Thumbs Up for Blue Origin

Worrying about Earth is a big part of going to space. Inconvenient or not, FAA/AST sure spends a lot of time dealing with NEPA assessments.

This week FAA/AST posted the Final Environmental Assessment for the Proposed Blue Origin West Texas Launch Site, which addressed the proposal from Blue Origin to construct and operate a commercial space launch site in Culberson County, Texas. And here is the signed Finding of No Significant Impact, giving Blue Origin the environmental green light on the first private commercial spaceport.

Environmental issues aside, the draft Blue Origin EA offered everyone the first good, inside look at
Jeff Bezos's plans for his hot space start-up. (After all, there are not a lot of books about Blue Origin for sale on Amazon.)

Interesting comment by Rand Simberg: "the spaceport will also be the first spaceport to be licensed for vertical takeoff and landing (Mojave and Burns Flat are only licensed for horizontal operations). I wonder if Jeff Bezos will be open to allowing others to operate from it? I'll bet that Armadillo and Masten would like to use it."

Also, if you missed it earlier this month, FAA posted the
X Prize Cup Draft Environmental Assessment covering separate experimental permits to applicants seeking to participate in the Vertical Rocket Challenge and the Lunar Lander Challenge at the X Prize Cup, and seeking FAA approval for revisions to the Airport Layout Plan for construction activities to support the X Prize Cup. The X Prize Cup of course, will take place at Las Cruces International Airport in New Mexico, October 20-21, 2006. Public comment period on the draft EA ends on September 14, 2006.


Tuning in EU Space Radio Law

There's never a quiet moment in the satellite radio industry.

Last month we listened as
Gerry Oberst of Hogan & Hartson's Brussel's office tuned in to the regulatory and legal implications of a United Kingdom plan to take spectrum away from satellite radio in Europe.

This month's treat, hard-rockin', hard-working space law LL.M. student D.J. Den Herder spins his dial to
Regulation of Satellite Digital Audio in the European Union. D.J. prepared this draft paper in June 2006 at Leiden University's International Institute of Air & Space Law, in The Netherlands for Professor Dr. P.P.C. Haanappel's EU Aerospace Law class. D.J. scrutinizes Europe's "multi-tiered regulatory framework" and lays out the EU set-up which includes the regulatory hurdle of "pan-European spectrum allocation" -- one more layer than the the US satellite digital audio legal framework of national and ITU regulation.

Speaking of the US approach, D.J. briefly overviews satellite radio in this country, beginning in 1995 when the FCC allocated 50 megahertz of electromagnetic spectrum (in the 2310 - 2360 MHz band) for satellite digital audio services, and in 1997, licensed XM and Sirius. He writes, "The subscription-based satellite digital audio service was marketed as an alternative to so- called 'terrestrial radio' - traditional analogue broadcasts (in the 86 - 108 MHz band,) which had always been free of cost to the end user, but were limited in terms of audio quality (owing to lower frequency bandwidth,) content (owing to federal regulation of content and incessant on-air advertising) and range (owing to federal restrictions on transmission power, which limited broadcasts to various regional markets.)"

And in case you missed the buzz over on the satellite radio investing street this summer, the always noisy
Jim Cramer had been voicing his opinion that it was time for Sirius Satellite Radio CEO Mel Karmazin to make a bid for XM Satellite Radio. Although now, Cramer's saying the window of opp is quickly closing on the potential deal.

(According to Cramer, if XM and Sirius merge, Sirius stock will go from $4 to $8. This blog is not Space Stock Probe, but I happen to own Sirius which I bought at $4 and already watched hit around $8 then drop. As an investor, I have no argument with smart Mr. Cramer. Although as a consumer of satellite radio, I'm not sure I like what a merger will no doubt do to my subcription fees....)

* * *
"So you had better do as you are told.
You better listen to the radio."
--Radio Radio, Elvis Costello


Postcard from the new edge...

Ah... lovely vacation.

And now, a quick overview of just a few noteworthy developments as I catch up with last week:

* In what was supposed to be a slow space law week, FAA/AST issued its final
licensing and safety requirements for launch of unmanned commercial expendable rockets at both federal and non-federal launch sites (14 CFR Parts 401, 406, 413, 415, and 417; August 25, 2006). These regs, which go into effect next year, reflect the collaboration between the FAA and Department of Defense. As AST chief Patricia Grace Smith noted, “For the first time, the regulations on commercial launches will have common standards applied by the FAA and the Air Force.” And no, I did not read the 220-page Federal Register publication when I got back from Cape Cod at midnight last night. Thanks guys!

