Tag Archives: Outer Space Treaty

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.

A call for India to exit the Moon Treaty

The new colonial movement: An op-ed in India today called for that nation to exit the anti-capitalist 1979 Moon Treaty, different than the 1967 Outer Space Treaty in that it specifically outlaws all private ownership in space and was thus only signed by a very small handful of nations.

India has signed but never ratified the Moon Treaty. The U.S., Russia, and China never did.

India must formally exit this agreement, says Dr Chaitanya Giri, a Gateway House Fellow of Space and Ocean Studies Programme, who was earlier affiliated to the Earth-Life Science Institute at Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Geophysical Laboratory at Carnegie Institution for Science.

The problem with the Moon Agreement, Dr Giri told BusinessLine, lies in the Article 4.1, which says that “the exploration and use of the Moon shall be the province of all mankind and shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic and scientific development.”

This can be interpreted to mean that if you are a signatory to the agreement, you shall share the fruits of your efforts on the Moon with everybody, whereas if you are not a signatory you won’t have to do so.

The article also notes that, under Trump’s Artemis Accords and executive order allowing for private ownership of any resources extracted in space, India will not be able to partner with the U.S. as long as it remains a signatory to the 1979 Moon Treaty.

That there are now demands in India to leave the Moon Treaty so it can work with the U.S. under Trump’s Artemis Accords also means that those accords are working to convince nations to abandon the Outer Space Treaty’s restrictions on owning land and claiming sovereignty. And they are doing so very quickly.

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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Long March 5B’s core stage might hit the ground in uncontrolled reentry

China does it again! The core first stage of China’s first Long March 5B launch is expected to fall back to Earth sometime tomorrow or the next day in an uncontrolled reentry, and it appears that it is large enough for its denser sections to reach the ground.

The core stage is more massive than other notable satellites that have plunged unguided back into Earth’s atmosphere in the last decade, such as China’s Tiangong 1 space lab, Russia’s failed Phobos-Grunt Mars probe, and NASA’s UARS atmospheric research satellite. It’s about one-quarter the mass of NASA’s Skylab space station, which made headlines when it fell to Earth over Australia in 1979.

…The Long March 5B rocket body is mostly comprised of hollow propellant tanks, and much of the rocket’s structure is expected to burn up during re-entry. But some pieces, such as denser parts of the rocket’s two main engines, could survive the fall to Earth and hit the ground. [emphasis mine]

It is very hard at this moment to predict where the stage will come down, which could be as far north as New York and as far south as Wellington, New Zealand.

China is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty, which states as follows:

Each State Party to the Treaty that launches or procures the launching of an object into outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and each State Party from whose territory or facility an object is launched, is internationally liable for damage to another State Party to the Treaty or to its natural or juridical persons by such object or its component parts on the Earth, in air or in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies. [emphasi mine]

Does China care? Apparently not. This is the second uncontrolled reentry of a large Chinese object in less than two years, since their first space station module, Tiangong-1, came crashing down in 2018. They might have had an excuse with Tiangong-1, since they lost control of it. With this core stage there are no excuses, assuming they have not made plans to bring it down in a controlled manner. We will find out in the next 48 hours.

Nonetheless, this should give us warning about their intentions in space. Though the treaty also forbids any nation from claiming territory, and they will certainly object to the Trump administration’s attempts recently to get around that restriction, I guarantee they will take possession completely of any territory they grab on the Moon or on any asteroids. It does really appear that they really don’t care about international treaties, except when it is to their benefit.

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.

Russia hostile to Trump declaration to promote private enterprise in space

Russia today issued the first international response to the Trump executive order yesterday calling for private enterprise and property in space, and that response was decidedly negative.

Attempts to seize the territories of other planets are harmful to international cooperation, Deputy Director General of Roscosmos for International Cooperation Sergey Saveliev said on Tuesday. “Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually seize territories of other planets hardly set the countries for fruitful cooperation,” Saveliev said.

He recalled that there were examples in history when one country decided to start seizing territories in its interests. “Everyone remembers what came of it,” Saveliev added.

Part of the goal of Trump’s order was to try to garner international support for the idea of allowing private property in space. The Russian response today suggests that they will not go along, and instead will use the words of the Outer Space Treaty to block such rights.

