Defining U.S. Space Law with NASA (Part 2)
“Outer Space is not the wild, wild West,” says Steven Freeland, Emeritus Professor of International Law in Sydney, even though its exploration came out of the geopolitical context of the Cold War. Originally it was considered a purely State activity, almost without limitations, but there is always a need for both military and civilian innovation in every emerging industry. Space is inextricably linked to human rights and the future of humanity and everyone should be involved in the industry's development.
In March, NASA held an online Symposium open to the public to discuss the meanings and contexts of Commercial Space. We covered the first session in our blog. The second session highlighted the legal perspective on space exploration and innovation.
Originally, NASA decided what had to be done in space and how it had to be done. The U.S. quickly emerged as the leader and set the standard for innovation. In 1982, Conestoga 1 became the first commercially launched rocket. The company Space Services Inc. had to get many authorizations from a dozen different federal agencies before the launch including a ballistic weapons license. The fragmentation of space law had begun.
The U.S. legal system is complex and reactive. There are many layers of laws, regulations, and executive policy that need to be taken into account when dealing with any launch. It is also reactive, as historically, space law has been adopted ‘as needed’ based on new emerging technology. Technology is largely driven by the commercial sector which is why cooperation between the public and private parts of the industry is so important.
The New Space business model is modularized so while NASA still decides what needs to be done, it is from a lead-user perspective, and the rest of the industry now decides how things are done. Two benefits private space companies must provide are ‘access’ and ‘presence’. Access refers to how we can reach the Moon and Mars including the cost drivers, re-usability factors, lifting capacity, and transit time. Companies can create value by mitigating interdependencies. Presence refers to what we have to do once we reach the Moon or Mars. This refers to sustainability in space and companies can create value by exploring the mechanisms to make sustainable human presence possible.
The core issue is that U.S. space law lacks centralization, or rather a comprehensive guidance system for new companies. This gives the industry flexibility to create laws that adapt to emerging technologies, but makes the process of following current laws unclear. This is where Lunargistics steps in, by providing software that allows companies to work with federal agencies but still get the benefits of decentralization and cooperation through distributed ledger technology.
On the government side, regulations must be renewed, improved, and clarified to support the private sector. On the business side, companies like Lunargistics can help bridge the gap so that humanity can continue to move forward beyond Earth. Recognition of ‘common interests’, restoring and retaining the ‘humanity’ of space, and the ‘stewardship’ of the planet and outer space are the three main principles everyone in the industry should adhere to.