Friday Flybys (vol. 6)

Shameless publicity stunt? Grand symbolic gesture? Sure. A copy of the European Union's constitution will be taking a trip to orbit. According to reports, the treaty, welcome in space although not yet ratified on Earth, will visit the International Space Station, carried by an Italian astronaut on the next Soyuz flight in April. The constitutional treaty must be ratified by November 2006 by all 25 EU member states to go into effect. Godspeed and rock the vote.

And just in time, Google Answers
meticulously calculates the cost of sending the EU constitution aloft. (Isn't this fun?)

Q&A on commercial space in
The Times of India includes big cheers for asset-based financing of space assets. (Link via Curmudgeons Corner.)

Need a break from law practice? No doubt inspired by the Bush-Putin summit this week, NASA has posted a
solicitation for translation and editing of key documents in Soviet space history. (Link via SpaceRef.) Say nostrovia to your clients and go for it.

Or, here's another option: I assume even lawyers are eligible to compete for the newly announced
prize in space journalism. To start things off, a tough panel of judges will include the prize's sponsor, Sam Dinkin, along with Jeff Foust and Clark Lindsay. (And if
you want to win over Clark straight away, write something about the human exodus from Africa, or the Polynesian colonization of the Pacific islands as metaphor for space colonization. Ah, the poetry of it all.)

And yes, I will have fries with that. Rocket Jones' gives me a wicked jones for some
space food recipes. Yummeroo.


L'Europe aime l'espace

Europa ama el espacio. Europa ama lo spazio. Europa liebt Raum.

After "nine days of ideas, exhibitions and events" that made up the European Union's well-hyped Earth & Space Week in Brussels, it's settled: Europe loves space; and one day, if all goes well, there'll be Europeans on Mars.

It's not news, Europe's
Aurora programme originally planned for a manned Mars mission by 2033, but the EU admits that "Earth-bound politics since 2003 have already altered that timescale."

The races are on. Meanwhile, here is a juicy
overview of European space policy, compiled from the EU's site by SpaceRef.



Beyond CSLAA

Jeff Foust overviews legislative, policy and industry action in the fast moving world of commercial suborbital spaceflight after passage of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004. He considers Rep. Oberstar's introduction of HR 656, the FAA's draft guidelines, and a new industry group with plans to develop flight safety standards.

Earthlings Observing Earth

If the Indian Ocean tsunami was a wake up call, this was one of the answers. At the third Earth Observation Summit in Brussels on Feb 16, approximately 60 nations and the European Commission agreed to a 10-year implementation plan to promote the development of a comprehensive Global Earth Observation System of Systems, known as GEOSS.

Interestingly, the summit, part of the European Commission's
Earth & Space Week, was "timed to coincide with the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol." And while the U.S. loudly nixed Kyoto, the federal government is so excited about GEOSS it can hardly contain itself. "By linking existing Earth observing systems, GEOSS will aid in tracking environmental changes throughout the world and provide the science on which sound decision-making must be built," said a National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) spokesperson. And, according to NOAA, "over the next decade, a global Earth Observation System of Systems will revolutionize the understanding of the Earth and how it works."

NO, GEOSS is not legally binding. As the EC put it in a release, "GEOSS will provide the overall conceptual and organizational framework for global Earth observation to meet user needs. GEOSS will be a “system of systems”, existing and future, supplementing but not supplanting each system’s own mandates and governance arrangements."

The intergovernmental
Group on Earth Observations posts some interesting GEOSS docs, as does the U.S. Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations.

And speaking of observing Earth, NOAA, which has been monitoring the Earth's environment for more than 30 years, offers a cool new Web service,
NOAA's Observing System Architecture (NOSA), presenting geospatial information of more than 80 of its observing systems.


Friday Flybys (vol. 5)

Now that Sean O'Keefe's has his foot out the door, AP reports the GAO is looking at the departing NASA administrator's airplane use, travel, and other items that may amount to "waste". Fair warning to the new space agency chief, whomever he or she may be. That is, if anyone still wants the job.