As I have been saying for years, the real solution is to pull out of the treaty. It forbids us from establishing our laws anywhere in space, which means future space-farers will be second class citizens, with their only rights determined by the UN, not the Bill of Rights.

Trump signs executive order supporting private ownership in space

President Trump today signed a new executive order reiterating the United States’ support for private enterprise in space, including the ownership of any resources mined or obtained from other orbiting bodies, such as the Moon and the asteroids.

The text of the order is here. It acts to underline previous laws passed by Congress supporting private ownership in space. It also does three things:

1. It makes it very clear that the U.S. will oppose any effort by the international community to impose the Moon Treaty in space. This U.N. law, which is not the Outer Space Treaty that has governed space since 1967, was never ratified by the U.S., and in fact was only signed by seventeen countries. Its provisions were hostile to private property and private enterprise, essentially making both impossible in space. Thus, today’s executive order states:

The United States is not a party to the Moon Agreement. Further, the United States does not consider the Moon Agreement to be an effective or necessary instrument to guide nation states regarding the promotion of commercial participation in the long-term exploration, scientific discovery, and use of the Moon, Mars, or other celestial bodies. Accordingly, the Secretary of State shall object to any attempt by any other state or international organization to treat the Moon Agreement as reflecting or otherwise expressing customary international law.

2. The order re-emphasized the U.S.’s commitment to allowing private companies to retain ownership of any resources they mine from other worlds. Though the Outer Space Treaty appears to allow this, there is some uncertainty, and because that treaty also forbids nations from claiming any territory to establish their sovereignty and laws upon that territory, establishing the ownership of mining resources under U.S. law remains unsure. Today’s order essentially states that U.S. law will apply to those resources:

Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law.

3. The order makes clear that the U.S. will use all of its influence to convince all other space-faring nations to agree to this approach.

This last item might be the most important. If the Trump administration can convince all other nations to some new approach that allows for private property in space, the difficulties created by the Outer Space Treaty might be bypassed.

Pence endorses property rights in space

In a speech yesterday at a meeting of the International Astronautical Congress in Washington vice president Mike Pence pushed the importance of property rights in space, noting that the Trump administration is looking for ways to protect those rights.

He made clear that the United States would continue to observe international agreements on space activities — presumably including the Outer Space Treaty, which rules out claims of sovereignty on the moon or other celestial bodies. But Pence also said America’s partners should respect private ownership in space, which is a less settled legal frontier.

“As more nations gain the ability to explore space and develop places beyond Earth’s atmosphere, we must also ensure that we carry into space our shared commitment to freedom, the rule of law and private property,” he said. “The long-term exploration and development of the moon, Mars and other celestial bodies will require the use of resources found in outer space, including water and minerals. And so we must encourage the responsible commercial use of these resources.”

Pence hinted that the United States will be developing new policies relating to the use of space resources. “We will use all available legal and diplomatic means to create a stable and orderly space environment that drives opportunity, creates prosperity and ensures our security on Earth into the vast expanse of space,” he said.

I’m not sure how the U.S. can do this, however, under the limitations placed on us by the Outer Space Treaty. Without the ability to apply U.S. sovereignty to any private operations on the Moon, Mars, or asteroids, it will be impossible to apply U.S. law to those operations.

One avenue that the Trump administration might be considering is an amendment to the treaty that would allow nations to apply their laws to their citizens in space, not the territory on which they land and develop. Such an approach would avoid breaking the treaty’s restrictions on not claiming territory, but it would still achieve essentially the same thing.

Unidentified object launched by Russians Nov 30?

Even though the Russians officially listed four objects launched during its November 30 launch, three military satellites and the rocket’s upper stage, the U.S. military says it has identified a fifth object.

The Rokot/Briz-KM launch vehicle blasted off from Pad 3 at Site 133 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Western Russia at just before 5:30 PM local time on Nov. 30, 2018, according to RussianSpaceWeb.com. At approximately 7:12 PM, the three Rodnik communications satellites had deployed into their assigned orbits. Russia has named the trio of satellites Kosmos-2530, Kosmos-2531, and Kosmos-2532.

