Elevators Stuck in Space Law

As interest in space elevators continues to rise, leave it to Professor Glenn Reynolds (-- the esteemed space law book author who, as we know, roams blogspace disguised as the mild-mannered Instapundit --) to hit the legal issues associated with the new elevator technology right on the button.

That's right, in his Tech Central Station column this week,
Space Elevator: Stuck Between Floors, the professor raises questions that illustrate the legal ups and downs of space elevators.

The old debate, "where does space begin?" will be revitalized by the idea of using things like carbon nanotubes to lift payloads and people off the earth's equator into GEO. What rights will equatorial nations claim? What exactly is the legal status of a space elevator? Does it launch objects? And if it does not, do objects delivered into orbit via this new-fangled technology constitute space objects under the treaties?

As the professor writes, "Basically, it's just a really tall tower. The Outer Space Treaty didn't envision anything like that."

As a few initial responses to some of these legal puzzles suggest, the debate will be interesting.

(And see last week's Space Law Probe post on Elevator Space, referencing Prof. Reynolds' previous column on this uplifting topic.)


Katrina Space

In law, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, an "act of God" is an "operation of uncontrollable natural forces."

Indeed. As Hurricane Katrina winds down, damage assessment takes over. One item of concern to the space industry: On its destructive path through Louisiana, Katrina
caused damage at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the site where Lockheed Martin Space Systems and up to 2,000 employees assemble space shuttle external fuel tanks.

However, by all accounts -- thankfully -- things could have been worse. (Of course, weather-related worries are not new at Michoud. Remember, for example,
Hurricane Lili? Tropical Storm Isidore?)

Of course, Alan Boyle sees the storm from space.

For now, Space Law Probe sends regards to friends at the National Remote Sensing and Space Law Center (located at the University of Mississippi School of Law) and other readers in the Gulf Coast region.

Meanwhile, was Katrina the most blogged hurricane in history? Maybe. Until the next Big ONE...

* * *

UPDATE Tuesday, 4:00est: Any initial relief may have come too soon. The latest events in the Gulf show creeping devastation as a breached levy in New Orleans is causing water to pour in, leaving people stranded and in need of emergency rescue. Coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and indeed areas inland suffer the devastating aftermath of Katrina with deteriorating and dangerous conditions including flooding, fires, gas leaks, power outages, as well as some looting. One commentator said "Biloxi looks like a bomb hit it." I am sorry to have posted earlier about the shuttle tank facility. (And to think this was NOT a cat 5 storm and NOT a direct hit on New Orleans.)

NASA Bites Big Apple

Got a heads-up from Greg Zsidisin, president of the New York Space Society (which is my local chapter of NSS) about this week's Inaugural 2005 NASA Small Business Solutions Conference, in New York City, Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.

The conference is the first of a possible series, intended for business people who might partner with NASA. Registration runs from $100 for one day to $500 for the full conference including a golf outing. (Don't ask me where people play golf in Manhattan. I have no idea.)

The Discovery (STS-114) astronauts will be there too.

Greg says, "In and of itself, the conference is an exciting development. As a business capital, as well as media capital, NYC has a lot to offer to, and benefit from, this kind of professional-level event."

And it sounds like a good opportunity for New York area space lawyers (that is, any who aren't out on the beach in the Hamptons this week). Thanks, Greg! And if only to shake the hand of Discovery Commander Eileen Collins, I'll sure hop on the subway and head over to NASA's shindig myself. See you there!


Greening the Red Planet

Forget the hype about blue states and red states and even purple states.

While some earthlings worry about how to keep the home planet green, others look ahead to the greening of Mars.

Terraforming, also called ecosynthesis or planetary engineering, is about making other planets Earth-like. Today, naturally, Mars is freezing, dusty and downright inhospitable, so if we want to go there, kick back and make ourselves quite at home, thank you, we may need to make
some arrangements.

Change is good. One idea calls for the release of greenhouse gases such as octafluoropropane -- a by-product of circuit board manufacturing -- to warm the planet, melt Martian ice and, eventually, make things like grass grow.

But what does this have to do with space law? Specifically, article IX of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty contains an obligation to prevent "harmful contamination" of celestial bodies.

In a Tech Central Station
column on this topic, Professor Glenn Reynolds writes, "terraforming would not, in my opinion, violate the Outer Space Treaty - which prohibits only 'harmful,' not beneficial, contamination." Read his analysis. (Of course, the professor doesn't fail to also note, "there are sure to be vigorous objections raised from certain quarters of the environmental movement.")

