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Dr Thomas Cheney

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Professional biography

Thomas Cheney is Lecturer in Space Governance within AstrobiologyOU, at the Open University. He is active in researching space law, policy and governance. His research focuses on planetary protection and taking an environmental approach, grounded in legal geography and environmental humanities, to space governance. He also researches space resources and property rights, the use of outer space, and arms control in outer space.

Thomas won Kings College London’s Centre for Science and Security Studies’ Arms Control Idol 2020. Thomas was Executive Director of the Centre for a Spacefaring Civilization; a co-lead of the Space Generation Advisory Council’s Space Law and Policy Project Group. He was also a member of the Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group and participated in the development of Building Blocks for the Development of an International Framework on Space Resource Activities. He has also participated in Open Lunar/Breaking Ground Trust's Deliberation On Our Resource Rights (DOORR) process which developed a set of reccomendaitons for lunar resource policy.

He has a PhD in space law from Northumbria University, where his research focused on space resources and the associated issues of the relationship between property rights and sovereignty.

Research interests

Please Note: Other than advertised positions I am currently not taking on any new PhD candidates

Space Governance

Planetary Protection and the Space Environment

Space Resources

Property Rights

Sovereignty and Jurisdiction

Customary International Law

Legal Geography

Environmental Humanities

Teaching interests

W260 - International, Environmental, and Space Law

W322 - SQE Property Law and Private Client Law

Impact and engagement

Thomas Cheney (2021) 'Written Evidence' (SPA0015) Science and Technology Select Committee, 27 October

AstrobiologyOU (2021) 'Written Evidence' (SPA0072) Science and Technology Select Committee, 27 October 

Thomas Cheney (2018) ‘Written Evidence SIB01’ Public Bill Committee, 24 January 2018

Thomas Cheney (2017) ‘Written Evidence (AIC0098)’ House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Select Committee, 11 October 2017.


Barriers and Gateways to Cleaning Up Earth Orbit: The Legal, Economic, and Political Dimensions of Debris Remediation (2023-03)
Newman, Christopher and Cheney, Thomas
Air and Space Law, 48 (pp. 113-136)

Centring Environmentalism in Space Governance: Interrogating Dominance and Authority Through a Critical Legal Geography of Outer Space (2022)
Marino, Alessandra and Cheney, Thomas
Space Policy ((Early Access))

Planetary Protection in the New Space Era: Science and Governance (2020-11-13)
Cheney, Thomas; Newman, Christopher; Olsson-Francis, Karen; Steele, Scott; Pearson, Victoria and Lee, Simon
Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, 7, Article 589817

There's No Rush: Developing a Legal Framework for Space Resource Activities (2019)
Cheney, Thomas
Journal of Space Law, 43 (pp. 106-150)

Universe Exploration and Colonization (2022-04)
Cheney, Thomas
In: Failat, Yanal Abu and Ferreira-Snyman, Anél eds. Outer Space Law: Legal Policy and Practice, 2nd edition (pp. 161-174)
ISBN : 9781787424821 | Publisher : Globe Law and Practice

Managing the Resource Revolution: Space Law in the New Space Age (2018-06-13)
Cheney, Thomas and Newman, Christopher J.
In: Newman, Christopher J. and Wilman, Richard J. eds. Frontiers of Space Risk: Natural Cosmic Hazards & Societal Challenges (pp. 245-269)
ISBN : 9781315188294 | Publisher : CRC Press | Published : Boca Raton

Developing and Adapting Space Law to Govern Long Term and Permanent Human Settlement of Outer Space, the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (2019-11-01)
Cheney, Thomas
In : 61st Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space (4 Oct 2018, Bremen, Germany) (pp. 959-976)