This would all be rather banal had the CSpoC, as well as the U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), not recorded the launch slightly differently. Information on Space-Track.org, a U.S. government website that publicly releases data on space launches from the CSpoC and NORAD, listed Objects A through E as resulting from the launch from Plesetsk. This would include the three satellites and the upper stage, but the fifth object is unexplained.

It is possible that the upper stage simply fragmented into multiple pieces that were large enough for the U.S. military to track independently. Three of the objects – A through C – have essentially same perigee, the point in their orbit at which they are nearest to the earth. The other two objects – D and E – share a different general perigee.

The article speculates that this extra unidentified object might be part of Russia’s military program to develop tiny “inspector satellites” that can get close to other satellites and observe them, for both engineering and reconnaissance reasons. If so, this would be a significant violation by the Russians of the Outer Space Treaty, which requires them to list every object they launch. It would also be something they have not done before, which is why I am doubtful about this speculation. Though they are skilled at keeping their military space work secret, they have also obeyed this treaty scrupulously since the day they signed it. If they have decided they can get away with launching objects without listing them officially, then that means the treaty is showing its first signs of collapse, something I believe will happen more and more in the coming years as nations and private companies find themselves increasingly restrained by the unrealistic terms of the treaty.

Posted from Buffalo, New York. I stay here tonight, and go on to Israel tomorrow evening, which means I will be posting tomorrow during the day, and will be able to see the SpaceX launch and OSIRIS-REx’s arrival at Bennu.

China, the Moon, and the Outer Space Treaty

Link here. The article speaks to the problems of sovereignty, ownership, and political borders created by the language of Outer Space Treaty, specifically illustrated now by China’s newest effort to put a lander on the far side of the Moon.

[This] pioneering space travel has raised concern that China is also interested in the tiny spots on the moon that never go dark, the polar peaks of eternal light. Those peaks are vanishingly small, occupying one-one hundred billionth of the lunar surface − roughly equivalent to three sheets of NHL ice on Earth. But their near-ceaseless sunshine gives them great value as a source of solar energy, to power everything from scientific experiments to mining operations.

Their small size could also, scientists have argued, allow one country to take sole occupancy of this unique real estate without falling afoul of the Outer Space Treaty. That agreement stipulates that no state can exert sovereignty in outer space. But it also calls on countries “to avoid interference” with equipment installed by others.

That provides a loophole of sorts, researchers say. The installation of very sensitive equipment on the peaks of eternal light, such as a radio telescope − a 100-metre long uncovered wire used to study transmissions from the sun, and deeper corners of the universe − could use up much of the available space while also providing a rationale to bar others from the area on the grounds that the telescope is too sensitive to be disturbed.

“Effectively a single wire could co-opt one of the most valuable pieces of territory on the moon into something approaching real estate, giving the occupant a good deal of leverage even if their primary objective was not scientific inquiry,” researchers from Harvard University, King’s College London and Georg-August Universitat Gottingen wrote in a 2015 paper.

Because the Outer Space Treaty outlaws any nation from claiming territory, it provides no method for any nation, or private company, to establish its borders or property rights. To protect what they own nations are therefore will be forced to create their own rules, willy-nilly, such as the one speculated above. And when they disagree, only the use of force will be available to either defend or defy these arbitrary rules.

Japan creates $1 billion fund for private space start-ups

The new colonial movement: Japan’s government has created a $940 million fund that will be used to help new space companies get started.

The funds will be made available through investments and loans over the next five years, as part of a government-led initiative to double Japan’s more than $11 billion space industry. With less than 20 Japanese space start-ups currently operating, many see this as critical to helping new companies cover costs such as research or applying for patents. “We believe this will be remembered as a turning point for our burgeoning industry,” Takeshi Hakamada, CEO and founder of lunar exploration start-up ispace, said in a statement.

Ispace has received government backing in the past, including during a recent $90.2 million round of funding that included Suzuki Motor and Japan Airlines. Founded seven years ago, ispace is stepping beyond the Google-backed Lunar XPRIZE competition to fund two exploration missions to the moon, with the first by the end of 2019 and the second by the end of 2020.

