No, You Can Not Name a Star

The ads turn up everywhere. On the radio, in magazines, on the Web, in your e-mail box if you don't have a good spam blocker. And it's not just a big fat scam during the holidays.

But it is a big fat scam.

Wish you could name a star after yourself or a loved one? Of course you do. And there are no shortage of commercial star naming ventures trumpeting their services to tempt the star-struck among us (we know who we are) to pay for such a heavenly honor. But aside from a fancy certificate, a sky chart and bill for thirty, forty, fifty or more bucks, what does the local star peddler deliver? Is naming a star a stellar gift idea, or merely a celestial-sized scam?

Don't be fooled, Probe readers.
Astra nomen caveat emptor. In fact, no private company may lawfully claim jurisdiction over the naming of stars. Any number of self-proclaimed star registries or naming entities boast "official" status (not to mention celebrity endorsements) and apparently operate unfettered by consumer protection agencies. And although these vendors skillfully promote the illusion that purchased star names are valid, save your money.

The one and only international authority empowered to name stars, as well as other celestial bodies and the surface features on them, is the International Astronomical Union. And they're not selling any. In any case, astronomers, scientists, governments, educators and star-gazers recognize and rely on IAU assigned names and designations. So keep that twinkle, twinkle in your eye and pool your star dust for a gift in your loved one's name to charity. (Actually, Space Law Probe wanted to name a parallel universe after itself, but decided to save up for sports arena instead.)

The IAU's FAQ sets the record straight on naming stars, setting forth that purchased names of stars, star clusters or galaxies "have no formal or official validity whatever..." Same goes for "real estate" on other planets or moons in the Solar System. See also here is Jim Craig's comprehensive Star Naming FAQ.) For a hardcore look at naming, here is IAU's Designations and Nomenclature of Celestial Objects, IAU's Committee on Small Body Nomenclature, and the U.S. Geological Survey's Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.


New GPS Policy Applauded

In between holiday shopping and glasses of eggnog, I'm sure you've taken the time to read through the new U.S. Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Policy, announced by the White House December 15, 2004.

The U.S. GPS Industry Council sure did, and wholly
endorsed the policy. According to USGIC, which appeared to find the new PNT policy the holiday gift it was hoping for, said of the policy:

"It maintains an unambiguous U.S. commitment to the essential principles of open access, free of direct user fees, for civilian users worldwide. The PNT policy recognizes the importance of protecting the radio spectrum from interference, in which GPS and other satellite navigation services operate. This U.S. policy addresses interaction with other countries' PNT services, including Russia's Glonass and Europe's Galileo systems. In addition, the U.S. Government commits to continued technological improvements, such as GPS Modernization."


Friday Flybys (vol. 2)

Shhh. What's all the Congressional fuss about a secret (well, not so secret anymore, eh?) spy satellite program eating up the intel budget? Relax. DOJ may investigate unauthorized leaks of classified information regarding "Misty," but we got the important stuff covered. The North American Aerospace Defense Command, (whose motto is "Deter, Detect, Defend"), that's right, NORAD, has released recent declassified photos of Santa. Just in case we were worried about frivolous defense spending.

Deconstructing O'Keefe... David Leonard at MSNBC says the next space agency chief faces
serious problems. Would you want the job? The Name Game continues at NASA Watch. At least someone has something nice to say: 74-year-old "legendary" veteran astronaut John Young proclaims the shuttle is safer.

Is Boeing the Enron of the U.S. Air Force?, asks the International Herald Tribune. No comment.

Well if there's one thing that has got to be bad for the space tourism industry, it's
a food shortage in space. Until provisions arrive, the Probe sends best holiday wishes to ISS crew Salizhan Sharipov and Leroy Chiao.

8th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference - Feb 10-11, 2005; Washington, D.C. Be there.


GPS, GLONASS & Galileo

Never a dull moment in the wide world of navigation satellites.

On the cooperation between the US and the Russian Federation front: Talks began in Washington (December 9-10) on matters relating to GPS and the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS); we have this
joint statement. And we look forward to an agreement for GPS-GLONASS cooperation.

On a more dire note, President Bush
announced US will prepare for partial shut down of GPS in the event of a terror attck. Of course this prompted a thread on Slashdot.

And across the pond in Europe, the European Union last week officially green lighted
Galileo, the 30-satellite global navigation system to rival GPS. Here's the press release from Brussles.

By the way, recall that the US and EU already
signed an agreement (last June at a summit in Ireland, in fact) to adopt common operating standards ensuring compatibility between the GPS and Galileo. (Couldn't find that agreement online, but we'll settle for the White House fact sheet on that.)

Satellite Radio Can Be Indecent

Go ahead and utter "any obscene, indecent, or profane language" on satellite radio. The FCC won't stop you.

