Tag Archives: Outer Space Treaty

House leans to less regulation of commercial space

During a hearing on March 8 of the House subcommittee on space the representatives overall pushed for less regulation of commercial space activities.

The overall problem was once again dealing with the Outer Space Treaty:

At a March 8 hearing of the subcommittee, members and witnesses grappled with the issue of how the government should oversee emerging commercial space activities in order to comply with obligations to the Outer Space Treaty, including whether such oversight is, in fact, required. Such “authorization and continuing supervision,” as specified in Article 6 of the treaty, is handled today by various agencies for commercial communications and remote sensing satellites and for launch. It’s less clear who would regulate new activities, ranging from commercial lunar landers to satellite servicing efforts, creating uncertainty in industry about who, if anyone, could provide that authorization and continuing supervision.

An April 2016 report delivered to Congress by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, required by Section 108 of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, recommended what it called a “mission authorization” approach for providing that oversight. This approach would be modeled on the payload reviews performed by the Federal Aviation Administration during the launch licensing process, including an interagency review of proposed missions. While the mission authorization concept had won support from many in industry, as well as the FAA and some members of Congress, a change of administrations and its approach to regulation has emboldened some who want to limit industry regulation.

“Unfortunately, the Obama administration issued a report last year that called for expansive regulations over all types of private space activities,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee, at the hearing. He cited a “crisis of overregulation” in general as a reason to oppose the previous administration’s proposal.

The House members and the witnesses apparently rejected the regulatory proposals that had been put forth by the Obama administration, and were instead searching for ways to limit the amount of regulation required under the Outer Space Treaty.

I say, dump the treaty. Nothing in it helps the development of space by private individuals or companies. Everything in it encourages bureaucracy and the limitation of private property.

Japan passes its own commercial space law

The competition heats up: Just as the U.S., Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, and others have recently passed laws of clarify and encourage the private commercial development of space, Japan now done so as well, enacting its own commercial space law.

Now that Japan has adopted its Space Activities Act, start-ups are not left wondering what agency they should contact but can go in advance to discuss their plans with officials at a specially designated counter in the Cabinet Office. The new Japanese law also provides government support in the provision of financial guarantees required by commercial space launch operators, such as by arranging third-party liability insurance coverage. The required coverage is calculated on the basis of the maximum probable loss estimated in line with the rocket type and the payload content; in the case of damages in excess of this coverage, the law provides that the government is to pay for the residual damages up to a certain limit. This is similar to arrangements that have been adopted in the United States and France, although the French government sets no limit on payments.

In addition, Japan’s Space Activities Act provides that the launch operator bears liability for accident damages even if they are due to problems in the payload. This channeling of liability would seem to be disadvantageous to launch operators, but it can be expected to enhance the competitive position of the Japanese companies providing this service, because it reassures customers around the world who are seeking to have their satellites put into orbit. France is the only other country that has adopted a similar provision.

The article is worth reading in that it provides a good overview of the history of space law since the 1960s, as well as the political background that helps explain why Japan has lagged behind in the commercialization of its space industry.

Congressman proposes new legislation to better regulate commercial space

We’re here to help you! In an effort to guarantee that the United States remains compliant with the UN Outer Space Treaty when its private citizens begin flying commercial operations in space, Congressman Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) is proposing new legislation that would better supervise and regulate the emerging commercial space industry.

Bridenstine explained that his top concern is that a U.S. company will proceed with a plan to put a spacecraft on the Moon or conduct on-orbit servicing or some other new type of activity only to have a “near-peer” country like Russia or China complain at the last minute that the United States is violating the OST. That would put the United States “in a difficult position,” he argues. Therefore he sees the need for “airtight” legislation that sets up a process by which the government authorizes and supervises these private companies. Once a company has gone through the process, the United States can unequivocally demonstrate to the international community that it has, in fact, complied with the treaty.

The Obama Administration has been open to working with these new companies, but he wonders if that will remain true over the long term future. He insisted that Congress “needs to exert its authority and power so that whatever administration comes next or is in place 50 years from now, the process exists” and is not subject to a new administration’s “whims.” He also worried that without a legislative solution, it could become a matter of “executive branch regulation by default.” That opens the possibility of some agency saying no, with no recourse for the private sector.

Read the whole report at the link. If you believe in freedom, competition, and private enterprise, it will chill your bones. At no time does anyone suggest that maybe the United States should simply get out of the Outer Space Treaty, as we are legally allowed to do according to the treaty’s own language. The treaty itself is a very bad law, as it makes it impossible for any private citizen or company in space to be protected under U.S. law, leaving everything instead in the control of United Nations bureaucrats and the polyglot of nations, many quite tyrannical, that dictate UN policy. Bridenstine’s proposals will only make this situation worse, as it will not only keep all control in the hands of the UN, but it will saddle American citizens with further regulations imposed by our own government.

Luxembourg to establish space property rights

The competition heats up: The government of Luxembourg today announced an initiative to establish a legal framework that will ensure property rights in space for private investors.

The Luxembourg Government announced a series of measures to position Luxembourg as a European hub in the exploration and use of space resources. Amongst the key steps undertaken, as part of the spaceresources.lu initiative, will be the development of a legal and regulatory framework confirming certainty about the future ownership of minerals extracted in space from Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) such as asteroids.

Luxembourg is the first European country to announce its intention to set out a formal legal framework which ensures that private operators working in space can be confident about their rights to the resources they extract, i.e. rare minerals from asteroids. Such a legal framework will be worked out in full consideration of international law. Luxembourg is eager to engage with other countries on this matter within a multilateral framework.

The announcement is a bit vague about what exactly Luxembourg really plans to do. For example, it is unclear if this framework will only apply to Luxembourg citizens, or will be used to bring the private efforts from other countries to Luxembourg (the more likely scenario). It also does not tell us how the initiative will deal with the UN Outer Space Treaty, which essentially outlaws countries from establishing their own legal framework in space. Individuals can supposedly own private property in space under that treaty, but no country can claim territory or impose its own legal framework on any territory, thus making any private property claims unclear and weak.

Mainstream media outlet notices possible news!

Last week President Obama signed the revisions to the Commercial Act that is being touted as allowing Americans property rights in space.

I have been following the news coverage of this event, and even though there have been many articles incorrectly pushing the above spin, only today was there a news story that finally noticed that these touted property rights would violate the Outer Space treaty.

The content of the second link above, though it notices the possible violations to the Outer Space treaty, is also still a pitiful example of journalism. It is very clear from reading the article that no one involved in writing it (the article’s byline is CBC News) ever read the newly passed law. I have, and found that nowhere in it does it actually grant Americans property rights in space. What it does do is demand that the executive branch support that idea and write a number of reports and studies to demonstrate that support.

The goal I think of this new law is to begin the political process towards the U.S. eventually pulling out of the Outer Space treaty. Congress is essentially stating that it doesn’t agree with the language of that United Nations treaty, and it wants the U.S. government to begin the process of either getting it changed, or preparing to pull out. (The treaty does provide language allowing nations to pull out. You give one year’s notice, and then do so.)

It would be nice if journalists who write about this subject did the simple and easy research necessary for reporting it intelligently.

Until they do, however, I guess people will just have to come here (written with a grin).

A petition to have the U.S. withdraw from the United Nations Outer Space Treaty has been submitted to the White House.

Now’s here’s a good idea: A petition to have the U.S. withdraw from the United Nations Outer Space Treaty has been submitted to the White House.

Read it. Mark Whittington, who submitted it, is absolutely right. We get out, we can claim territory on the Moon and thus apply U.S. law to that territory. People and companies could thus own land and have an opportunity to make a profit from their property.