The Japanese government is setting up an agency to manage the funds and connect start-ups with local talent from organizations such as the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency or the rocket-building arm of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Initially, start-ups will be eligible to each receive about $100,000 in aid to help present concepts to investors. Promising ventures and more mature companies will be able to tap into the rest of the $940 million fund to further development.

More details here.

The most interesting aspect however of this new effort is the decision by Japan to also review its space law in order to encourage private ownership in space.

Japan also announced it is considering new laws and policies that would allow businesses to own plots of land developed on the moon, in a similar manner to the laws passed by the United States and Luxembourg. So far, the U.S. and Luxembourg are the only two countries in the world to have passed laws giving corporations ownership of materials mined in space, but only after they’ve been extracted. That legal framework has seen the tiny European country attract dozens of space companies, with another 70 space companies looking to establish in Luxembourg, according to Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider.

They will find, as have the U.S. and Luxembourg as well as UAE, the United Kingdom, and a number of other countries that have reviewed the Outer Space Treaty, that this legal framework under this treaty will not work well, and still leaves the ownership rights of private companies very vulnerable. To protect property rights in space, either the Outer Space Treaty has to be changed to allow the establishment of national borders and laws, or dumped entirely.

Builders of Ghana’s first satellite push for government help

The new colonial movement: The student engineers who built Ghana’s first satellite, GhanaSat-1 and launched in July, are pushing their government to establish the legal framework for future space activities in that country.

Student engineers behind the successful launch of Ghana’s first satellite into orbit have appealed to the government to set up a multi-stakeholder committee to come up with an act, the Ghana outer space act, a key requirement that would enable the country to ratify and sign the United Nations Outer Space Treaty.

They said if the country signed and ratified the treaty, it would give investors the signal and confidence that the country was ready for them to come and establish space science facilities.

The description in the article of what these students want suggests they do not quite understand the ramifications of all the UN space treaties, because it appears they also want Ghana to become signatories to them all. This would be a big mistake. While every country that launches satellites is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty, very few have signed the Moon Treaty, as its language puts far more serious restrictions on property rights.

A modern academic looks at the Outer Space Treaty

Link here. I could also label this another sign of the coming dark age. Consider her proposals:

Space laws need to be updated for our time. Extending the Outer Space Treaty or writing a new one is unlikely to work, as US hesitancy to sign the [Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects (PPWT)] shows. ‘Soft law’, driven by need, seems the best option for revising the rules for space operators.

Soft law comprises rules or guidelines that have legal significance but are not binding. It sets standards of conduct for agreeing parties, much like those that protect the environment and endangered species. ‘Rules of the road’ and best practices for space should be developed. These could take a similar form to the navigation guidelines set out in the 1972 Convention on International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, which govern when one vessel should give way to another, as well as other interactions.

Soft law works when it is in the interest of all parties to abide by it. If countries and companies want to maintain the space environment as a usable domain, then it is in their interests to accommodate a variety of operations. Space is more complex to manage than air, land or sea because of the distance, physics and technology involved. Just as in the cyber domain, technology has preceded regulation, making it difficult to impose after the fact.

The first focus of an analogous set of space guidelines should be environmental protection and debris avoidance, areas that most spacefaring nations agree on. [emphasis mine]

Rather than fix a bad law, the Outer Space Treaty, that is binding on everyone, she proposes the we make the laws “soft,” thus unreliable because everyone can ignore them whenever they want. The result? Utter contempt for the law.

Then she indicates her main interest, which isn’t exploration or the settlement of the solar system, which is the actual interest of the people who are building rockets and spaceships, but “environmental protection.” Above all, we must establish strict regulations that will prevent those pristine lifeless worlds from being damaged by us evil humans!

If anything is a prescription for stunting the growth of space exploration, this is it. Unfortunately, it appears that this prescription is also the dominate intellectual approach of today’s academic community.

International group forms to get UN protection of Apollo sites

An international group of lawyers, academics, and business people has formed an organization called “For All Moonkind,” aimed specifically at getting UN protections for the six lunar Apollo sites.