The Commission has confirmed that it will not apply its well-exercised rule (47 C.F.R. § 73.3999) enforcing the ever-controversial indecency law
(18 U.S.C. § 1464) to satellite radio broadcasts.

No surprise here. FCC Media Bureau Chief W. Kenneth Ferree
declined a rulemaking petition submitted by a citizen broadcaster seeking content regulation for satellite programming. Ferree reiterated, “subscription-based services do not call into play the issue of indecency” and "the Commission does not impose regulations regarding indecency on services lacking the indiscriminate access to children that characterizes broadcasting.”

Review the FCC's
guidance to the broadcast industry regarding case law interpreting 18 U.S.C. § 1464 and the Commission's enforcement policies.

(Meanwhile, off the air and in print, and not a moment too soon,
here's soon-to-be ex-terrestrial radio shock jock Howard Stern in USA Today promoting his upcoming move to Sirius in January 2006.)

Of course, despite the Commission's restraint, over at BuzzMachine, Jeff Jarvis's Dear Santa list includes the simple request:
dismantle the FCC.


Views from Vienna

Mark your space calendars: The forty-eighth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is scheduled for June 8-16, 2005 at the Vienna International Center, Vienna, Austria. And, more to the point, the 44th session of the Legal Subcommittee of the COPUOS will be on April 4-15, 2005, also at the Vienna International Center. We expect a full report and some yummy kaiserschmarrn if you go.

Just to tide you over until then, here's the Legal Subcommittee's report on the work of its
43rd session (March 29 -April 8, 2004), held as well in beautiful Vienna. (I really must get out of New York more.)

And for you hardcore fans of COPUOS and its legendary Legal Subcommittee, dig in: the Subcommittee's entire
Legal Unedited Transcripts Archive. Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. (And the Probe hereby apologizes on behalf of the UN for those readers who prefer their international documents in Klingon, Vulcan, Romulan, Esperanto or any other languages.)


Space Elevator War

Credit: NASA

It all starts with a space elevator. A space elevator, according to the Space Elevator Reference, is a physical connection from the surface of the Earth, or another planetary body such as Mars, to a geostationary Earth orbit (GEO - in the case of Earth) above the Earth at roughly 35,786 km in altitude.

Deltastan's space elevator was ostensibly deployed to tether its space station to Earth. But in Manfred Lach Moot Court, as in John Grisham meets Michael Crichton type novels, things quickly turn complicated. Never mind that we don't have
space elevator technology yet. The fun begins when Deltastan secretly replaces its nice space station with a laser weapons and antimissle defense system. Suspicious, neighboring Gammaland sends up an "inspector" spacecraft to monitor Deltastan's payloads transported via the space elevator. But of course the spacecraft's exhaust contains a new biopropellant which naturally causes the elevator's "Super String" carbon nanotubes to decompose.

The action heats up and Deltastan and Gammaland find themselves on the brink of war. Prisoners are taken, allegations fly.

Don't wait for the movie, it's not too early to start contemplating 2005's
space law moot court challenge -- Case Concerning International Liability, Deltastan v Gammaland. It's a doozy. Here's your statement of facts and issues, in PDF or if you prefer, HTML.

(And in case you missed the action this past October in Vancouver, live at the
55th Annual Astronautical Congress, the Netherlands' University of Leiden, bested Georgetown University to take the 2004 Moot Court trophy in the case, "Commercialisation of a Space Station.") Here at the Probe we're tempted, but alas, will not be taking bets on who will prevail in 2005. May the best space moot law team win.


O'Keefe Deorbits

Much of Washington and a chunk of the galaxy had been buzzing about it over the weekend, but if Miles O'Brien reports on CNN that Scott McClellan over at the White House has announced it, it must be true: NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe is resigning.

No official word yet from the administrator himself or NASA. Stay tuned.

After a turbulent three years, if O'Keefe is ready to eject from his post at the space agency and become chancellor of
Louisiana State University, and yes, begin raking in those big private sector bucks (versus miniscule government sector buckettes), even before return to flight (scheduled for May), we wish him luck.

As we wait for the official resignation, begin the farwell proceedings with a quick review of Sean O'Keefe's official NASA

Meanwhile, over at NASA Watch, of course, Keith Cowing lays out a short list of
possible O'Keefe successors.


Friday Flybys (v.1)

Space historian Robert Zimmerman blasts safety provisions of the otherwise lovable (likeable?) space bill, H.R. 5382, now up for Pres. Bush's signoff.

I've been asked about the status of
Spacehab's suit against NASA for damages in connection with the Columbia disaster. I'll let you know what I find out.

Satellite radios are not yet legal in Canada, but the
NY Times reports the nonterrestrial sound wave is catching on up there. [registration required]

Speaking of which, I know I'm not the only one who can't stop checking the action on
SIRI. (If you buy this stock, don't say the Probe sent you.)

Room for everybody:
Koreans in space.