Meanwhile, waste is one thing, but NASA should not be accused of fraud, at least when it comes to claims of extraterrestrial life, as the agency stepped up to
debunk a report that it's scientists have found strong evidence of life on Mars. Uh-uh. But feel free to make what you will of those methane signatures and such.

The next space shuttle commander
Eileen Collins gives an interview to NPR as NASA prepares for the first flight since the Columbia accident two years ago. Today NASA announced the shuttle Discovery will launch May 15, 2005.

What defines a planet?
This is up to astronomers, not space lawyers. In any case, happy 75th anniversary of the discovery of the 9th planet in our solar system, Pluto (found Feb. 18, 1930 by amateur astronomer Clyde Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory). Even if Pluto is not a planet at all.

And thanks to fellow blawggers on Inter Alia, LawSites (hi Bob!), BoleyBlogs!, Direct Appeal and others for giving the Probe all kinds of honorable mention on our launch and first few months. We're happy to be in blogspace (and bLAWgspace) with you guys.


Space Lawyer Defends Women Cosmonauts

It sounded like a particularly unenlightened quote out of the 1950's. But it was 2005, and here was Russian Academy of Sciences' Anatoly Grigoryev causing an international if not interplanetary stink by proclaiming that women will be barred from the first flight to Mars, "[a]fter all, women are fragile and delicate creatures; that is why men should lead the way to distant planets and carry women there in their strong hands." Yes, this is what he told students at the Moscow International University. RIA published the chauvinistic Russian official's quote, which was promptly picked up on NASA Watch (where Keith Cowing called Grigoryev a Neanderthal), and made for some heated talk on blogs and elsewhere.

Over on MSNBC, U.S. space lawyer Arthur Dula jumped right in, telling James Oberg, "Discrimination against women would make his organization, and any organizations whose activities it controls, possibly including the Russian Federal Space Agency, ineligible to contract with or receive funds from the U.S. government or any U.S. government contractor."

The Probe agrees. (And preseumably, the first
woman in space -- and 20 years before Sally Ride -- Russia's own Valentina Tereshkova, would too.)

On a more enlightened note, the Russians announced this week they are preparing to send
50 snails to the International Space Station. Maybe even female snails?


"Tombstone Mentality" and H.R. 656

As he clearly demonstrated last week, Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) is still over-the-moon for space flight safety regulation.

Having opposed the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, the congressman offered
H.R. 656, a bill which would eliminate what he worried was "tombstone mentality" in the Act by essentially requiring the government not wait for a space accident before mandating safety requirements for suborbital spaceflight passengers. Here are Rep. Oberstar's comments on the House floor.

Sam ("Space supremacy is definitely worth dying for") Dinkin, has read the new legislation and wept. In
his column in The Space Review, Sam speaks for freewheelin' pro-space pioneers everywhere when he turns the safety issue around and argues, "the space supremacy we won since Vietnam has saved millions of lives with GPS ordinance guidance, unit navigation, satellite communications, satellite data, satellite surveillance, and the unsung hero, satellite news." Space activities save lives.

Meanwhile, Rep. Oberstar, and those who agree with his efforts, continue to worry about risk, and discount the view that legislation like H.R. 656 may impair commercial space industry progress and hamper future innovation. The debate continues...


Commercial RLV Safety Guidelines

As announced last week at the AST space transportation conference, here are the FAA's Draft Guidelines for Commercial Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle Operations with Flight Crew, along with Draft Guidelines for Commercial Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle Operations with Space Flight Participants (in PDF).

The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 requires the final regulations not later than June 23, 2006.

(By the way, if you prefer these documents in good ol' plain text as opposed to PDF, let me know and I'll e-mail the text right over to you.)


Friday Flybys (vol. 4)

This week's Flybys (in, as always, no particular order)...

