Enhanced Space Law Through Distributed Ledgers
Updated: Apr 28
Space Law governs all space-related activities. Some examples include international treaties, domestic agreements, space exploration, information sharing, safety and labor regulations, the use of new technologies ranging from weapons to launch vehicles, and contracts between space companies to name a few.
The overlap between these categories significantly impacts the day-to-day business of companies just entering the New Space industry. The uncertainty and swift regulatory changes, or oftentimes the lack thereof, make operations and contracting agreements difficult to navigate due to constant compliance updates. This is where Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) provides solutions to a smoother and more integrated process.
Distributed ledgers allow multiple parties to collaborate and transparently share information while providing permissioned access for more sensitive data. These ledgers are append-only, meaning that there is a clear historical track record of any changes or updates that space companies, public or private, need to be aware of. Because data is stored chronologically, it can include everything from safety regulations to new sanctions, as is the case for Russia during the Biden Administration.
Distributed ledgers can also streamline Certificates of Authentication and Application Registrations, significantly lowering the time and cost of executing contracts based on these factors. Self-executing contracts can be programmed to allow companies quick dispute resolution and fast payments by holding collateral in escrow without an outside third party. The DLT model of information storage also provides extensive cybersecurity benefits that keep corporate trade secrets and National Security threats from competitors and adversaries.
Objects launched into space are subject to a lengthy accountability process that can last anywhere from two to five years. Insurance, testing, licensing, and payload registration, are all based on the laws in each jurisdiction which can vary from manufacturing to launch. For example, the new US sanctions on Russia do not allow any companies that use American rocket components to launch from that country. DLT can automatically streamline these verification processes, cutting the time to launch by six or more months.
Another use case for DLT in Space Law is centered around mining operations, whether done by robots or human teams. Enforcing these laws will be difficult without true information from distant celestial bodies. Distributed ledgers can be programmed to include research data sharing, and fines for regulatory violations paid in cryptocurrencies to protect the environments of other planets.
As space exploration extends beyond the Moon, communication delays can be mitigated through a robust legal system that functions independently from Earth-bound regulators while retaining the integrity that a justice system must provide. Space compliance is becoming more crucial as new players are entering the industry. So if innovation and competitive advantage are the goals, humanity needs a systemic upgrade of the current international Space Law infrastructure.