They are going to the UN because, based on the Outer Space Treaty, this is the only place that has jurisdiction. Unfortunately. This quote illustrates why:

“Though we are based in the US, we are an international organization,” said Michelle Hanlon, US space lawyer and Co-Founder of For All Moonkind. “Humaid Alshamsi [the UAE participant] brings tremendous experience in public and private aviation and space law to our team. We are thrilled that he has agreed to join our effort.”

For All Moonkind was critical of the auction by Sotheby’s of the Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag used by astronaut Neil Armstrong. “The astronauts of the Apollo project represented all of us here on Earth,” explained aviation and space lawyer and Advisory Council Member Humaid Alshamsi, “they went to the Moon in peace for all, and the relics of their historic achievement should be shared by all. The loss of this artifact to a private collector is a loss for humanity.”

The Outer Space Treaty forbids any nation from claiming territory in space, thus leaving it under the control of the UN and the international community, a community that — as demonstrated by this quote — is hostile to capitalism and private enterprise. While I laud this group’s desire to protect these historic sites, I fear their actions are going to place limits on the freedoms and property rights of future space colonists.

The difficult task of legally preserving the Apollo lunar sites

Link here.

While I heartily agree that these historic sites should be preserved, if you read the article you will notice how the focus with these people is not the future, but preserving relics of the past. I say we don’t need more memorials. The best memorial for Apollo 11 would be thriving city on the Moon, even if it trampled on Tranquility Base.

Note also that the restrictions imposed by the Outer Space Treaty once again make things worse. Under the treaty, there is no way for the U.S. to reasonably preserve these American historical sites, without first getting the approval of the UN. The result? I guarantee that any arrangement we manage to work out will almost certainly restrict the freedoms of future space colonists. This not a good thing, and it certainly isn’t something we here on Earth should be doing to the brave people who will someday want to build new civilizations on other worlds.

Luxembourg parliament adopts draft space law

Capitalism in space: The Luxembourg parliament yesterday adopted a draft space law that will allow that country to authorize, under the Outer Space Treaty, future private enterprise missions in space, including mining on the Moon and the asteroids.

The press release makes the following claim:

The Grand Duchy is thus the first European country to offer a legal framework ensuring that private operators can be confident about their rights on resources they extract in space. The law will come into force on August 1, 2017. Its first article provides that space resources are capable of being owned. The country’s law also establishes the procedures for authorizing and supervising space exploration missions.

In reading the actual law [pdf], however, I do not think this really does what they claim. All the law does is simply state that “Space resources are capable of being appropriated.” That’s it. They are essentially saying that any private profit-oriented mission that launches under Luxembourg’s authorization will have their blessing to take as much from any planetary body as they desire. No property rights are delineated, including the borders of any territory owned, which is not surprising since the Outer Space Treaty forbids Luxembourg from doing so.

In fact, I think this illustrates for us all the future as we colonize the solar system, assuming the Outer Space Treaty is not revised or dumped. Like pirates, nations (or their citizens) will grab as much as they can, and will then use force to protect those holdings from any one else. Everyone will have to do this, because there will be no legal framework to establish their claims.

Since it appears, at least for the present, that no one wants to change the Outer Space Treaty, expect the future in space to be a brutal legal nightmare for all involved.

Commercial space has won

Today the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, chaired by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), held the third of a series of hearings on the future regulatory framework required for American commercial space to prosper.

My previous reviews of the past two hearings can be found at these links:

In today’s hearing the witnesses in general once again called for a variety of reforms that would simplify the regulatory process for private enterprise. Dr. Moriba K. Jah, associate professor from University of Texas at Austin, suggested removing NOAA’s veto power on remote sensing, something that the proposed House bill I analyzed in my Federalist op-ed actually does). Jeffrey Manber of Nanoracks suggested giving the private sector a certain date when ISS will be decommissioned so that they can more easily obtain investment capital for building the privately-built space facilities that will replace it. Tim Ellis of Relativity, a company trying to build rocket engines manufactured entirely by 3D printing, called for more American spaceports, accessible by private companies, as well as a simplification of the FAA permitting process. Robert Cabana, Director at the Kennedy Space Center, talked about the need for government facilities to provide the infrastructure for private companies, as the center has done for the private launch sites and manufacturing facilities they have helped get established at Kennedy since the retirement of the shuttle.

