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IR4583   The International Relations of Outer Space

Academic year(s): 2024-2025

Key information

SCOTCAT credits : 30

ECTS credits : 15

Level : SCQF level 10

Semester: 2

Planned timetable: Tues 10am-12pm Thurs 10am-12pm

Outer space is central to life on Earth. Access to space is rapidly expanding, with a growing number of states and commercial operators involved in space launch and myriad satellite applications, as well as emerging opportunities for space mining, tourism, and even human habitation on the Moon or Mars. As such, outer space is inextricably implicated in the social, political, economic, and legal processes that characterise relations within and between communities. This module examines outer space as a key domain for contemporary global politics through a bi-focal approach. It applies International Relations theories and concepts to assess current and future operations in Earth orbit and beyond. Equally, it uses space activities to examine key themes including great power rivalries, the nature of power and (in)security, the development and impact of law, the interaction of state and non-state forms of agency, and the potential transformation of sovereignty and political identity.

Relationship to other modules

Pre-requisite(s): Before taking this module you must pass IR2006

Learning and teaching methods and delivery

Weekly contact: 1 2-hour seminar (x 10 weeks); 0.5-hour of pre-recorded lecture material (x 10 weeks) In Week 11, all students will convene for a three-hour research workshop where they will present their final research projects

Scheduled learning hours: 28

Guided independent study hours: 272

Assessment pattern

As used by St Andrews: Coursework = 100%

Re-assessment: Examination = 100%


Module coordinator: Dr A S Bower
Module teaching staff: Dr Adam Bower

Intended learning outcomes

  • A diligent student completing the requirements of this module will acquire: > A basic understanding of the physical features of outer space, properties of orbit, and principles of space flight;
  • > Knowledge of the range of spacefaring actors and activities;
  • > Knowledge of the legal, normative, and organisational structures that characterise contemporary international space governance;
  • > An appreciation for the complex interplay of competition and cooperation in space;
  • > Further opportunities to refine their research, writing, and presentation skills in various formats.