide broadband internet by 2025. The forum also welcomed Nigeria and Rwanda as the first African nations to sign the Artemis Accords, furthering the international reach of space exploration.
To space entrepreneur Dylan Taylor, the signing represented another significant juncture on the global road toward peaceful space exploration.
“The more collaboration we leverage to solve complex problems for all of humanity’s sake, the better our collective chances are to thrive in space and on Earth,” Taylor said.
Taylor, chairman and CEO of Voyager Space, is among the NewSpace economy’s guiding voices. His company drives innovation in satellite technology, communication and visualization systems, propulsion solutions, and more. Voyager Space also is a partner in Starlab, the next-generation space station meant to replace the International Space Station.
Taylor has long advocated for greater cooperation between governments and the private sector to safeguard and scale the space economy. Yet limited legislation, a lack of standardized practices, and continuing threats to militarize space endangers these efforts. Dylan Taylor believes the Artemis Accords are vital to address those concerns.
NASA drafted the Artemis Accords in 2020, and eight nations initially signed the blueprint for future exploration. The name references NASA’s Artemis Mission, which intends to land humans on the Moon and Mars.
Building on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the Artemis Accords outline principles for global collaboration in space. They address key points such as “deconflicting” space exploration, limiting and disposing of orbital debris, providing emergency assistance among agencies, and delivering timely and transparent public information regarding missions. Most important, the Artemis Accords reaffirm that signatories use space “exclusively for peaceful purposes.”
Taylor sees the Artemis Accords as a necessary next step following the Outer Space Treaty, conceived when private space exploration was unthinkable. Today, national space agencies collaborate with the private sector to launch rockets and satellites, build space stations, and develop technology allowing humans to inhabit the Moon and Mars.
“To have a Cold War-era, 1960s treaty to govern space commerce doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Taylor said. “I think most people agree, we needed to modernize those policies.”
Twenty-three nations have signed the Artemis Accords, underscoring their long-term mission through a broad stakeholder base. Artemis seeks to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon. The 2022 launch of the uncrewed Artemis I mission included participation from the European, Italian, Israeli, and Japanese space agencies.
“Through the Artemis program, the United States is building the broadest and most diverse international human space exploration coalition in history….” U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said.
As a space entrepreneur and citizen astronaut — he flew aboard Blue Origin’s NS-19 mission in 2021 —Taylor has pursued many of the Artemis Accords’ principles in the private sector. Taylor views the International Space Station as one of humanity’s great success stories, one that should win the Nobel Peace Prize, and envisions Starlab continuing its legacy as an international research hub.
The Accords recommend that nations deploy interoperable systems to improve safety, sustainability, and collaboration. Similarly, Dylan Taylor notes that several companies in the Voyager Space Holdings ecosystem are sharing ideas and technology to clean space debris and harvest oxygen from moon rock.
As the Accords seek transparency, so too does Taylor. In 2020 Voyager launched an IP Exchange to share dormant or unfunded mission ideas and technologies. The exchange serves as a marketplace for creative thinking.
And Taylor has supported the Accords’ global objectives through Space for Humanity, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to space. Space for Humanity’s Citizen Astronaut Program has sponsored two unique missions. In 2022, Katya Echazarreta became the first Mexican-born female to fly to space, and Sara Sabry became the first person from Egypt to cross the Kármán line.
According to Dylan Taylor, the Artemis Accords will ultimately bring space exploration into a new collaborative age. More participating nations will mean more investment and innovation. That will create more stakeholders to address climate change, expand broadband’s reach, and maintain security at home. What’s more, Taylor said, the Accords ratify that space is for all.
“Everyone seems to be universally impacted by this experience,” he said. “I haven’t met a single person who’s been to space who hasn’t said it had a dramatic impact on their life. It’s a perspective-shifter for sure.”