Mo' Congressional space: SpaceRef graciously transcribes
Congressman Ken Calvert's speech at the eighth annual AST Commercial Space Transportation Conference. Rep. Calvert (R-CA) last week took the helm at the House Science Committee's Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee and already the new chair wins praise: Rand Simberg over at Transterrestrial Musings says Rep. Calvert will be "very good for the commercial space industry."

Also at the AST gathering, DOT Secretary Mineta announced draft space safety guidelines, but all I got is this silly
press release, which promises, "detailed explanation of the guidelines later in the conference." I'll post 'em when I see 'em.

Could Miss Carly be the new Sean O'Keefe? Jeff Foust was clearly joking (or not?) when he noted today on Space Politics, "hey, I hear Carly Fiorina is looking for a new job, and she did serve on the Aldridge Commission…" Hmm... (Then again, Martha Stewart is getting out of the slammer shortly and she would just love to decorate neighboring planets...) Speculation about the identity of the new NASA chief continues...

Another top ten list: For aerospace industry buffs, lawyers and clients, the Aerospace Industry Association has identified
Top Ten Aerospace Industry Issues for 2005. (My favorite: Promote Sustained National Support for a Next-Generation, Human-rated Space Vehicle and Robotic Space Exploration Program.)

In case you missed the multi-million dollar Superbowl ad starring the new Volvo XC90 V8 and Sir Richard Branson looking so natural in a cool spacesuit (and you also didn't see the ad during The West Wing, ER, or that e-verison of it on a zillion sites across Webspace), here's the deal: Volvo and Virgin Galactic have teamed up to hype the SUV and give away a sub-orbital ride on a spaceship. (Three days of pre-flight training included.) Enter the contest
here. And fasten your safety harness. Winner will be announced March 24 at the New York International Auto Show.

And on
Our Earth as Art, oogle spectacular images of the home planet taken by Landsat-7 and the Terra Satellite's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), courtesy of the USGS and NASA.

Happy Valentine's Weekend.


Meet the Personal Spaceflight Federation

They don't appear to have a website yet, but they say they're ready for action. The Personal Spaceflight Federation, a newly-announced alliance of hot shot commercial space industry leaders, including folks like SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan, X Prize foundation chair Peter Diamandis and Alex Tai of Virgin Galactic, will be putting their heads together to promote the business of "personal spaceflight" (-- as opposed to impersonal spaceflight, of course) and create new space safety standards.

Here on the Probe, we say, bring on the space standards. You bet. Standards are good for business, in any industry from railroads to automobiles to aviation to commercial space. (An old report, Voluntary Industry Standards and their Relationship to Government Programs, by the Department of Transportation's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, pre-FAA/AST but still interesting, applauds space industry standards while fondly recalling things like standardized threaded screws.) And the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-492), signed by President Bush in December 2004, calls for the establishment of industry standards covering the safety of passengers and crew on commercial vehicles.

An Alan Boyle article quotes Federation spokesman Gregg Maryniak, who is executive director of the X Prize Foundation, as saying, "This new legislation basically says that government and industry need to work together to come up with safety standards, and we believe very strongly that industry's going to have to come up with a product that's considerably safer than the current civil space program."

Well, we look forward to the work of the new Federation, and its Voluntary Personal Spaceflight Industry Consensus Standards Organization.

Boldly standardize!

Congressional Space

A few items... First, it's official, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) will be the new chair of the Science and Space Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The subcommittee oversees NASA and the NSF. Congratulations Madam Chairman.

