Rethinking Space Law

In this week's issue of The Space Review, attorney Michael J. Listner writes that it's time to rethink international space law, particularly the Outer Space Treaty's "noble" but "restrictive and suffocating" doctrine of res communis -- the concept that space belongs to mankind.

This is not news; most space lawyers and entrepreneurs have long recognized the treaty's impediment to space business. And, as Listner points out, on the security front, the treaty did not contemplate a world in which global socio-political reality and technological advances make protecting space assets an ever-growing necessity and challenge.

Rather than advocating U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, or agreeing with those who have suggested working toward amending it, Listner calls for reshaping of U.S. domestic space policy "to lay the foundation for the new era in international space law." Sounds like the beginning of a plan.


Holiday Space

To Probe readers in the U.S., happy Memorial Day, the unofficial beginning of summer.

If you're spending your holiday weekend here on Earth, how about a couple of space books? (No, not space law books this time. Space fun.)

For you,
Space Tourism - Adventures in Earth Orbit and Beyond, by Michel van Pelt (reviewed in Universe Today).

And for your kids, from Buzz Aldrin, who I hear was in my neck of the terrestrial woods yesterday (that's NYC, which, for a boy from New Jersey, must seem as alien as the moon), signing his new children's book,
Reaching For The Moon.

Enjoy! (And whatever you do, don't plan your summer vacation using any
unpredictable time machines.)


Preliminary Euro Space Policy

With the new European space policy in the works, this week the European Commission released a fairly comprehensive outline entitled, European Space Policy – Preliminary Elements (dated May 23, 2005).

Europe's priorities are Galileo, of course, and GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). Also, long term research into satellite communications technologies, space exploration, and "the basic tools on which exploitation and exploration of space depend: access to space, scientific knowledge and space technologies."

The Commission
says "full space policy and space programme will be presented to Member States at the following Space Council meeting anticipated at the end of November 2005."


Rule Banning Space Ads

Last week, in a hurry, I posted a short Reuters release announcing the FAA's proposed rule banning obtrusive space advertising.

This is the
text of the proposed rule, published in the Federal Register May 19, 2005. (For you, P.T. Thanks for your request.)

A Probe reader asks, doesn't the U.S. already ban space ads? As the FAA clarifies in the proposed rule, "[t]he National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2000 (Pub. L. 106–391) amended 49 U.S.C. chapter 701 to add a prohibition against 'obtrusive' space advertising.. . . Obtrusive space advertising, as defined in 49 U.S.C. chapter 701, is 'advertising in outer space that is capable of being recognized by a human being on the surface of the Earth without the aid of a telescope or other technological device.' 49 U.S.C. 70102. Although the statute gives the FAA the authority to prohibit obtrusive space advertising using a payload, current regulations do not reflect this authority. For this reason, we are proposing to add a definition of 'obtrusive space advertising' to our general definitions section at 14 CFR 401.5. The language of the definition is the same as that contained in the statute."

The FAA will accept comments on the rulemaking until July 18, 2005. (We may send comments to the FAA electronically via the DOT Docket Web Site.)

(Meanwhile, naturally, comments appear on blogs and other sites that the FAA won't necessarily see. For example, over in the U.K., The Register reports its readers have suggested "the space billboard ban may be just so the U.S. itself has a clear field of fire for its space cannons."

And from
lies.com: "I'm torn between really liking the concept of preventing space-based advertising, and being fairly horrified at the notion that the FAA would just up and suggest that it has any business regulating such activity.")


Deep Impact on Congress

If we're going to protect Earth from asteroid 2004 MN4, which may or may not collide with our beloved home planet in 2036, Congress better take action. Now. So says Russell L. (Rusty) Schweickart, astronaut, businessman and chairman of the B612 Foundation - the non-profit organization on a mission to make sure we can "significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015."

Here's the
call to action Rusty delivered at the recent National Space Society International Space Development Conference in Washington, D.C. (courtesy of SpaceRef).


The Trouble with ITAR

Taylor Dinerman briefly recaps the recent history of export controls, and how they have come to harm the space industry. He says the economic disadvantages of the policy outweigh the "almost certainly close to nil" military benefits, and calls on the State Department "to take the lead - and also to take the risks - and begin to use the waiver authority built into the law."


