Japan passes law protecting property rights in space

Japan’s legislature on June 15th approved a new law designed to protect the ownership of the resources private entities extract for profit in space.

Japan’s legislation is similar to provisions in the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2015. That law grants U.S. companies rights to resources that they extract, but not property rights to celestial bodies, which would run afoul of the Outer Space Treaty. Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates have since passed similar legislation.

All four countries are signatories of the Artemis Accords, which endorses the ability to extract and use space resources. “The Signatories affirm that the extraction of space resources does not inherently constitute national appropriation under Article II of the Outer Space Treaty, and that contracts and other legal instruments relating to space resources should be consistent with that Treaty,” the accords state.

Both Russia and China oppose such legislation, as well as the Artemis Accords, which have now been signed by eleven countries.

What this growing alignment of opposing sides means for future space operations by private companies is unclear, though it suggests these two countries will not honor those private property rights, which in turn suggests this legal disagreement is eventually going to lead to physical conflict in space.

Brazil signs Artemis Accords

Brazil on June 15th became the first South American country to sign the Artemis Accords, designed to bypass the limitations placed on property rights created by the Outer Space Treaty.

U.S. policy requires any nation that wishes to participate in its Artemis program to go back to the Moon to agree to the accords. Brazil is now the eleventh country to sign, joining Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, and the United States.

Russia and China oppose the accords, which causes a problem for Russia as it desperately needs to partner with someone because it can’t on its own afford to build much. It is negotiating possible partnerships with China at its new space station as well as building a base on the Moon, but those agreements are not firm. And continues to send out feelers, including statements by Putin, calling for continuing cooperation with the U.S. in space.

Whether the Biden administration will make an exception for Russia in regards to the Artemis Accords remains unclear. That twelve countries have agreed to the accords however gives the U.S. greater leverage with those countries that have not yet signed.

New Zealand signs Artemis Accords

On May 31st New Zealand became the 11th country to sign the Artemis Accords, designed to bypass the Outer Space Treaty’s limitations on property rights in space.

The full list, according to the NASA press release, now includes Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, and the United States.

China and Russia have both said they oppose the accords. That such European nations as Germany and France have not joined in suggests their governments have not yet decided what direction they wish to go. Since U.S. policy now requires partners in the Artemis program to sign the accords, one would think that Germany and France and the European Space Agency (ESA) would certainly sign.

They have not, however. Instead, ESA has been in negotiations with China on the subject of space cooperation. If it signs a deal with China it could then become very difficult for it to partner with the U.S.

We might therefore be seeing here the first signs of a true and permanent political split in the alliance between mainland Europe and the United States.

Note too that these political winds signal bad news for Orion. The spacecraft relies on the ESA’s service module for its in-space journeys. If Europe does not sign the accords and instead partners with China, the U.S. will then be faced with either abandoning Orion or finding someone else to build its service module. I suspect that with the coming of cheap, affordable, and efficient private spacecraft, Orion will then die.

South Korea signs the Artemis Accords

On May 24 South Korea officially signed the Artemis Accords, joining nine other countries in the agreement designed as a work around of the Outer Space Treaty’s provisions in order to protect property rights in space.

By my count, that makes eight signatories, including Japan, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and Italy.

Essentially, the space-faring nations of the world are splitting into two groups, those who will follow these accords, and those who won’t, led by China and Russia. In a sense, we are seeing a renewal of the Cold War in space, with the western powers that believe in private enterprise and freedom aligned against those whose cultures are authoritarian and ruled from above.

Ukraine signs Artemis Accords

Ukraine has becomed the ninth nation to sign the Artemis Accords, designed to encourage private enterprise in space.

The article at the link provides little information, other than claiming that ” Ukraine has all the scientific and technical capabilities and experience that allow it to become one of NASA’s important partners in the implementation of the Artemis program.”

Russia and the Ukraine are on opposite sides of a war, with Russia attempting to steal territory, with some success. Russia has also boycotted all Ukrainian space technology, ending a half century of business dealings.

