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Published:16 October 2002
Origin:IAA, World Space Conference, 16 October 2002 (Updated from a version previously presented at Space 2002, 17 March 2002)

Ethical issues have become increasingly important to the modern business community. Respected professional organizations, as well as successful companies, have already adopted formalized codes of ethics and standards. Within these professional organizations, all members and employees adhere to their respective corporate ethical codes. Similar to terrestrial businesses, the commercial space industry must develop its own code of ethics. Although advanced space commercialization may still be a few years away from economic reality, now is the time to establish guidelines for corporate ethics and business practices. This formative period provides a unique opportunity to ensure a future conduct that will facilitate ethical and profitable space commercialization. In addition, now is the time to help businesses understand that by adopting an ethical approach to space commercialization, they are enhancing their companies' profit potential.

A successful code of ethics should not only be voluntary, it must facilitate the work and expansion of individual businesses, rather than hinder their efforts toward providing products and services. A properly designed code of ethics ensures the development of space commerce unfettered by government created barriers. This code of ethics encourages and supports businesses oriented toward off-Earth development. Indeed, one of the inherent risks facing expansion of the commercial space industry is that, if the industry does not develop its own effective and supportive professional code of ethics, government imposed regulations or laws will fill the void. Should this occur, the creation of new barriers to space commerce is likely, making future development far more difficult. This code seeks to help businesses avoid the imposition of new barriers to space commerce as well as make new commercial business ventures easier to develop. The proposed code is also capable of evolving with input from those advocating and planning commercial space ventures. Consideration of this code should begin the process of critical thinking to move decision makers beyond the "bottom line" or shortsighted technical and engineering concerns. Though the bottom line is extremely important to all businesses and especially to those engaging in space development, it should not be the sole focus of the company. By paying attention to other equally important aspects of the business, including personnel, management, ethics, and strategy, the company helps to ensure a bottom line that draws strength from all of its business operations.

As acceptance and use of this proposed code of ethics grows within the industry, modifications will be necessary to accommodate the variety of businesses entering space commerce. Furthermore, the terminology used in this code is consistent with that which is widely used today within the terrestrial business community. This uniformity will help to assure that the code will not be perceived as foreign in nature, potentially restrictive, or threatening. Companies adopting this code of ethics will find less resistance to their space development plans, not only in the United States, but also from non-space faring nations. Less resistance means the company can commit more of its resources to implementing its business plans rather than addressing political or regulatory issues. Commercial space companies accepting and refining this code demonstrate industry leadership and an understanding that will serve future generations living, working and playing in space. Space business companies following the ethical guidelines suggested here bring the development of an advanced space economy that much closer to reality.

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