U.S. Says No Billboards in Space

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Thu May 19, 2005 03:46 PM ET
The U.S. government does not want billboards in space.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed on Thursday to amend its regulations to ensure that it can enforce a law that prohibits "obtrusive" advertising in zero gravity.

"Objects placed in orbit, if large enough, could be seen by people around the world for long periods of time," the FAA said in a regulatory filing.

Currently, the FAA lacks the authority to enforce the existing law.

For instance, outsized billboards deployed by a space company into low Earth orbit could appear as large as the moon and be seen without a telescope, the FAA said. Big and bright advertisements might hinder astronomers.

"Large advertisements could destroy the darkness of the night sky," regulators said.


French Space

Got French clients? For a handy, weekly roundup of French space activities, check out France in Space, courtesy of CNES, from its office in Washington D.C. (CNES is the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, which is of course, the French space agency.) Bonjour.


Escaping LEO

"Can a band of true believers blast America's manned space program out of low Earth orbit into a stellar future?"

That's the question pondered by Joel Achenbach in an article in the Sunday Washington Post gallantly titled, To Infinity and Beyond (in which he says, among other things, that the president's Vision for Space Exploration "doesn't really even qualify as a plan. It's more like a fancy PowerPoint presentation.")

And following up with the article, on Monday, Achenbach participated in this
online discussion.


Shuttle Inspector Not Guilty of Fraud

The jury blamed NASA, not Billy Thornton.

After two hours of deliberation on Friday, the Orlando jury in the fraud trial of former NASA inspector accused of falsifying records in connection with space shuttle Discovery inspections found the prosecution did not prove its case. Here's the
AP report, via floridatoday.com. (And earlier Probe post.)

Indeed, the jury appeared to find NASA itself amiss. One juror said she "found NASA's guidelines for inspectors unclear." And AP quotes the jury foreman as saying "There was no defined protocol or set of rules for [the inspector] to follow" and that the agency "needs to look at the inspection system, about how they check inspections." He concluded, "There are just a lot of gaps in NASA's oversight of contractors."


Griffin Minds the Gap

In his appearance yesterday before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, Dr. Michael Griffin talked about priorities including servicing Hubble, and his goal (expressed at his confirmation hearings a month ago and elsewhere) to close that icky four or five year gap between retirement of the shuttle by 2010 and the flying of the proposed Crew Exploration Vehicle in 2014.

And just how will NASA pay for accelerating the CEV and fixing the beloved space telescope? Naturally, the
new chief did not show up without a revised 2005 operating plan, which Space.com overviews
here. Cuts or delays are slated for Project Prometheus, Mars Science Laboratory, Space Interferometry Mission, Terrestrial Planet Finder, research programs on the space station and more. We may live in an infinite universe. But we can't have everything.

The N.Y. Times has a good
article on the NASA administrator's testimony. And here is Griffin's prepared statement.


Get Your Spaceflight Tickets

AeraSpaceTours is now taking reservations for suborbital flights. (Even though as Alan Boyle comments on Cosmic Log, they "haven’t yet flown a spaceship.") Never fear, but you better be a lawyer or bring one -- here's the fine print.


Shuttle Inspector on Trial

The trial of former NASA shuttle inspector Billy T. Thronton accused of 83 counts of fraud opened this week in federal court in Orlando. The quality-control specialist faces up to life in prison if convicted of falsifying job-performance checks on shuttle Discovery. Here is the AP story (via Space.com) and here is the Orlando Sentinel story (via Newsday).


Nemitz's Asteroid

Wayne White has sent over his legal analysis in the case of Nemitz v. U.S., which I was happy to post on Spacelawstation. Thanks, Wayne!

As you may know, the Nevada federal district court's 2004 dismissal of Gregory Nemitz's famous claim of ownership to Eros -- aka asteroid 433 -- was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. For recitation of the opinion, background, documents and other information with regard to Nemitz's crusade in the name of space property rights, check out
The Eros Project.

What's your view on the Nemitz case? If you have a legal analysis that differs from Wayne's, don't hesitate to send it to
me for posting.


Friday Flybys (vol. 11)

The weeks just fly by, do they not?