Tim Hughes from SpaceX topped them all.
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Australia to consider forming its own government space agency

The new colonial movement: The Australian government is studying the idea of forming its own space agency.

With ever-increasing dependence on satellites for communication and navigation, an Australian space agency could oversee the launch of satellites.

But, initially, an Australian space agency’s main role would be to help keep jobs and $3 billion of spending in Australia rather than flowing overseas. The agency would also help Australians take advantage of satellite technology, especially for farmers.

This proposal is actually all about the requirements under Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty. If Australian companies wish to do anything in space, the treaty requires Australian to have some legal framework in place to regulate that activity. The regulations can merely rubber-stamp an approval for any private operation, but they must exist. Without them Australian companies will be forced, for legal reasons, to go to elsewhere to make their space endeavors happen.

White House rejects House proposal to create a military “Space Corps”

The White House today objected to a House defense policy bill that included a number of provisions, including the creation of a separate “Space Corps.”

Proposals to build the “Space Corps,” to prohibit a military base closure round, levy notification requirements for military cyber operations, develop a ground-launched cruise missile — and to “misuse” wartime funds for enduring needs — were some of the Trump administration targets.

The White House stopped short of threatening a veto, however, and said it looks forward to working with Congress to address the concerns. Still, the list will provide ammunition to Democrats and Republicans who hope to pick off provisions of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act when it comes to the House floor on Wednesday.

The idea at this time of establishing a separate military division devoted to space military operations is absurd, a waste of money, and would only create an additional bureaucracy that no one needs right now. However, in reading this op-ed by retired Air Force colonel M.V. “Coyote” Smith, one of the early proponents of this idea, I am not surprised to learn that one of the key good reasons for creating such a force is the Outer Space Treaty. As Smith notes,

Created at the height of the moon race between the two principle [sic] Cold War antagonists and others, the Outer Space Treaty was designed to prevent either power from claiming sovereignty over the entire moon upon arriving first. It succeeded. Unfortunately, it forbids any national appropriation of real estate and resources in space.

This prevents the issuance of property deeds and the awarding of resource rights to any part of the planets, moons and asteroids, without a potential legal contest. This also frustrates commercial and private entities whose business plans require legal clarity.

Thus, the limitations of the Outer Space Treaty forces the need for a military force to protect the rights of any American individual or businesses in space. As I said today in my op-ed for The Federalist:

The Outer Space Treaty poses limits on property rights. It also does not provide any mechanism for peacefully establishing sovereignty for any nation on any territory in space. Yet national sovereignty and territorial control is a given in all human societies. If we do nothing to establish a peaceful method for creating sovereignty and national territories in space, nations are going to find their own way to do it, often by force and violence.

Thus, no one should be surprised by this first proposal. It might be too soon, but it probably is not as soon as many critics claim. Unless we get the Outer Space Treaty revised to allow the establishment of internationally recognized borders, the need by everyone for a military in space to defend their holdings will become essential. And what a messy process that will be.

Space law vs the Outer Space Treaty

My new op-ed at The Federalist is now online. Other than changing the title from my proposed version above to something a bit more unwieldy, “What You Need To Know About The Space Law Congress Is Considering,” they have posted it exactly as I wrote it.

The essay provides a very detailed analysis of the commercial space law that the House is presently considering. While they are proposing many good reforms, my conclusion unfortunately sums things up:

W.E.B. Du Bois, in studying the African slave trade, once asked, “How far in a State can a recognized moral wrong safely be compromised?” and answered his own question by saying that it is dangerous for “any nation, through carelessness and moral cowardice, [to allow] any social evil to grow. . . . From this we may conclude that it behooves nations as well as men to do things at the very moment when they ought to be done.”

The Outer Space Treaty poses limits on property rights. It also does not provide any mechanism for peacefully establishing sovereignty for any nation on any territory in space. Yet national sovereignty and territorial control is a given in all human societies. If we do nothing to establish a peaceful method for creating sovereignty and national territories in space, nations are going to find their own way to do it, often by force and violence. It behooves us to have the courage to face this issue now, and “do things at the very moment when they ought to be done.”

Read it all.

