The Common Volumetric Accord

The Common Volumetric Accord is simply the current agreement (under the protocols of the Accord) concerning what will be considered sovereign territory among star nations, what will be recognized as free space, open to the passage of all, and what is not normally claimable as such. The Common Volumetric Accord implements the following basic principles:

  • In the situation in which one polity, or inter-polity coordinating body, controls a star system:
    • Sovereignty over that star system shall extend as a sphere one light-day (Imperial Standard Time)1 in radius from the primary star of that system; and likewise from any secondary, tertiary, etc., stars of that system, defined for the purposes of this Accord as self-luminous bodies exceeding in mass 2.4 x 1028 kg.
    • To exercise such a claim of sovereignty, the claim must be registered with at least one of the relevant galactographic institutes2, and the polity asserting its claim must possess the ability to assert the claimed sovereign rights; such registry and assertion shall vest the claimant with all currently unasserted sovereign rights over all matter and energy within the volume in question.
      • Such a successful claim shall not negate any property rights already held within the claimed volume; nor shall it appropriate in and of itself existing sovereign rights there held as part of such property rights claims; but further homesteading shall be subject to the established sovereignty3.
    • Within the volume bounded by the outer sphere of sovereignty and the inner sphere extending one light-watch (2.16 T-hours)5 from the aforementioned bodies, space shall be considered free for the passage of all; starships of any and all Accord polities are to be permitted free transit, and no domestic rights of search, seizure, excise, forfeiture, angary, or other such may be exercised against a vessel exercising this right to free navigation, nor shall any others wheresoever arising, save those provided for by the Accord on the Law of Free Space, or should such a vessel commit an act of war.
    • Within the volume bounded by the sphere extending one light-watch from the aforementioned bodies, navigation and transit, as all other matters, are subject to the domestic law of the sovereign body.
  • In the situation in which no single polity or coordinating body controls a star system, or with reference to bodies outside the light-day limit:
    • The volume of the star system not subsumed within single-body claims shall be considered free for the passage of all, as above, and no polity’s domestic law shall apply therein.
    • Any polity controlling a celestial body, planet, moon, asteroid, habitat, or other region may claim sovereignty over the surrounding space:
      • Such sovereignty, for a natural body, may extend as a sphere of radius equivalent to 12 times the average diameter of that body, or one-third of a light-second6, whichever is larger7.
      • Such sovereignty, for a habitat cluster or drift-habitat, may extend as a sphere of radius one-third of a light-second.
      • Such sovereignty, for an individual habitat other than a drift, may extend only to its immediate territorial space.
      • Control of one or more moons shall not extend to control of that body which they orbit, if not explicitly claimed and asserted; nor shall sovereignty over multiple bodies in a single system extend to sovereighty over volumes and routes between them, unless system sovereignty entire is asserted8.
    • Where such claims would overlap due to the motions of celestial bodies, the boundary between the two claimed sovereignties shall be deemed to exist at the point halfway between the two central points of the claimed sphere and no overlap shall take place.
      • For the purpose of ongoing civic functions, entities passing through and not remaining within foreign sovereignties due to the motions of celestial bodies shall be deemed to remain within the sovereign control of their original and final sovereignty.
      • Nor shall any transit and sojourn through foreign sovereignties due to the motions of celestial bodies impair the property or other rights attaching to those making transit.
    • In accordance with the spirit of the above, where a smaller sovereignty preexisted a larger one, and would exist within its sovereign volume, the smaller sovereignty shall enjoy a sovereign volume of one-half its usual radius.
      • Where one sovereignty shall exist entirely within another, it shall be the presumption that starships bound to and from, and/or registered within, the contained sovereignty shall enjoy a right to free navigation to and from its contained volume, notwithstanding exigent circumstance, and any disputes on this matter shall be adjudicated by the Central Conclave Court.
  • Where the claiming polity does not provide a minimum of advisory control for space traffic within the claimed volume, beacons must be established indicating the parameters of the claim9.
  • All claims made under the Common Volumetric Accord shall defer to explicit transfers of sovereign rights made by their lawful possessors at times subsequent to the initial claim.

One major omission in the Common Volumetric Accord concerns the status of worldbound civilizations (which are often multi-polity planets, to add to the difficulty). More civilized star nations recognize (and, indeed, defend) the sovereign rights of those civilizations within their own system, under the first clause of the Accord; indeed, it is customary to refrain from asserting territorial claims in the systems of pre-space species, or in the systems of non-worldbound species engaged in active system development. However, under the conventions of the Accord, where a non-worldbound species is not engaged in active system development, the secondary and tertiary bodies of their system become open for colonization, resource extraction, or other use by other star nations after a period of 144 years (one century, empire time)10.


