Monaco in space

For this new Space Law article on Space Legal Issues, let us have a look at Monaco and its space program. How is the Principality doing in space? Has it signed and ratified the Outer Space Treaty? Does the microstate have any space assets? Let us have a look!

INTRODUCTION

Monaco’s history is marked by invasions but also by its neighbors’ influence, Italy and France. Monaco is a microstate. The Rock, as it is nicknamed, is a principality which has adopted its Constitution on December 17th, 1962 (modified in 2002) after a diplomatic crisis with General DE GAULLE’S France. In 1993, that microstate rejoins the Concert of Nations by being officially accepted in the U.N. (United Nations). Eleven years later, the principality enters a bit more in the international stage by joining Europe’s Council.

Under Prince Albert II’s impulsion, the environment and the themes linked to sustainable development are the priorities of the Monegasque State’s Politics, on the national and the international plan. The princely government’s actions concern the importance of biodiversity, resources’ management, the reduction of greenhouse gas and a policy determined in favor of a sustainable city. Prince Albert II’s determination in favor of sustainable development of the principality results in his government’s actions, whether it is the preservation of biodiversity, resources’ management or the implementation of a climate-energy plan. The State’s services contribute every day in their missions of public service to implement all or part of that policy.

Among those missions, the implementation of many international agreements and conventions ratified by the Principality, such as the Kyoto protocol or more recently, the Paris Agreement. The Kyoto protocol, signed in 1997, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The objective was to reduce by five percent 1990’s level between 2009 and 2012. That protocol has come to complete the framework convention of the U.N. on climate change.

The Paris Agreement is the first agreement on climate universally approved. The main objective is to reinforce the worldwide answer to the threat that is climate change by maintaining the increase of the world’s temperature to a level inferior to two degrees Celsius in comparison to pre-industrial levels and to keep trying to limit the world’s temperature under one and a half degree Celsius. The Paris Agreement was opened to sign on April 22nd, 2016 — which is Earth Day — at the U.N.’s headquarters in NEW YORK. It came into effect on November 4th, 2016, thirty days after the “double threshold” was reached (the double threshold being a ratification by fifty-five countries representing at least fifty-five percent of worldwide emissions). Since then, even more countries have ratified the agreement and keep doing it, reaching a total of one hundred and twenty-five parties at the beginning of 2017. To this day, one hundred and eighty-three countries out of one hundred and ninety-seven countries have ratified.

Monaco is also a historical member of the Washington Convention on the international trade of endangered wild fauna and flora species, called CITES, whose provisions are implemented through a system of licenses. Finally, the Principality of MONACO actively participates in the preservation of the Mediterranean Sea mainly through the RAMOGE accord, the Pelages sanctuary, the Barcelona Convention. It also welcomes in its midst international entities which are designed for the study and the preservation of marine environment (ACCOBAMIS, AIEA…). Regarding space, MONACO has only signed one of the five international treaties which are devoted to it. It is in 1968 that the Principality signs the treaty on the rescue and return of astronauts and the restitution of objects launched in the extra-atmospheric space.

With the ratification of that treaty, MONACO finds its legitimacy to participate in space conquest. For example, the CEO of SSI Monaco, “a satellite operator of MONACO and an integrated satellite telecommunications services provider,” believes that the faculty to connect more efficiently to Internet and to profit of a more stable and faster connection is a recurring need demanded by the population worldwide. Like water or electricity, connectivity is an expected feature. Moreover, the demand for higher debit is growing. He believes that those demands can be answered by satellites.

MONACO IN SPACE

Thanks to the signature of an agreement between Space Systems International Monaco (SSI Monaco) and Axiom Space which is “an American aerospace manufacturer and orbital spaceflight services company” whose ambition is to develop private spatial flights towards the International Space Station, the Rock has the possibility to send a citizen of MONACO to the ISS (becoming the 19th sovereign nation to send an astronaut there). Nevertheless, that trip, programmed initially in 2020, was reported due to the Corona-virus pandemic.