Australian academic group to review Outer Space Treaty

Another op-ed today once again notes that the Outer Space Treaty needs updating, and notes that an Australian working group linked to an academic international space conference in Australia in September will be reviewing the treaty and suggesting future revisions.

In late September 2017, Adelaide will host the largest space-related meeting on the annual calendar – the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC). In more recent years, there has been a companion conference just prior to the IAC – the Space Generation Congress (SGC). This was initiated on the request of states through the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to represent the interests of the next generation in outer space.

At the SGC, a group of young Australians will lead a working group of delegates from across the globe, to develop and propose a set of supplementary protocols to the OST, in order to adapt global space governance to the needs of the next 50 years.

The article emphasizes that any changes to the treaty should be made with future generations in mind, and this is one reason the members of the working group are being drawn from the Space Generation Congress, since this is an event comprised mostly of students. That they are modern academic students is nonetheless worrisome, considering the increasingly oppressive culture of modern academic student communities. I fear that their naive effort to establish rules will be based too much on the good intentions of young people, and we all know what path that puts us on.

A personal note: I will have another op-ed published this week by The Federalist on the recent efforts in both houses of Congress to deal with the Outer Space Treaty, and it includes my detailed analysis of the proposed space law that was approved by a House committee in early June.

UK’s space industry bill introduced in House of Lords

The new colonial movement: The United Kingdom’s proposed space industry bill has now been introduced in the House of Lords, the first step to making it law.

I have not had a chance to read it, but the claim is that this bill will establish a regulatory framework, under the Outer Space Treaty, to attract private commercial space to Great Britain.

The academic community weighs in on Outer Space Treaty

Link here. They recognize the problem the Outer Space Treaty creates for property rights, but not surprisingly have trouble touching on the heart of the problem, that the treaty forbids the establishment of any nation’s laws on any territory in space.

Hertzfeld points out that the industry needs policies that address for-profit operations in space, particularly activities that will be managed or operated by the private sector. Until now, he says, most private sector activities have been narrow, but that could change as companies become more involved with satellites and in spaceflight. “How do you deal with property rights in space?” he said. “Ownership of these natural resources, mineral resources, up there? How do you deal with approaching satellites that are perhaps owned by someone else, particularly if it’s another nation’s satellite? How do you deal with debris that could cause accidents?”

“There are lots and lots of questions in how you do this internationally, because other nations are involved. These are the issues that are not clearly defined right now.”

Von der Dunk adds that there are still many countries that have no, or only a limited, national space law program. As a result, he says, in the implementation of the Outer Space Treaty, a divergence has grown that has led to gaps, inconsistencies and overlaps in domestic oversight. “Ideally, at the international level it would be good to have some form of harmonization at least of the approaches, noting that of course every sovereign state may have some individual idiosyncratic elements to deal with, but that idea has never moved beyond the stage of academic discussion,” von der Dunk said. “Sovereign states are not willing to comply with any serious effort to make this happen.”

I would love to know what “some form of harmonization” means.

Nonetheless, that this article was published in a major media outlet, which asked these academics about this issue, is once again evidence that people are finally recognizing the problems posed by the Outer Space Treaty, and are beginning to discuss ways for dealing with it.

British government to loosen regulations on space

The British government is about to propose new regulations on space to allow the operation of commercial spaceports while establishing a licensing system for the launch companies that will fly from those spaceports.

These new regulations are likely the legislation the government announced it was preparing back in February. I suspect they are, like other recent legislative proposals, trying to fit the square peg of private enterprise into the round hole of the Outer Space Treaty.

House committee passes new commercial space bill

Last week the House Science committee passed a new commercial space bill designed to streamline the licensing system that presently exists for getting private space missions certified as required under the Outer Space Treaty.

The bill reforms the existing licensing system for commercial remote sensing satellites, streamlining a process that many companies in that sector said results in lengthy delays. It also establishes a “certification” process for commercial spaceflight not otherwise licensed today in order to eliminate any regulatory uncertainty and ensure compliance with the Outer Space Treaty.

“The goal of this bill is not to regulate space broadly,” [Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)] said in a statement at the markup. “Instead, the bill takes a commonsense approach by establishing a legal foundation upon which U.S. industry can flourish.”