It seems that the Ukrainian government looked at this political landscape, and decided to align itself with the United States. By signing the accords, it now has the opportunity to sell its space technology to NASA, as well as participate in any American effort to get to the Moon and elsewhere. That it chose to pick an ally halfway around the world instead of its big and powerful neighbor, tells us a great deal about the Ukrainian’s opinion of Russia.

I expect there will be a NASA press release in the next day or so that will provide us additional information.

NASA and ESA ink Lunar Gateway deal

NASA yesterday announced that it has signed a deal with the European Space Agency (ESA) outlining their partnership in building the Lunar Gateway space station in orbit around the Moon.

Under this agreement, ESA will contribute habitation and refueling modules, along with enhanced lunar communications, to the Gateway. The refueling module also will include crew observation windows. In addition to providing the hardware, ESA will be responsible for operations of the Gateway elements it provides. ESA also provides two additional European Service Modules (ESMs) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft. These ESMs will propel and power Orion in space on future Artemis missions and provide air and water for its crew.

For some reason NASA’s press release makes no mention of what ESA gets from the deal. From this news report:

[ESA] said it will receive “three flight opportunities for European astronauts to travel to and work on the Gateway” as part of the agreement.

I also note that there is no mention of the Artemis Accords in this agreement. As far as I can tell, right now the only ESA member who has signed on is the United Kingdom, and I am not sure of the UK’s status in the ESA considering their exit from the European Union. The two are different political deals, but exiting one might affect the other.

The Trump administration has said repeatedly that it will only partner in its lunar ambitions with countries that sign the accords. However, at this moment Congress has simply not funded those ambitions, so NASA needs partners to get things built. Moreover, Orion is a space capsule (costing about $18 billion and taking 20 years to build) that does not have a service module to provide it air and water. Europe provides that, and had only agreed to build two.

It might be that NASA has traded the accords away to get Europe’s help for both Gateway and Orion. This deal, announced now, might also be an effort by NASA (and Europe) to lobby Congress to fork up the cash.

Seven countries join the U.S. in signing the Artemis Accords

NASA announced yesterday that seven countries — the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and Italy — have now signed the Artemis Accords, the Trump administration’s effort to create a legal framework that will protect property rights in space and get around the legal limitations imposed by the Outer Space Treaty.

I suspect this announcement was in response to statements earlier this week by Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency, that they will not partner with the U.S. in its Lunar Gateway space station project. Though Rogozin cited other issues for the decision, such at the fact that they would not be treated as an equal partner in Gateway, I suspect the decision was also made because Russia’s government opposes the Artemis Accords and does not wish to sign it. China has said the same.

Since those accords are designed to shift power and control from governments to private enterprise, it is not surprising that Russia and China oppose them. Both are authoritarian top-down societies whose government reflects their culture. To sign an agreement that would take power from the state and give it to their citizens is unacceptable.

So be it. Of the countries that have signed, I expect in future years they will all prosper in space, and eventually force others to accept the ideas of freedom, private property, and capitalism that inspire the accords. Luxombourg is committed to pushing private enterprise and investment in commercial space. The UK, Australia, Canada, and Japan all follow the same principles, and all have robust space industries that should only get stronger.

And the UAE, the new baby on the block, wants to make commercial space a big part of its future. Signing these accords — along with their peace deal with Israel — indicates strongly that they mean business, and that they are trying heartily to separate themselves from the radical Islamic movements that have been poisoning the Arab Middle East for decades.

Moreover, the U.S. is requiring any nation that wishes to participate in its effort to return to the Moon to sign these accords. These nations, and their citizens, will therefore have a chance to contribute to that effort, and likely make a lot of money in the process.

Posting is late today because Diane and I went on an 8-mile hike. My gym now idiotically requires masks while you work out, and I am certainly not going to do that. Therefore, to maintain our cardiovascular systems while strengthening our immune systems (the best defense against all flulike diseases, including the Wuhan virus), we have been doing 6 to 10 mile hikes now twice a week. It means one day a week I need to schedule some posts early, and catch up when I get home. I hope my readers understand.