And here's an excellent article by Robert D. Pinson in the Environmental Law Reporter on Ethical Considerations for Terraforming Mars. (Yes, he's another award-winning space law student -- can I say disciple? -- of Professor Reynolds.)

Don't miss a recent Slashdot discussion on terraforming. And then there's the obligatory Wikipedia article on it.

And stay tuned for more on planetary engineering in the years, and centuries, to come.


Future Thoughts

In the Wall Street Journal today, Tim Hanrahan and Jason Fry mourn the lack of "moon bases and intrepid Mars colonists and asteroid miners, with spaceports and space elevators and sprawling habitations up at the Lagrange points" -- all of which they thought we would have by now. Read their Requiem for the Future. And weep.

But wait -- all is not lost. Over at HobbySpace, forward-thinking
Clark Lindsay has a much brighter view. Whew.

ABA Up North

O Canada. Here's the lowdown on the ABA Forum on Air & Space Law annual meeting and conference: Aviation and Space: Are the Skies Brightening?, to convene Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, 2005 in lovely Montréal (at the Marriott Chateau Champlain). (A long way from last year on the beach in Santa Monica, California, eh?) This year's shindig is co-sponsored by McGill University's Institute of Air & Space Law.

As we know, the Forum on Air & Space Law primarily concerns itself with aviation practice. Let's just say the emphasis is on air above space. In fact, the Forum is not all air, but it's close.

Indeed, Montréal is home to the International Civil Aviation Organization. And recent aviation accidents and along with hot button air law issues will no doubt command much attention at this annual conference. No surprise there. However, the Forum's offerings do typically include a few choice items of particular interest to the space contingent. Thus, there will be a few token discussions in Montréal. But hey, a token can be a gem.

Like what, for example? Well specifically, this year the panel "Space Law and Spectrum Issues -- can you hear me now?" to be moderated by Prof. Joanne Gabrynowicz of the University of Mississippi, sounds super. Issues for discussion include: "Manned space travel - is the law up to speed? What lies ahead in civil space exploration? How is equitable use of radio frequency and orbital positions being assured? Demands on spectrum - Is there adequate supply for the expanding demand and impact of increased use by other applications?" Prof. Gabrynowitz's esteemed panel will include: Pamela Meredith co-chair of the Space Law Practice Group, at Zuckert, Scoutt & Rasenberger, L.L.P; Michael Wholley, general counsel, NASA, Prof. Ram Jaku of the Institute of Air & Space Law, McGill University, and Dr. Veena Rawat acting president of the Communications Research Centre Canada.

Another panel on "Aerospace Manufacturing Subsidies and Restrictions: Too Little, Too much or Just Right?" will include a discussion on export controls on space equipment, with Franceska Schroeder of Fish & Richardson, PC.

In addition, a panel on leasing and financing aircraft and space equipment will include a look at how the Capetown Convention’s Aircraft and draft Space Assets Protocols differ.

Worth a trip to Canada? Why not? Canada is beautiful. If you go, give my regards to Joanne, Pamela, Franceska and the other brave space lawyers who show up. And remember. What happens in Montréal stays in Montréal.


Elevator Space (updated)

I thought today would be a slow space day, but then Glenn Reynolds and Rand Simberg blogged about (blogged on? blogged of?) space elevators, an uplifting topic any day, which then reminded me of the 2005 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition, which I first mentioned in this post (last year).

And yes, the world finals of this year's space law moot are coming up, October, at the 56th International Astronautical Congress and the I.I.S.L. Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space, in Fukuoka, Japan. (But no, Prof. Reynolds will not be judging the competition. For one thing, as everyone knows, he's busy writing another book. But it's not a follow-up to his space law book, so what's in it for us? Well, we'll have to wait and see...)

* * *

UPDATE: The new Tech Central Station column is UP . . . yes, the good professor is heads up about a leaner, meaner, NASA and a future filled with superstrong carbon nanotube space elevators, if we're really smart. I'm with him.)


Friday Flybys (vol. 17)

The National Space Society urges members to visit their congressional representatives back in their home districts during August recess to talk about the Vision for Space Exploration. Bring some pie and lemonade. Don't bring a lawyer.

Belated congratulations from Space Law Probe to
Brian Chase, NASA's new assistant administrator for Legislative Affairs. And here is a nifty Congressional Hearing Calendar for the 109th Congress, from Brian's office.

Duct tape, Elmer's glue and Scotchgard? In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, former Congressman Bob Barr rants about the space program's loss of status. (via Space Politics)

Over on GlennReynolds.com ("Technology, culture, politics and the law"), Professor Reynolds, the InstaPundit and space law book author, weighs in with a fascinating look at
Stem cells and space: A twofer!

