Washington Lawyer - December 2017 - 19
regimes exist today for
remote sensing, and space
transportation. There is a
regulatory void for many
of the new commercial
regulations, including how to deal with space
debris from wayward satellites. The United
States also amended the Commercial Space
Launch Act in 2004 to address ongoing
concerns around human space flight.
By 2015 the legislative focus was on setting rules
for mining resources, whether from the moon
or asteroids. The U.S. Commercial Space Launch
Competitiveness Act of 2015 ensured that U.S.based companies would get the rights to resources
they extract from space, even if they couldn't own
the "land" they extracted them from.
"Domestic regulatory regimes exist today for
commercial satellite communications, satellite
remote sensing, and space transportation.
There is a regulatory void for many of the new
commercial space activities," says Meredith. "As
a domestic matter, we need to create some
certainty for companies that want to go ahead
with these activities and attract some investment
to these projects."
Paul Stimers, courtesy of K&L Gates LLP; Pamela Meredith, courtesy
of Zuckert, Scoutt & Rasenberger LLP
While the central principles of the OST have
been sporadically, and at times disjointedly,
supplemented with domestic legislation and
international regimes, many believe that a more
comprehensive revision is necessary to reflect
Today's satellite telecommunications, remote
sensing, and space-launch enterprises are growing
in complexity. Meanwhile, space development
has been more explicitly defined by government
agencies and private corporations, from visions
of Mars settlements to extractions of minerals
"In the last decade, it's been more and more
apparent that the law set up in the 1960s worked
fine for 50 years, but now, the fact is, there isn't
enough law for the circumstance," says Chris
Johnson, space law advisor for the Secure World
Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to sustainable
space development. "For what we want to do in the
future, we will need more law."
Up to now, the governing approach has focused
on regulating an activity - communications,
space transportation, remote sensing, and
resource extraction. The question going forward
is, what is the government to do about new
activities that don't fall neatly into the scope
of current laws?
"There are a lot of holes in the treaties that need
plugging, and some definitions that aren't precise,"
says Henry Hertzfeld, a professor who focuses on
legal issues of space at the Elliott School of
International Affairs at The George Washington
University. "Sooner or later, we're going to have
to face those issues."
The challenge in crafting rules for space in the 21st
century is that nations must make decisions that are
both mundane and profound. What laws should
astronauts live under on the moon or on Mars?
DECEMBER 2017 19
Ryan Etter/Ikon Images/Getty Images
Zuckert, Scoutt & Rasenberger L.L.P.