I am in the process of reviewing the proposed law, and hope to write something detailed about it in the next few days. I should say here that in general this law seems to be trying to address the same issues relating to the Outer Space Treaty that have been discussed during the Senate hearings organized recently by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). And while to me the resulting bill seems generally good, it still leaves hanging the Outer Space Treaty’s fundamental problems relating to property rights.

Luxembourg revises space law to address Outer Space Treaty

Luxembourg has revised its proposed new space law in order to try to address the property right concerns posed by the Outer Space Treaty.

The legislation is patterned on the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, which includes provisions that grant U.S. companies the rights to resources they extract from asteroids or other celestial bodies. One difference, Schneider said, will be that while the U.S. law requires companies to be based in the country, Luxembourg’s protections would cover companies regardless of their location. “We don’t really care where the money comes from,” he said.

The bill also creates a system for the authorization and continuing supervision of commercial space activities that are regulated by the country. The lack of similar policy in the United States for “non-traditional” commercial space activities like asteroid mining — required, many argue, in order to comply with Article 6 of the Outer Space Treaty — has been an issue debated in the last few years.

…Luxembourg is also in the process of creating a national space agency, Schneider said. The country is a member of the European Space Agency but has not previously had its own national agency. However, he said the agency will be structured differently than those in other countries. “This space agency will not be a copy of NASA or ESA, but it will be a space agency whose only focus on the commercial use of space resources,” he said. It will be set up a public-private partnership between the government and private funds.

I would say that the competition in space is definitely now heating up. These actions by Luxembourg might not solve the legal problems with the Outer Space Treaty, but they will certainly up the pressure on the world’s space-faring nations to face the issue.

Another proposal for dealing with the Outer Space Treaty

Link here. The author has made an interesting analysis of my earlier essay on this subject, and come up with what I think is a very intriguing and most encouraging idea:

Government establishes a legal framework for enforcing law. So, rather than allow nations to make claims of territory, let us instead allow private enterprises to go to the Moon or elsewhere, stake a claim, and then, to establish a legal framework for resolving any disputes that arise, choose the government under whose legal jurisdiction their claim will reside. No governments would appropriate territory. They would merely be lending their courts to render judgments on legal disputes arising outside their territories. That would seem to satisfy Article 2. This scheme would not require a new Treaty but could probably be implemented via United Nations resolutions. [emphasis in original]

I actually like this, as it puts the power in the hands of the citizens or companies, allowing them to pick the nation to which they wish to align.

What I find most encouraging however is that the subject of the Outer Space Treaty is now becoming a major issue worth discussing, by many others. I have my ideas, others have theirs. Either way, the issues and weaknesses of the treaty are now being debated, and people are proposing solutions. In the fifty years since the treaty was signed it has previously been impossible to generate this much discussion on this issue. (Believe me, I have tried.) That others are now responding and proposing alternative approaches means that maybe the time has finally arrived where this problem will be dealt with.

Washington rallies around the Outer Space Treaty

Yesterday Senator Ted Cruz (D-Texas) held the second in what he says will be a series of hearings on the future government regulation of the commercial space industry. The specific focus of this hearing was the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and its effect on private enterprise.

The hearing saw two panels of witnesses, the first three legal experts on the Outer Space Treaty, the second four industry experts from a variety of private space businesses.

Like the first hearing on April 27, the witnesses this time were once again unanimous in their call for a simplification of the present regulatory arrangement. They also emphasized repeatedly that private enterprise should not be required by Congress to get permission to do things in space. Instead, Congress should merely provide regulation that will facilitate private enterprise while helping them avoid interfering with each other.

Unlike the first hearing, however, the atmosphere was decidedly less interested in improving the overall international regulatory framework created under the Outer Space Treaty. Instead, the witnesses in unison were supportive of the treaty and did not want the U.S. to either pull out of it or try to change it. All advocated the position that the treaty as written allowed the U.S. to regulate private businesses in a manner that could protect property rights in space.

As I watched the hearing I was struck by this unity of position. To me, it appeared that the Washington elitist community was circling its wagons in order to protect the status quo.

The witnesses from the business community appeared afraid of the consequences of any effort to change the Outer Space Treaty. As Mike Gold, Vice President of Space Systems Loral, noted,
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