It’s mainly thanks to the fact that Axiom Space is full of brilliant researchers, scientists and engineers, that this American enterprise is able to position itself on the innovating market that is the space tourism. Having in its ranks experienced astronauts, this enterprise can now give an innovative training so as to allow VIPs to travel in space. SSI Monaco’s new partner boasts about its ability to deliver “a training resembling the one given to people from the NASA.” This training is exclusively taught in English and lasts for tens of weeks (with a few months of training on Earth). The price of the ticket by seat for eight days in the station is fifty-five million American dollars which is equal to almost forty-eight million euros. It’s hard to doubt their words when one studies their professional career: Michael LOPEZ-ALEGRIA, director of the commercial development at Axiom Space, is a former NASA astronaut who has carried out ten EVAs in space during his career, establishing an American record in terms of total duration of extra-vehicular activities, with a total of sixty-seven hours and forty minutes out of the space station.

This very promising partnership between SSI Monaco and Axiom Space would translate on the long term in a throughout study of market for space tourism and the possibility to install a Monegasque space module which would first be attached to the ISS before it would separate from it, thus becoming the first private spatial station (around 2030). With this accord, the Principality enters now the concert of States turned toward space conquest.

The SSI isn’t at its first try. Space conquest of this Monegasque enterprise started in 2004 when the director Ilhami AYGÜN offered to Prince Albert II the project of launching a satellite in orbit which would lead to a historical agreement between the enterprise SSI Monaco and the Monegasque government in 2009. That project is concretized by the launching of the first Monegasque satellite five years after that agreement.

That satellite is the MonacoSAT-1, manufactured by Thales on the Cannes’ SITE and launched from Cape Canaveral in FLORIDA by SpaceX on April 27th, 2015. It is today situated on a position which “belongs” to MONACO as a sovereign State, that position being somewhere in the geostationary orbit (GEO). The enterprise controls its satellite from the Monegasque territory in which their premises are localized. MONACO can be proud to have one of the largest European satellites which is part of the European society of satellites’ (SES) fleet. It covers an area which goes from NORTH AFRICA to CENTRAL ASIA, passing by EUROPE and a part of RUSSIA, which encompasses one and a half billion people. That satellite brings to all those people telecommunications services: telephony, Internet but also and most importantly television services. The MonacoSat-1 is made to last sixteen years but its resources’ good management allows us to think that it could last up to twenty years.

When it will be off service, a second satellite will replace it: the MonacoSAT-2. Indeed, it could be launched by the end of 2022. However we still do not know a lot of things about that second satellite. For example, we do not know when exactly it will be launched, the surface it will cover or the people that will participate in the project. Still, there is no doubt that we should anticipate the fact that it will be bigger, more powerful and that it will cover a larger area while distributing Internet at an ultra-high debit. While waiting for the launching of that future satellite, another Monegasque enterprise participates in the Monegasque space conquest (ORBITAL SOLUTIONS).

On September 2, 2020, the first Monegasque nanosatellite was launched into space on a Vega rocket VV16 from the KOUROU space center in GUYANA with fifty-three others nanosatellites. This is the first European mission to launch several small satellites for ARIANESPACE. The name of the Monegasque CubeSat is OSM-1 CICERO (Community Initiative for Cellular Earth Remote Observation), it has a lifespan of three to five years and fun fact: its size does not exceed the size of a shoe-box and it weighs ten kilos! It took many months because of the COVID-19 crisis and adverse weather conditions for it to finally revolve around Earth. Indeed, the satellite launch was supposed to take place on June 18, 2020. It must join the constellation CICERO for the collection of measurements on the climate.

Its launch in space takes MONACO to a new dimension. This corresponds to a double intention: to encourage technological innovations in favor of the environment and a more rational use of the satellites which are above our heads in outer space. This positions MONACO in “New Space” technologies, which is an asset for the principality. Based on the Tyvak nanosatellite systems design, this nanosatellite was entirely manufactured in MONACO. It is equipped with cutting-edge technologies and will allow to collect valuable information. It carries within it an instrument originally built by the NASA (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) which performs radio-occultation of GPS and Galileo signals provided by GeoOptics, in order to improve weather forecast models. With this technique, the CubeSat manages to collect atmospheric data of temperature and pressure from the ground to the end of the atmosphere. Thus, it is something very precise and very sophisticated.