Jeff Foust rounds up
Congressional reaction to the findings of the National Research Council's Committee on the Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope. To sum up the panel, humans, not robots, androids, mechas, replicants or cyborgs, but people must save Hubble. (By the way, anybody actually see the report? Only the press release is online.) And if you got other ideas for getting Hubble's science instruments, gyroscopes and batteries upgraded, come on out to blogspace and tell everyone.


We are go!

Credit: Space Adventures

That's right, if you were one of the supporters of H.R. 5382 who had no doubt all along that the Senate would approve the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 by voice vote in the final hours of the 108th Congress, great call. Others were not quite so sure, but in the end, we celebrate a victory for commercial space.

Accolades to many, especially Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Needless to note, space advocates, analysts and lawyers have written megs on this bill. Review, for example, Nathan Horsley's perspective,
The Costs and Benefits of Less-than-Perfect Legislation, in The Space Review.

Ans here's a recent note in the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology (Spring 2004) prosaically titled,
Commercialization of Space Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, [pdf] discussing "how the CSLAA would advance the emerging suborbital human space flight industry by explicitly defining the industry to be regulated, by vesting control in a single regulator, and by limiting the regulatory obstacles standing in the way of commercial development." (An HTML version of the article is here.)


Citrus Space

How many citrus trees does Brazil have? Florida officials want to know. And they have the space savvy to find out. Will the sunshine state begin spying on-- um, buying Space Imaging photos of competitor fruit groves outside the U.S.? Floridatoday.com puts the squeeze on this juicy story.

Humanitarian Space

A consortium of relief workers on the ground in the famine-ravaged, war-torn Darfur region of Sudan are getting help from on high. ESA reports that nine separate spacecraft are supplying aid groups with information in near-real time, including "[v]ery high-resolution satellite imagery [that] has been specifically used for camp and urban clinic mapping around Al Fashir, the capital of north Darfur state and distribution point for food and supplies." Good work.

Giant leap for lawyers?

Thumbs up and a wink to Oracle for its space sweepstakes in which the grand prize consists of a ride into space for the winning developer. Why shouldn't a top law firm follow this trailblazing example? A lawyer (not necessarily a space lawyer) who best answers an impossibly tricky legal quiz wins a ride on a space rocket. (And perhaps a job at your firm?) Game on! Think of the marketing. Oracle has.

Got certified?

Intelligent ovens, golf yardage meters, zeoponic plant growth media, temperature control pillows and quilts. How about "a ball point pen that will write smoothly in a vacuum, at any angle, underwater, over grease, in hot and cold temperatures, with an estimated shelf life of over 100 years"? These are among the innovative products to have earned bragging rights and hopefully some serious marketing clout from the Space Foundation under its program to recognize and anoint space products that improve the world. The three categories for space certification: technology, education and imagination. And space certification is apparently so popular its organizers today rolled out a shiny new Space Certification Program Web site. OK, so space certification doesn't come with a satisfaction guarantee like the 100 year old Good Housekeeping Seal, but we love this stuff. Even Space.com is certified. (The Probe can only wish...)


The (High Cost of the) Vision Thing

While blog may earn the spot as the number one word of 2004 (at least according to Merriam-Webster Inc., who, perhaps, should know), this week (although granted, it's only Tuesday), the word mandate zooms around the spaceblogosphere eating up a fair share of bandwidth -- and not over Pres. Bush's election success, but rather, of course, NASA's huge budgetary coup. (In this regard, the Probe would especially like to thank House Majority Leader Tom DeLay [R-Tex] for his efforts in ensuring we enjoy an exciting launch week here on Space Law Probe.) We'll have to wait and see about the mandate thing. Clearly, at a time when funding which has nothing to do with war or security remains harder to come by than a cup of hot tea on Mars, a six percent increase for NASA, yes, that's $16.2 billion discretionary budget authority for 2005, is spectacular, especially for residents of the Johnson Space Center vicinity and Rep. DeLay's freshly redrawn district. For NASA there will come time to make some thorny choices concerning the Hubble Space Telescope, Shuttle program and ISS, among other items. And we all have our opinions about all that. Meanwhile, as Rep. DeLay proclaims, "May God Bless Texas and the 22nd district."


I heart this globular star cluster. (Yes, space bloggin' is this cool...)
Credit/thanks: H. Kobulnicky (Univ. of Wyoming), et al., JPL, Caltech, NASA;
visible light inset: DSS


Space Law Probe goes orbital. Welcome to the companion blog to the galactically famous, high-flying Spacelawstation.com (-- known on Earth, throughout the Virgo Supercluster, and well beyond, as the planet's space law portal). We can't speak for space law and policy in the rest of the cosmos. But here in the terrestrial 'hood, international and national laws, policies and politics related to global civil space activities are in constant motion. Newton would approve. Let's begin.

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