* * *
Florida governor Jeb Bush signed into law the
Jessica Lunsford Act, named after the 9-year old who was kidnapped and slain by a known sex offender. How does space play a part in kids' safety? Among other provisions, the bill calls for lifetime tracking of the whereabouts of certain convicted sex offenders via global positioning satellite (GPS). The tough bill was widely hailed. (Although at least one editorial, in theTampa Tribune, questioned the lifetime GPS monitoring provision, "It feels good today, but why ask future taxpayers to spend $9 a day monitoring elderly offenders in wheelchairs in nursing homes?" Because they are convicted child molestors. That's why.)

* * *
Should the government like the
United Launch Alliance, the 50-50 joint venture announced by Boeing and Lockheed for the U.S. government launches of Delta and Atlas boosters? The deal, which will of course cost about a zillion space jobs, is supposed to save the feds $100 to $150 million a year. (Does this factor in the saved legal fees when Lockheed drops its civil suit against Boeing?)

But as
Keith Cowing at NASA Watch asked, "Wasn't at least part of whole idea in having TWO companies providing EELVs to foster some competition - and therefore cost savings for the prime customer (U.S. government) who also paid a hefty portion of what it cost to develop both companies' rockets?"

Well. Brian Gorman for Motley Fool says, the alliance "does not actually change competitive dynamics much..." Hmm.

"In the end, can (and should) the two rivals put past differences behind them? And will they be able to make a decent profit on the launch biz? We'll see...

* * *
Cindy Skrzycki of the Washington Post talks about the
regulatory environment for the space tourism industry.

* * *
If any of you tax law buffs are following all that satellite TV tax litigation, please e-mail me? (Tax law is not my thing.)

* * *
And in case you didn't know, in his
Law Day proclamation last week, President Bush declared May 1 - 7, 2005 the first National Juror Appreciation Week. And you don't have to watch Court TV or read about the Michael Jackson trial to realize, it's about time.

Thank you, jurors.


Space Law in Bangalore

Got clients in the near east and Asia-Pacific neighborhood? A space law conference entitled, Bringing Space Benefits to the Asia-Pacific Region, organized by the Indian Space Research Organization and the International Institute of Space Law, will take place in Bangalore, India, June 26 – 29, 2005

According to organizers, the "conference is being organized as the third in a series of regional space law conferences initiated in 2001 by the International Institute of Space Law with the aim of bringing space law and policy specialists together in a specific region to discuss topics of particular interest to that region, thus allowing interested parties from various backgrounds to meet and interact with experts from all over the world and promoting mutual understanding and cooperation for the benefit of all parties."

Here is the program and info.


Thanks, Futron

Just when I thought it might be a dullish day, I opened my e-mailbox to find that the new "Friends of Futron Reports" are out. It's good to have friends...

* * *

Futron Launch Report tracks worldwide orbital launch events by launch vehicle and by country, and shows launch successes, failures, and whether the launch was commercial or non-commercial.

Futron Satellite Manufacturing Report tracks geostationary, non-geostationary, commercial and non-commercial satellites launched during the previous month by satellite manufacturer.

Futron Satellite Telecommunications Report tracks the number, type, and service of worldwide commercial geostationary satellite transponders launched during the previous month.

Futron Satellite Regulatory Report tracks selected satellite-related regulatory activity during the previous month derived from Futron’s satellite regulatory analysis service, FCCFilings.com.


NSS Legislative Conference 2005

The National Space Society's third legislative conference, gathers space advocates, citizen lobbyists and space lovers to "carry our pro-space message directly to your Senators and Congressmen." Here's the invitation. That's May 17-18, 2005 in Washington, D.C. (and yes, NSS scheduled this event in conjunction with its annual International Space Development Conference, May 19-22).


No Go for H.R. 656

Whatever happened to H.R. 656, Rep. James Oberstar's (D-MN), not exactly well received bill to amend the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act (CSLAA) by beefing up safety provisions? (See Probe post on this from February.) According to an update in Space Politics today, majority staff counsel for the House Science Committee, took the opportunity at Space Access '05 on Friday to confirm, "I don't believe we're planning to take any action on that bill." Or, to quote Jeff Foust, "It's dead, Jim."

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