Busy, busy, busy. The New York Times began the week asking in an editorial on Sunday,
Is the Space Station Necessary? and closed the work week with an editorial today worrying about mismanaging the shuttle fixes. Of course there was no shortage of Times-related commentary in blogspace this week, like over at Rand Simberg's.

No, not Captain Kirk. Commander Krikalev. That's right, this week Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev become the human with the
most cumulative time in space, orbiting past the record of 748 days held by Sergei Avdeyev. (Steroid-free, too.) Of course, the record for the shortest stay in space is still held by Alan Shepard: 15 minutes 22 seconds (May 1961). But hey, that's just 15 seconds shy of Gus Grissom's 15 minutes 37 seconds (July 1961).

Russia and Ukraine sign new space agreement.

Meanwhile, here on the Probe we applaud profitable space companies. And if you're one of those corporate space lawyer types, into reading SEC filings (not me), here's
SpaceDev's recent 10-QSB, which indicates the company is making money again this quarter. (Courtesy of Dan Schrimpsher at Space Pragmatism).

Hey, that next generation Russian reusable spaceship does look like a bit like a cute, squashed shuttle, doesn't it?
Alan Boyle reports on the Kliper, which according to folks at Energia, could be ready for piloted flights by 2012.

What else? Oh. And if your client
steals a Mercury astronaut boot and other artifacts to sell on ebay, advise her she may face arrest, conviction and up to 25 years in prison, like Sherrie Shaw. (link via collectSPACE)

Thankfully, no asteroids are expected to buzz the Earth this weekend. Unless your weekend lasts until



Viva New Mexico Space

Space means business in the 47th U.S. state (which is also the 5th biggest and 36th most populous), New Mexico.

New Mexico's new Space Authority, met for the first time yesterday. The Space Authority will oversee the development and operations of the Southwest Regional Spaceport to be built in Southern New Mexico, near Upham.

And not a moment too soon. In May, to the delight of New Mexico's business development community and its die-hard space enthusiasts, including Governor Bill Richardson (and to the great disappointment of Florida, California and many other states), the X Prize Foundation
selected New Mexico to host the upcoming X Prize Cup. And if you missed any of the hoopla so far, Charles Vane recently covered all the hot New Mexican space happenings (in The Space Review).

So remember the New Mexican state motto:
Crescit eundo. It grows as it goes. (Which apparently refers to a thunderbolt flashing across the sky. Pretty cool.)

Minority Report and Sausage

The Return to Flight Task Group issued its Final Report yesterday (and here is the executive summary).

As we recall, former NASA chief Sean O'Keefe established the task group in 2003 to monitor the agency's compliance with safety recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. In June, the task group signed off on NASA's compliance with 12 of 15 CAIB return-to-flight recommendations, and found the agency failed to satisfy three of the 15 recommendations. (The report states, "The remaining three recommendations were so challenging that NASA could not comply completely with the intent of the CAIB, but conducted extensive study, analyses, and hardware modifications that resulted in substantive progress toward making the vehicle safer. It must be emphasized, however, that, the inability to fully comply with all of the CAIB recommendations does not imply that the Space Shuttle is unsafe.")

While the majority of the panel turned in good marks for NASA in this final report, the slap in the face, as AP's Marcia Dunn reports, came from a "disappointed"
minority -- seven members of the 26-member panel who did not hold back in slamming the space agency for its post-Columbia work. And the minority view appeared to dominate the media coverage.

But task group co-chairman, former shuttle commander Richard Covey,
insisted NASA did "a very competent job." And as to NASA's approach to safety matters, he told the New York Times, "If you watch sausage being made, it's not always pretty, and some people are going to find it uglier than others."

(Meanwhile, NASA may hold off launching another shuttle until March 2006.)


ITAR and SpaceShipTwo

Space.com reports on what Will Whitehorn calls "... one small step for ITAR, one big leap for Virgin Galactic."


Murder Mystery in Space

Murder in space? It hasn't happened. Yet. But extraterrestrial homicide is always a sure-fire sci-fi plot. And some lawyers love to write (even more than they enjoy practicing law). Want to pen your own space crime mystery? Here's an announcement from Law Seminars International about the first workshop on Writing the Legal Thriller/Mystery for Lawyers," scheduled for August 26th in Seattle, Washington. Why not?