CICERO circles the Earth every ninety minutes at a speed of twenty-seven thousand kilometers per hour and at an altitude of five hundred and thirty kilometers (LEO). It should be the first in a long line since ORBITAL SOLUTIONS and its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Francesco BONGIOVANNI, aim to launch dozens of others to gather environment and climate data. They deeply wish to involve students from MONACO so that they can come and design a nanosatellite themselves in the FONTVIEILLE laboratory.

ENVIRONMENTAL STRATEGIES

The principality of MONACO is actively engaged in the protection of biodiversity and to succeed, Monaco seats in international authorities which campaign for environmental development and ensure the effective implementation of international Conventions and Agreements, especially the Kyoto protocol and the Paris Agreement. Moreover, the princely government has also internally implemented its own juridical tools in favor of environmental strategies. MONACO’s action in favor of sustainable development can be summed up in three main points:

  • Management of natural heritage. So as to preserve biodiversity, MONACO has made the management of natural heritage one of the pillars of its sustainable development policy. Located at the edge of the MEDITERRANEAN Sea, the principality protects its marine space as well as all its territorial waters. The Principality has, on top of international laws, implemented a legislation on its own in favor of his objectives for the environment. MONACO also has a Maritime Code for the protection of its sea floor;
  • The implementation of an energy-climate plan. A good protection of the environment depends inevitably on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. So as to achieve that goal, MONACO has undertaken an internal policy which prioritizes the consumption of renewable energies which has for consequences the progressive reduction of greenhouse gas’ impact on the ecosystem and reach carbon neutrality in 2050;
  • Actions in favor of a sustainable city. The Monegasque government also ensures the quality of life in the city-State. For that, water and waste managements are key-elements of life in MONACO and with the adhesion and the engagement of the population at the side of the government. The princely government ensures the conservation of the quality of the marine and terrestrial ecosystem by carrying out monitoring of all activities like bathing, noises, and controls of the quality of air…

Conscious of the importance to protect the fauna and flora, the Principality, on top of permanent daily actions for the conservation of the biodiversity, enacts the law n° 1.456 of December 12th, 2017 which could be considered as the environmental Code of Monaco. That law applies in the city as well as the Maritime Code and all international conventions ratified.

THE ROCK, PROTECTOR OF THE SEA: A GOOD SIGN FOR SPACE?

On May 28th, 1993, MONACO signed and ratified the Montego Bay Convention dealing with sea law. In 2012, the election of MONACO at the presidency of the Reunion of States parties at the Convention of the United Nations on the sea law has been perceived as a token of appreciation of the contact politic of the principality in favor of the protection of seas and oceans as well as a mark of trust in its capacity to direct projects of that magnitude. That competence has been particularly recognized when MONACO presided the Sixth Commission of the U.N.’s General Assembly in the autumn of 2010. Finally, with the RAMOGE Agreement and the Barcelona Convention, MONACO has even more actively participated to the conservation of its waters and thus, by extension, of the MEDITERRANEAN Sea. In fact, the RAMOGE Agreement reunites the cities of the PACA Region, the city of MONACO and the cities of ITALY. The goal is to become a pilot area in conservation and in fighting the pollution in marine environment. Thus, a multidisciplinary cooperation, which involves territorial administration, scientific institutions, users of the sea, has been established to conduct joint actions. Parties at the RAMOGE Agreement commit to an integrated management of their coastal areas and to heighten awareness.

The Principality is an area rooted at the edge of the MEDITERRANEAN Sea, which is why it is essential for the city to protect its maritime space. From the 1970s, MONACO has set a goal for itself: to protect its marine environment. It has thus created a marine reserve of 50 hectares in the LARVOTTO (a residential borough in MONACO). MONACO’s environmental direction implemented programs of inventory and monitoring of marine and terrestrial species, which will allow it to assess the pertinence of the measures that it takes.

This article was written by Yacine BENARAB, Aurélien CORNE, Julie DODIN, Rémy JIN, Kévin MAYELE, Hawawou Modjissola SADISSOU and Flavien SALGADO (Paris-Saclay).