Canada proposes new global treaty to control mining in space

The globalists at the UN fight back! A Canada-led effort, endorsed by more than 140 academics, politicians, and diplomats, has proposed that the UN and international community create a new treaty to control mining in space.

Signatories to the request for the UN to intervene believe space must be regulated internationally – similarly to Antarctica or the world’s seabeds – and all countries, including non-space-faring ones, get a say in decision-making. The alternative, they warn, could be a splintered approach where companies conduct flag-of-convenience resource extraction in space under whichever country has the least onerous rules. [emphasis mine]

The Trump administration has made it clear that it wants the ability to establish U.S. law on its space operations, both in spacecraft and on its future bases on the Moon and elsewhere, an ability that the Outer Space Treaty forbids. To get around the treaty, the administration has created what it calls the Artemis Accords. The accords require that any nation that wishes to partner in the American-led Artemis program to explore and colonize the Moon must agree to support the establishment of private enterprise and ownership, with the laws of each nation applied to its own operations. To do this the Trump administration is negotiating individual bi-lateral agreements with its Artemis partners.

In essence, the U.S. is using the strategy of dividing and conquering to overcome the Outer Space Treaty’s restrictions.

Canada’s effort is designed to counter the U.S. approach, which is a strong sign that the Trump effort is working. I suspect the battle-lines are now being drawn between China and the many nations that are not operating in space (note the highlighted text), and the U.S. and those space-faring capitalistic nations that wish to partner with it, such as India and the European Space Agency. In fact, Japan and the U.S. today announced continuing negotiations leading to an agreement endorsing their partnership in Artemis, including the Artemis Accords.

Where Russia stands in this battle remains uncertain. They desperately need to partner with someone in the new effort to get to the Moon, since they no longer have the economic resources to do it themselves. The U.S. has made it clear they could join Artemis, but the Putin government opposes the Artemis Accords, preferring that the international community (meaning governments such as them) retain ownership over space resources. They have begun negotiations to partner with China, but it is unclear how much China wishes to partner with anyone.

Regardless, it would be terrible blow to freedom and private enterprise for the U.S. to agree to this Canadian-led effort. Should that approach win, it would make provide ownership and capitalism in space impossible. All power and control will devolve to the global international community, which will then dictate that nothing can happen but what it wants. For example, all the many nations incapable of doing anything in space will want a piece of the action from those nations and companies that are capable, and the result will be that no one will do anything because it simply will not be profitable. Space will simply become another failed communist state, dying before it even becomes born.

Russia to continue bilateral space negotiations with U.S.

According to one Russian foreign policy official, the Putin government will continue bilateral space negotiations with United States in connection with both its Artemis Accords (designed to encourage private ownership in space) and the military doctrines in space recently set forth by the U.S. Space Force.

The official also made note of a Russian-Chinese agreement related to the use of space, which seems to counter what the Trump administration is pushing with the Artemis Accords. However, the fact that these bilateral agreements and negotiations now exist actually gets the U.S. what it wants, foreign treaties that set out goals and rules that bypass the restrictions of the Outer Space Treaty. Those restrictions make private ownership in space legally questionable. That Russia is willing to continue negotiations with the U.S. means that it might agree eventually to some framework that allows private property in space, in order to remain a partner in the Trump administrations Artemis lunar project.

Russia says it will oppose Artemis Accords

My heart be still: Roscosmos head Dmitri Rogozin declared today that Russia “will not, in any case, accept any attempts to privatize the Moon.”

“It is illegal, it runs counter to international law,” Rogozin pointed out.

The Roscosmos CEO emphasized that Russia would begin the implementation of a lunar program in 2021 by launching the Luna-25 spacecraft to the Moon. Roscosmos intends to launch the Luna-26 spacecraft in 2024. After that, the Luna-27 lander will be sent to the Moon to dig up regolith and carry out research on the lunar surface.

Rogozin is doing the equivalent of a 2-year-old’s temper tantrum. Being a top-down authoritarian culture that likes to centralize power with those in charge, Russia doesn’t like Trump’s effort to regularize private enterprise and private property in space, including the administration’s new requirement that any international partner in its Artemis Moon program must agree to that effort.