* Finally, Futron updated its oft-quoted 2002 space tourism market survey with this new
white paper on suborbital space tourism demand (Aug. 24, 2006). Jeff Foust has comments.

* Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Like it or not, a little democracy goes a loooooong way: Over at the IAU,
Pluto got dwarfed. (And naturally, the High Council of the Union of Plutonic States got mad. Via NASA Watch.)

* The
Personal Spaceflight Federation has relaunched. Now here's a great gathering of folks we simply cannot leave the home planet without.

* The Wall Street Journal interviewed
Clark Lindsey on commercial space. (sub. req'd.)

Lightning struck. (UPDATE: Atlantis takes cover.)

* Alan Boyle went comparison shopping
for big science.

* Yes,
Ms. Ansari gets to fly! (As Anousheh says, Be the change.)

* Space adventures goes to China. (Via HobbySpace)

Orion's the name.

~ ~ ~

Whew. I need another vacation. For now, to mark the 4th birthday of my niece, Sage, who actually taught me the
Planet Song (from Blue's Clues) when she was about two:

Well, the sun's a hot star,
Mercury's hot too.
Venus is the brightest planet,
Earth's home to me and you.
Mars is the red one,
Jupiter's most wide.
Saturn's got those icy ring's, and Uranus spins on its side.
Neptune's really windy, and Pluto's really small.
Well, you wanted to name the planets, and now you've named them all!


Vacation space

Now seems like a fine time to leave the space jurisdiction. I'm off on vacation this week (-- is this really my first official vacation post since last summer? --) with margaritas; with and without laptops. I may be peeking into blogspace and will certainly post if something major happens, such as if the IAU votes on a new definition of "planet" that does not include Earth.

Some items on tap for next week:

A peek into the upcoming issue of the Journal of Space Law.

A new paper by intrepid student space lawyer DJ Den herder on space radio law.


For now, enjoy mid-August.

Hitch your wagon to a kayak, tennis court, beach chair....;)


Lots on COTS

SLP congratulates SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler on winning $485 million under NASA's innovative Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to develop transport for carrying cargo and crew to and from the International Space Station.

I am semi- on vacation but I'm sure everyone's been following the COTS news, including via HobbySpace where Clark covered NASA's Friday
press conference, and pulled together COTS news and reactions here, here and here.

And yes, as NASA specified again on Friday, companies that did not win a phase 1 award -- including SpaceDev, Spacehab, t/Space, Andrews Space and others -- may still bid on phase 2 pay-as-you-go contracts, around 2010.

So who's betting against Mike Griffin's half billion dollar COTS bet? Not me ;).

Hitch your commercial space wagon to a star.


Planet law

Fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution and here on Earth we still don't know what a planet is.

Needless to say, the definition of a planet is a sizzling hot topic at the
International Astronomical Union (IAU) 26th General Assembly now underway in Prague.

And on August 24, after a couple of years of debate, the IAU will finally vote on the
proposal for the definition of a planet (Draft Resolution 5 for GA-XXVI).

(The not quite uncontroversial proposal is put together by a seven-member
Planet Definition Committee which by the way includes no lawyers.)

If the world's astronomers who make up the IAU approve the resolution, meet your new 12-planet (and counting) Solar System: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Charon and 2003 UB313.

Cosmic change is good.


v = ve ln (mi/mf)

Get out your calculators and notebooks, NASA is hosting a Commercial Space Vehicles Lessons Learned Needs Workshop, September 18, 2006 in Washington, DC, to share "information from the last 50 years that will enable and aid the private sector in building future space vehicles." Or, as NASA Watch dubs it, Rockets 101.

Representatives from large and small U.S. space launch vehicle companies are invited.

Lawyers are excused.

Most lawyers, anyway. Of course, here on SLP we know lawyers who would no doubt enjoy a rocket science soiree since they are, proverbially speaking at least, rocket scientists too. (Never mind that aerospace engineer Paul Woodmansee insists, there are "aerospace engineers, chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, chemists, physicists, and others who work on the design and theory of rocket propulsion," but there "is no such thing as a 'rocket scientist'." Many beg to differ.)

