Academics, Researchers & International Organisations

“Be curious; Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat. It drives you to explore, learn, and innovate, making you a more effective and impactful legal professional” – Senjuti Mallick, Space Law Specialist, Sr. Legal & Compliance Officer, COMSPOC Corp., USA

This interview has been published by Namrata Singh and The SuperLawyer Team

Senjuti, your journey from ILS Law College in Pune to being a Space Law Specialist is truly fascinating. Could you share a bit about what sparked your interest in space law, and how you found your way into such a unique field?

My fascination with space law began with a childlike curiosity about the galaxy and a passion for legal intricacies. This unique intersection of cosmic wonder and legal frameworks set me on a path that would ultimately shape my career in a remarkable way. Early on, I embarked on a series of independent research projects focused on various aspects of space law. What made these endeavors particularly intriguing was the dearth of readily available reference material at the time. I soon realized that this field wasn’t merely a collection of regulations governing celestial bodies light-years away. It was, in fact, a gateway to a profound understanding of how we, as a species, interact with our universe. Fueled by this passion, I followed a trajectory of continuous learning through education and specialized training, which eventually opened doors to opportunities where I could translate my knowledge into real-world applications.

You’ve been recognized as a ‘Next-Gen Space Sustainability Leader’ by the Secure World Foundation and have been on several high-level panels as a subject matter expert. How does it feel to be acknowledged for your contributions, and what advice would you give to aspiring professionals looking to make an impact in the field of space sustainability?

Being recognized as a next-gen leader and having the privilege of contributing at numerous high-level panels has been an incredibly gratifying and humbling experience. It’s a testament to the collective efforts of individuals and organizations dedicated to preserving the long-term sustainability of outer space, and I’m truly honored to be a part of this community. The recognition serves as a constant reminder of the importance of my work in ensuring the responsible use of space for future generations. As the space industry continues to expand, it is exciting to play a role in shaping the legal frameworks that ensure responsible and sustainable activities in outer space, marking a transformative era for space exploration.

My humble advice to aspiring professionals in this field would be – stay informed, stay inquisitive, stay connected. Space sustainability is a complex, interdisciplinary arena; seeking diverse perspectives, collaborating across disciplines, and always considering the long-term implications of any space-related actions would be paramount. It’s a field that requires innovative thinking and a commitment to preserving the outer space environment for future generations, so look beyond the conventional and be adaptable.

Apart from law, you’ve delved into teaching and programming roles at The Fletcher School, Harvard Law School, Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) and International Institute of Space Law (IISL). How have these experiences outside traditional legal roles influenced your approach to your profession? 

Venturing beyond traditional legal roles into teaching and program management at prestigious institutions like The Fletcher School and Harvard Law School, as well as engaging with dynamic organizations like the SGAC and the IISL, has been a journey of immense growth.

Teaching not only deepens one’s understanding of the law but breaking down complex legal concepts enables one to view these concepts through multiple lenses. On the other hand, project management and programming roles require one to look beyond legal issues and consider broader operational and policy implications. These experiences have allowed me to engage with a diverse array of students, academicians, and professionals from different cultural and professional backgrounds and have broadened my worldview. It has bolstered my belief in the value of diverse perspectives in solving complex global challenges, like those we face in space.  

Lastly, these experiences have underscored the importance of mentorship and community building, which has inspired me to be not just a legal expert, but also a mentor and advocate for the future generation of space law professionals. They have reinforced the idea that being a space law specialist isn’t just about understanding the law; it’s about understanding people, technology, and the ever-evolving dynamics of space exploration and utilization.

Your publications cover a wide range of topics, from ‘Artemis Accords’ to ‘Space Debris.’ If you had to pick one issue in space law that you believe deserves more attention or public awareness, what would it be, and why?

Among the myriad issues in space law, the one I believe urgently warrants greater attention and public awareness is the management and regulation of space traffic. Space traffic management (STM) encompasses how we navigate, operate, and manage the increasing number of satellites and other space objects orbiting the Earth. With the burgeoning growth in satellite launches, the Earth’s orbits are becoming increasingly congested. This congestion poses risks of collisions, which can add significant amounts to the already existing millions of pieces of space debris, further leading to the Kessler Syndrome – a cascading collision chain reaction leading to increased space debris. This in turn poses a threat to functional satellites and, consequently, to crucial services like GPS, weather forecasting, and global communications that we rely on daily. Public awareness about STM is essential because the consequences of neglecting this issue impact everyone. It’s not just about safeguarding assets in space; it’s about maintaining the integrity of vital services that underpin our modern society. 

My work at COMSPOC Corporation, a leading provider of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) solutions, has given me firsthand insight into the importance of effective space traffic management. COMSPOC’s cutting-edge technologies contribute to the monitoring and tracking of space objects, enhancing the safety and security of space operations. By seamlessly integrating SSA solutions into the broader STM frameworks, we can not only address the immediate challenges but also promote a sustainable and secure environment for future space endeavors.

Away from the legal arena, you’re a TEDx Speaker and have been featured on podcasts. Can you share a bit about your experience as a speaker and how you connect your passion for space law with broader audiences?

One of the most exciting aspects of such engagements is the opportunity to ignite curiosity and passion about a niche field, in people who might never have considered it. I find that storytelling is a powerful tool in this regard. By weaving complex legal concepts with narratives about space exploration, the potential future of humanity in space, or the challenges of managing space traffic, I can make these topics relatable and compelling.

I also focus on the real-world implications of space law and how space improves life on Earth to drive home the fact that these are not abstract concepts; it’s something that affects everyone’s everyday lives. Additionally, these engagements allow me to dispel common misconceptions about space law. Many people think of it as a futuristic field, but when I talk about current issues like space debris or the legal complexities of lunar exploration, it becomes clear that space law is a dynamic and relevant field today. Ultimately, my goal as a speaker is to bridge the gap between the legal and space communities and the general public. I aim to demystify space law, encouraging more people to learn about, engage with, and contribute to this vital area that holds so much potential for our collective future. 

Given your unique career, you must have had some unforgettable moments. Could you share one experience that felt truly out of this world, whether it’s related to your work or personal life?

While there have been many unforgettable moments in my career, one of the experiences that stands out as truly ‘out of this world’ was exploring the depths of ice caves in Alaska. Venturing into the heart of these majestic caves, with their ethereal ice exuding hues of blues and greens, and echoing stillness, felt like stepping onto another planet. It seemed as if time had paused, with rocks and boulders suspended in the icy walls, like comets frozen mid-shower. The temperature, a biting -20℃, only added to the sense of being in a completely different world, one far removed from the familiar. It was a surreal reminder of the beauty and mystery that lie in unexplored spaces, whether on Earth or beyond.

The other was exploring the Biosphere 2 research facility. This offered a glimpse into what sustainable life-support systems on other planets might look like. This experience was a striking example of the delicate balance we must maintain in our exploration and habitation efforts, both on Earth and in space.

What other hobbies or interests do you pursue to unwind from your busy professional life?

Gosh, that’s a tough one. I have too many of those. Trekking, hiking, running, dancing, and star gazing are some of my favorites. 

If you can give one piece of advice to the coming generation who are just starting their legal career, what would it be, and why?

Be curious; Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat. It drives you to explore, learn, and innovate, making you a more effective and impactful legal professional. So, ask that extra question, shake that extra hand, give that extra smile, and go that extra mile. In the same breadth, be ready to listen, and accept that you may not have the right answers and that someone else might be more knowledgeable. 

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