Open Season

//Open Season

Open Season

While we have been focusing on our practices for the last couple of
years, monumental changes have been made in the law. These changes will affect
us; our clients will want to know about them, and we need to be ready.

Until just over a year ago, the entire body of the law governing outer
space was only a few pages long. It
employed hopeful and utopian concepts. The seminal Outer
Space Treaty of 1967
stated:

INSPIRED
by the great prospects opening up before mankind as a result of man’s entry
into outer space,

RECOGNIZING
the common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use
of outer space for peaceful purposes,

BELIEVING
that the exploration and use of outer space should be carried on for the
benefit of all peoples irrespective of the degree of their economic or
scientific development,

DESIRING
to contribute to broad international co-operation in the scientific as well as
the legal aspects of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful
purposes,

BELIEVING that such
co-operation will contribute to the development of mutual understanding and to
the strengthening of friendly relations between States and peoples, . . .

 

The Outer Space Treaty and subsequent corollaries, such as the Moon
Treaty of 1979, are easily summarized to their essence. Essentially, the governing law of outer space
did not allow ownership of any space resources and did not allow the
non-peaceful use of space. There was not
a lot to learn, legally speaking. And
almost no one needed to learn space law because no one was really exploring and
utilizing outer space. That era has come
to an end.

Everything changed in November 2015, when President Obama signed the Commercial
Space Launch Competitiveness Act
into law with very little media attention.
The Act is monumental in scope and
importance, but almost no one noticed it. The Act allows companies for the first time in
history to claim ownership of resources extracted from space, such as water, ice
and even gold from asteroids. Google-backed asteroid mining company Planetary
Resources lobbied hard for the legislation and celebrated, saying “the market
in space is ripe to bloom.”

Not to be left behind, just a couple of months ago, on November 11,
2016, Luxembourg became the first European country to pass a law allowing the taking of space
resources by private companies
. Deep
Space Industries, another major player in the asteroid mining industry,
congratulated Luxembourg – the country where DSI maintains its headquarters –
on the new law. DSI’s Chairman of the
Board, Rick Tumlinson said “We applaud Luxembourg for taking this bold
and visionary step to create the needed framework for private citizens and companies
to operate in space.” It is no
coincidence that Luxembourg both is the home of DSI and was quick to follow the
U.S. in completely reversing the principles of outer space law existing since
the 1960s.

The rest of Europe can be expected to follow suit, so as not to fall
behind the curve. Planetary Resources
says “A hundred
years from now
, humanity will look at this period in time as the point in which we
were able to establish a permanent foothold in space. In history, there has
never been a more rapid rate of progress than right now.”

Recognizing that the monumental changes to outer space law were made at
the request of the private industries that the laws will enable, we can
conclude that the time to master space law is now. A complete reversal of the philosophical
basis of outer space law has taken place right under our noses. The politicians did not just one day decide
to abandon utopian ideals and commercialize space; the politicians are changing
the laws because private companies are now ready to commercialize space and are
demanding the changes.

The monumental legal changes are the strongest indicators we have that
the commercialization and colonization of space can now be expected to proceed
with all due speed. The future is now. Are you prepared?

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By | 2017-03-08T19:35:10+00:00 February 25th, 2017|Space Lawyers|0 Comments

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