And today, over at the House, at 2:00pm, the Aviation Subcommittee of Rep. Don Young's (R-Alaska) Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will hold a hearing on the future of commercial space transportation. Check the Committee's site for a live videocast. By the way, the press release for the hearing contains an interesting overview of the commercial space industry, which I don't mind posting:

Background Information

Prior to the early 1980’s, there was no commercial space transportation industry – the United States launched commercial satellites on vehicles owned by the government. However, several events during the 1980’s prompted the development of this industry, including the creation of a European commercial launch services organization and the ban of commercial payloads (i.e. satellites) from flying aboard the Space Shuttle after the Challenger disaster.By the year 2002, U.S. commercial space transportation and the services and industries it enables accounted for more than $95 billion in economic activity, in addition to providing many benefits to public consumers (i.e. DirecTV and satellite radio).
FAA’s Role In Commercial Space Transportation

In 1984, Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Act to encourage the development of the emerging commercial space launch industry and to facilitate compliance with Federal requirements. The Act created a licensing mechanism to enable quick and efficient compliance with existing Federal regulations.
Additionally, licensing oversight was consolidated into the newly established Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST) in the Department of Transportation (DOT). In 1995, the Office of the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST) was transferred to the FAA. It is the only office within the FAA authorized to oversee and regulate the commercial space launch industry.

AST is responsible for regulating launches conducted by private companies in the United States. AST’s mission is to make sure commercial launch activities do not harm public interests, including safety of the public and property as well as U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. AST’s mandate is also to encourage, facilitate, and promote U.S. commercial space transportation and the United States space transportation infrastructure.
AST issues launch licenses for commercial launches of orbital rockets and suborbital rockets, and licenses the operations of non-federal launch sites, or “spaceports”.

In December 2004, Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-492), making a number of changes to the 1984 Act. Under the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, the FAA is authorized to regulate the industry primarily to protect the uninvolved public and the public interest. For the next eight years, the agency can regulate space vehicles to ensure crew and passenger safety only if the operation of those vehicles result in death, serious injury or a dangerous close call. After 2012, the FAA may regulate space vehicles as it sees fit. The Act passed in the House under suspension of the rules on November 20, 2004 (269 - 120).

Development Of The Commercial Space Transportation Industry
Until October 2004, all commercial space launch vehicles were unmanned expendable vehicles. However, similar to the barn-storming activities in early commercial aviation, supporters of the commercial space transportation industry have created competitions to encourage further developments, particularly in the area of manned commercial space flights.
The first major Commercial Space Transportation Prize encouraging the development of a manned commercial space launch vehicle was the Ansari X Prize, which awarded a $10 million purse to the victor. An annual X Prize event will begin in 2006, and another contest has been announced that will award a team that can successfully take people into orbit.

Commercial space tourism is the next step on the road to regularly-scheduled, manned commercial space flights. Space tourism will initially be available to a limited number of wealthy adventurers. Later, commercial space transportation could include point-to-point commercial space flight services, rapid global transportation, commercial spaceports, and space hotels.

The infrastructure requirements of the emerging commercial space transportation industry are also under development. Commercial spaceports have been licensed or are under development at locations throughout the United States. Licensed spaceports currently support unmanned launches and testing operations for manned flights. Plans are in the works to support space tourism with resorts and training facilities located on or near spaceports. To date, the FAA has licensed four commercial launch facilities, in California, Florida, Virginia and Alaska.

Other issues facing an emerging commercial space transportation industry, include:

-Safety oversight;-International competition;
-Environmental impact analysis and mitigation if appropriate;
-Labor laws;
-Security of launch facilities; and
-Impact on air traffic control and the safe and efficient use of the navigable airspace.


New Canadian Space Law

For Canadain space law aficionados, an interesting development in the form of a new bill making its way through Parliament: An Act Governing the Operation of Remote Sensing Space Systems, introduced in the Canadian House of Commons (Bill C-25) in November.

An article on the bill in
Space News points out that, in addition to advancing the commercial remote sensing industry in Canada and providing the government with some controversial authority over satellite operations ("shutter control"), C-25 would also fulfill Canada's obligations under the bilateral treaty with the U.S. signed in 2000, Agreement Concerning Operation of Commercial Remote Sensing Satellite Systems "that fosters broad private uses of commercial remote sensing satellite systems, while protecting common national security and foreign policy interests." (Anybody have a copy of this agreement? I don't have one handy so please send me a copy if you have it.)