But before you plot out your sizzling Grisham-meets-Asimov bestseller, one imaginative lawyer has already beat you to the first legal thriller that happens on a space station (-- or is it a fact pattern for a Manfred Lachs space law moot court competition? --) and I just ordered a copy for myself: It's
Reaching Beyond: A Space Thriller, by space lawyer Nora E. Milner.

(Yes, I'll be adding Nora's book to Spacelawstation's listing of
Space Law Books, which will make Reaching Beyond, notably, the first and only work of fiction on the list.)


Friday Flybys (vol. 16)

Beautiful job on the MRO launch, NASA (and Lockheed). And sometimes it's just a relief, and good fun, to launch a foamless rocket, isn't it? We'll meet back here when the spacecraft arrives at Mars in March 2006. One step closer to the Vision.

* * *

Roger Fillion at Rocky Mountain News has an article on the
shakeout in the satellite-imaging industry. He quotes the inimitable Professor Joanne Gabrynowicz, head of the National Remote Sensing and Space Law Center at the University of Mississippi: "There are only two government contracts and three companies." And, she notes, the commercial spy satellite business remains dependent on its "main client," the feds. (By the way, the 3 companies are: Orbimage, DigitalGlobe and Space Imaging which is owned by Lockheed and Raytheon).

* * *

Here's the latest on NASA and industry
testing aircraft noise-reducing technologies. And according to NASA's Vehicle Systems Program, low-noise aircraft "open up airport "buffer lands" for development and dramatically increase the quality of life -- and property values -- of millions of Americans living near some of our busiest airports." That's right, your space agency hard at work sending up not only flying machines, but also real estate prices. Hmm.

* * *

Defense Department has green lighted NASA's proposal to develop shuttle-derived CEV and heavy-lift launch vehicles. Why is this DoD's business? Because it is. The space transportation policy (January 2005) requires NASA and the Pentagon submit to the White House a joint recommendation on the nation's next heavy-lift vehicle.

* * *

Yup, that ol' urban legend about EPA regulations causing the Columbia disaster (you know, the one where the EPA banned freon, which was holding the foam on) -- bears
debunking again. (Courtesy of Keith Cowing at NASA Watch.)

* * *

Xena sounds better than 2003UB313, or
10th planet. (Looks about as photogenic as, oh, Pluto.) But whatever its name, is it a planet? And whatever it is, who gets to name it? Review the IAU Rules and Recommendations Designations and Nomenclature of Celestial Objects. It's simple. (Not really.)

* * *

Tonight: the
2005 Perseid meteor shower. Look up (if you're not too busy fact-checking these top 10 Perseid facts. (Or at least watch an old Perseid shower movie.)


Shenzhou Space

Space writer Morris Jones ponders shuttles and Shenzhou, and the future of the Chinese space program in light of "NASA's woes" and the upcoming Chinese manned launch.

(In related news, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation says the country's first lunar orbiter is scheduled for a
fly-by mission in 2007.)

By the way, for your reference, here's the
Chinese space policy.

And that
Shenzhou (which I think means divine vessel) is a pretty cool
太空飞船 (which I think means spaceship).


Your Moon Shot for $100 Million

I'm back from lovely vacation, relaxed and rejuvenated, although perhaps not quite as relieved to be home as Commander Eileen Collins and her crew.

Congratulations Discovery on a successful
two weeks in orbit which proved, among other things, that being a shuttle astronaut is no vacation, and nothing like third year of law school, which as everyone knows, naturally consists of nothing but a lot of beer and softball.

And while NASA prepares the next shuttle,
Atlantis, for another humble trip to LEO, many private space flight enthusiasts look ahead to their own dream trip, and not a moment too soon: Space Adventures today announced it is offering a roundtrip private excursion to the moon for $100 million.

Landing not included. (No mention of payment in
NASA coins, either.)

Of course, Space Adventures isn't the first company to come up with the idea of a $100 million lunar tourist mission. Constellation Services International, a small California space company talked with James Oberg last year about its
Lunar Express idea to send private passengers to the moon.

Oberg quotes space lawyer Arthur Dula as saying of the plan, "Wow, zow, this is a great idea. The project is entirely possible. Wish I had thought of it." Dula also called it the idea a "paradigm shifter." (And for those of you Probe readers who are not space lawyers, yes, "wow, zow" is a standard legal jargon.)

(But here's the real $100 million question. Who will put a person on the moon first-- NASA or Space Adventures? This week
Sam Dinkin asked vice chairman of Space Adventures, Richard Garriott. Garriott's answer may or may not surprise you. Meanwhile, as we all remember, no Earthlings have cruised our beloved moon since Apollo 17 astronauts departed the lunar surface on December 14, 1972.)

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