Russia would rather we maintain the status quo as defined by the Outer Space Treaty, with no private property in space and everything controlled by UN bureaucrats and regulations, who are in turn controlled by the leaders from authoritarian places like Russia.

If Russia wants into Artemis, however, it looks like they will have to bend to the Trump accords. Or they will have to build their own independent space effort, competing with ours. Their problem is that their own program has been incredibly lame for the past twenty years, unable to get any new spacecraft or interplanetary mission off the ground.

Maybe the competition will help Russia, as it did in space in the 1960s. Or maybe they will simply help Biden get elected, and then all will be well! That brainless puppet will be glad to do the bidding of Russia and China, and will almost certainly dismantle Trump’s policies in favor of private enterprise.

The Artemis Accords: The Trump administration’s effort to bypass the Outer Space Treaty

Capitalism in space: The Trump administration yesterday released the guidelines it will require any international or private partner to follow if they wish to participate in its Artemis lunar and planetary manned program.

The guidelines, which you can download here [pdf], list ten very broad and vague principles. Most reiterate support for the most successful requirements of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, such as:

  • the requirement that all activities be conducted for peaceful purposes
  • the requirement that everyone design equipment for interoperability and to international standards
  • the requirement that everyone take reasonable steps possible to render assistance to astronauts in distress
  • the requirement that everyone publicly register anything they launch
  • the requirement that everyone release their scientific data publicly
  • the requirement that all parties take actions to mitigate space junk

The remaining four principles appear designed to bend the Outer Space Treaty in the direction of allowing countries and companies to have some control over the territories they occupy in space.
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Trump administration drafting new space agreement to supersede Outer Space Treaty

The new colonial movement: According to this Reuters article, the Trump administration is presently drafting a new space agreement, which they have dubbed the “Artemis Accords,” that would allow private property ownership in space and thus supersede Outer Space Treaty’s restrictions on sovereignty.

The Artemis Accords, named after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s new Artemis moon program, propose “safety zones” that would surround future moon bases to prevent damage or interference from rival countries or companies operating in close proximity.

The pact also aims to provide a framework under international law for companies to own the resources they mine, the sources said.

In the coming weeks, U.S. officials plan to formally negotiate the accords with space partners such as Canada, Japan, and European countries, as well as the United Arab Emirates, opening talks with countries the Trump administration sees as having “like-minded” interests in lunar mining.

They at the moment are not including Russia or China in the discussions, since those countries have little interest in promoting private enterprise and ownership in space.

Back in 2017 I proposed in an op-ed for The Federalist that Trump do almost exactly this:

Trump should propose a new Outer Space Treaty, superseding the old, that would let nations plant their flags in space. This new treaty should establish the rules by which individual nations can claim territory and establish their law and sovereignty on other worlds or asteroids.

The American homesteading acts of the 1800s could work as a good guide. Under those laws, if an American citizen staked a claim and maintained and developed it for five years, that claim and an accompanying amount of acreage would then become theirs.

In space, Trump could propose that in order for a nation to make a territorial claim, a nation or its citizens must establish a facility. If they occupy and use it for a minimum of five years, that nation can claim it, plus a reasonable amount of territory around it, and place it under that nation’s sovereignty.

Now consider this quote from the Reuters article:

The safety zones – whose size would vary depending on the operation – would allow for coordination between space actors without technically claiming territory as sovereign, he said. “The idea is if you are going to be coming near someone’s operations, and they’ve declared safety zones around it, then you need to reach out to them in advance, consult and figure out how you can do that safely for everyone.”

In other words, the safety zones would essentially be the claimed property of the colonizers, a completely reasonable position.

It is hard to say at this moment whether the Trump administration will succeed in this tactic, of side-stepping a renegotiation of the Outer Space Treaty by working out a new agreement with other interested players. Canada for example has expressed reservations about the Trump administration’s recent public announcement encouraging private ownership of resources in space.

Regardless, that the administration now appears to be addressing the limitations of the Outer Space Treaty is very heartening news. Let us hope they can make it happen.