We'll watch the progress of this legislation. And of course the big news on the next-generation radar imagery satellite front up in Canada is
Radarsat-2, scheduled for launch late this year or in early 2006.


Budgeting NASA

As promised, President Bush this morning sent his FYI 2006 budget proposal to Congress.

Good news and bad news. (What else?) Tucked into the $2.5 trillion budget blueprint... the request
for NASA totals $16.45 billion, a 2.4 percent increase over 2005, but approximately $500 million less than expected.

And, as
feared by Hubble lovers around the world, the NASA request includes no funding for a servicing mission to fix the beloved, aging space telescope which is expected to go dark by 2008.

Other highlights include trimming of Project Constellation (Crew Exploration Vehicle), and axing the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIM) mission planned to launch 2015. (Here's a quick overview of the NASA budget request by


Friday Flybys (vol. 3)

Friday again...? Throw a party. This isn't part of the Vision for Space Exploration, but NASA's JSC offers a nifty guide for planning your star party. Bring your own chilled cosmos.

And as if to keep up with NASA's well-honed and ever-popular family friendly image, the
European Space Agency now weighs in with its own Web site for kids.

But get serious grownups, especially grownup space lawyers, and dip into an
archive of The European Centre for Space Law's Newsletter. (all in pdf)

And for free access to space surveillance data from the U.S. Government, troll the same data (with, presumably, the same latency) that has been provided for years by NASA Orbital Information Group's (OIG) site, now on
Space-Track.org (where yes, the government says it is watching what you take. See, the warning: "You should have no expectation of privacy. By continuing, you consent to your keystrokes and data content being monitored." Fair enough.)

Now despite those incessant rumors, we still have no merger in the nation's daring young satellite radio industry. Of course, on Dec. 20 the nation's two satellite radio companies,
XM and Sirius, earned listing on the NASDAQ 100 Index. Isn't two always better than one?

Indeed. Even
Motley Fool is talking its silly hat off about space investing.(Thanks, MC.)

Finally, President Bush made no mention of space in his State of the Union address this week. A shame, because there was more of space to mention, now that NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has
discovered two huge intergalactic clouds of diffuse hot gas that may contain "the long-sought missing matter - about half of the atoms and ions in the Universe." (Not dark matter, just ordinary baryons, mind you.) Which naturally means more places to go and things to see this weekend. Ad astra!


GPS for dummies (like, lawyers)

Some folks know everything there is to know about the wide, wireless world of the Global Positioning System and GPS satellites.

For the rest of us, there's a
GPS Primer, courtesy of The Aerospace Corporation.

Then, a legal backgrounder from Thelen Reid & Priest LLP covers
GPS/Wireless: Legal Issues Related to Wireless Navigation and Location Systems (which appears to be from 2000, but still a useful overview).

And for an interesting (and somewhat scary) rundown on GPS-related privacy, surveillance and other issues, including GPS chips embedded in cellphones (uh oh), listen in on
Your Cellphone is a Homing Device, from Legal Affairs. Now we know.


Godspeed Columbia

As NASA holds a memorial service marking two years since the Columbia accident, and outgoing Administrator O'Keefe lays wreaths at the Columbia and Challenger memorials at Arlington National Cemetery, we can all look forward to the Return to Flight mission -- STS-114 -- under Commander Eileen M. Collins, now targeted for launch sometime between May 12 and June 3, 2005.

Meanwhile, lawyers do what lawyers do. We contemplate legal issues. Me, I took a few moments to review a Congressional Research Service report on Liability Issues Associated With the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster, and another article on the same topic in Jurist by Richard C. Walters, FAA senior attorney and dispute resolution officer. And for good measure, an quick overview from collectSPACE on Stealing the Dream: The Consequences of Stealing Space Shuttle Columbia Debris. Feeling a bit better now.

Countdown, STS-114...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?