Footnotes

  1. i.e., 26 T-hours, or 187.6 au. Which is to say, the Kuiper Belt is usually considered sovereign territory of a given system, while the Oort cloud is not.
  2. The Imperial Grand Survey, say.
  3. Which is to say: you can’t steal, or even start taxing and legislating for, preexisting independent habs and homesteads, however small, just because you have a flag and a shiny hat, and assume that interstellar law will back you up. They had their sovereign rights first. If you want them that badly and they don’t feel like selling them to you, you’re going to have to go to actual war for them, and risk the potential consequences of someone deciding to intervene. Or at the very least the PR problems associated with stomping around like a bunch of jackbooted space fascists4.
  4. No prizes for guessing which Presidium power was responsible for backing this contribution to creative political instability…
  5. i.e., 2.16 T-hours, or 15.58 au; that’s most of the system. Stargates are typically located further out among the outer ice giants, if any, which is why that outer region of free transit exists in the first place.
  6. 62,094 miles.
  7. The careful observer will note that this and subsequent allotments are all tiny: by these rules, Earth’s planetary sovereignty is a smidge under 100,000 miles in radius and doesn’t even reach Luna. This is entirely intentional.11
  8. A rule which exists because the possibility of someone squatting on a moonlet and claiming fees from everyone who used the parent gas giant for a gravity assist occurred to all parties within about a second of writing the above clauses… and so they felt it was worth being really explicit that the ability to build a dome on Amalthea wouldn’t make you King of Jupiter.
  9. Because you can’t expect people to respect laws they don’t know about, another contribution from the local reasonability enforcers.
  10. Use them or lose them!
  11. A careful, cynical observer might go on to point out that in addition to being minimalist, these rules are likely to create a great deal of inconvenient complexity – indeed, they seem almost tailormade to produce this kind of charlie-foxtrot (click here, then scroll up for the Manna quote immediately preceding) every time one tries to get anywhere.Such an observer would be entirely correct.

    They don’t give you much, and they make using the per-body rules annoying, as an incentive in two directions. The first being, quite simply, GET YOUR ASS TO SPACE. If you want anything in this game, you have to get out there and play, belike.

    And the second being incentive to learn to cooperate and create some sort of interpolity holding body to claim and hold system sovereignty, such that everyone else doesn’t have to put up with your patchwork-quilt craziness.

    (The extra intent here, for that matter, is that the default system should turn out to be annoying enough that people will form very weak and technically focused system sovereignty-holders because no-one, even their totally deserving selves, getting their imperialist dreams of making everyone passing through their volume descend to their knee-equivalents is still preferable to putting up with endless administrative overhead.)

Use Them or Lose Them

Written in honor of a news story I read today regarding the as-yet-not-fully-relevant Moon Treaty and the existing Outer Space Treaty.

”While this Court admires the ambition, chutzpah, and indeed hubris of the World Assembly of the ettreo of Sarine in asserting the right to control the entire circumcelestial sphere, even merely to deny the legitimacy of all volumetric claims sovereign or propertarian, the Assembly can hardly expect us to take such assertions from a civilization which, far from enjoying such a galactic span of control, remains itself worldbound and possesses no off-homeworld territorial claims, seriously.”

”For this reason, and under the principle that domestic law bears no weight in interstellar matters save where provided for by treaty or Accord law, the Celestial Resources Decree of the World Assembly of Sarine is dismissed from this Court’s consideration insofar as it applies to external entities.”

”While it is customary to refrain from asserting territorial claims in the systems of pre-space species, or in the systems of non-worldbound species engaged in active system development, neither the World Assembly of Sarine nor any other organizations of the Sarine system have attempted to colonize or otherwise utilize the secondary or tertiary bodies of their system in the 104 years since their contact with the Accord.”

”Under the Common Volumetric Accord, the principle is well-established that the secondary and tertiary bodies of the Sarine system would be open for colonization, resource extraction, or other use by any civilization capable of actively homesteading them in 40 further years.”

”However, in the light of the intent to specifically and explicitly renounce any and all sovereign claims of the Celestial Resources Decree, which the defendants argue is applicable as a matter of Sarine domestic law, this waiting period arguably is voided by intent.”

”This Court finds for the DEFENDANTS, whose sovereign claims in the Sarine system are UPHELD. The plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief and compensation is DENIED.”

 – World Assembly of Sarine v. Galactic Volumetric Registry, Calcic-Photonic Condominion and First Distributed Exclavine Republic, Central Conclave Court