But as far as rocket science and technology, even most space lawyers require basic help, like NASA's
Beginner's Guide to Rockets. (That little rocket thrust simulator is kinda cool.)

And they are thankful for a chance to
Ask a Rocket Scientist a question or two; or in a panic, flip though an archive of rocket science Q&A, from Aerospaceweb.org.

When space bloggers sit around talking about new rocket technologies, cool engines, propulsion, etc., lawyers are mostly mystified. When we read things like, the "scramjet differs from the ramjet in that combustion takes place at supersonic air velocities through the engine," we can only listen in and shut up for a change.

And you won't often find us in a cafe drinking a latte with our browsers open to Dick Stafford's
rocket stories for hours on end. (Dick understands.)

Thank goodness guys like Michael Mealling at RocketForge can not only explain to us Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's famous
rocket equation, he will gladly sell anyone a mug or camisole with the equation printed on it (as above).

Some space lawyers know a lot more rocket science then they let on. (For evidence that at least one lawyer in America knows about the rocket equation, see Chapter 7, footnote 2 of this book.) However. Weight. Thrust. Lift. Drag. Alas, most members of the legal profession will admit fully their affinity for this genre of knowledge appears to be substantially less than limitless.

Dan Schrimpsher's confession, over at Space Pragmatism, a while back was noteworthy. Of course, Dan's a software engineer and computer science guy -- much smarter than a lawyer -- so when he says "I don't like rockets," meaning, he's not "enamored with them" he has a lot to fall back on. But many space industry folks relate to his point about hardcore rocket tech stuff, "Truth is I neither understand it nor enjoy it very much. I have never really gotten that delta-v thing and the difference between various engine types bores me to tears.... I refuse to even fake it. We are all about the destination here."

Well stated. And while here on SLP we love the guys who do rocket science, in the end we're happy they do it, and leave the easy space stuff to the lawyers.


Abuja Chronicles

I imagine the night sky looks heavenly in Nigeria.

And speaking of the most populous country on the African continent, that nation's capital made a lovely setting for the
United Nations/Nigeria Workshop on Space Law, "Meeting International Responsibilities and Addressing Domestic Needs," last November.

I mention this today because I was just now on Amazon, doing a bit of shopping, and I came across the Abuja workshop proceedings on sale, in paperback, for $42.

Whatever you do, don't buy that publication. Here are the
proceedings online, for free. (In pdf. All 645 pages.) That's right.

Next best thing to an African space law safari.

* * *
Note: And remember, as I've posted, the next UN space law conference will take place in November, much further north of the equator, in Kyiv. Because space law is global.


30 Seconds to Mars

There's a Marsophile in most every Earthling. Or, there should be.

At the
9th International Mars Society Conference last week in Washington, DC, notable speakers included the big guy, Mike Griffin, along with Elon Musk (SpaceX), Eric Anderson (Space Adventures), Brian Chase (NASA, Associate Administrator for Legislative Affairs), George Whitesides (National Space Society), a mountain climber (Francis Slakey), and astronaut (Andy Thomas), and of course, Robert Zubrin of The Mars Society.

Rumors that lawyers will not be allowed on Mars are marginally exaggerated, however, folks who know how to
lobby Congress will be among the first to earn accommodations on the Red Planet.

Here is a transcript of the NASA administrator's
keynote which Jeff Foust graciously summarizes. When does Mike think the first human missions to Mars will take place? "My own personal best guess would be the late 2020s."

Music of the Spheres postings, August 1 through Aug. 8 for highlights of the conference. Also, a conference debrief at MountEverest.net. (Links collected at HobbySpace, of course.)

And Dwayne A. Day has an indepth review of the cool new documentary screened at the conference, The Mars Underground. Looking forward to seeing this.

Finally, in response to the question, "Are we there yet?" -- SLP can only say, well, no, but we are closer every microsecond.

(Aren't we?)

Provehito in altum.

* * *
30 Seconds to Mars received a nomination for best rock video at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. The band's motto, provehito in altum, translated from Latin, means launch forth into the deep.


DIY Patents

Got inventions? Each day, folks in the NewSpace world are hard at work on space innovations for 21st century commercial markets.

Who need patents lawyers? Patent your own stuff.

I hope my patent lawyer pals aren't reading this, but if you have an invention that is useful, novel and unobvious, and fits within one of the five statutory categories (process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or new use of any of the above), you can get yourself a patent. And you don't have to memorize the
Patent Act or rules.

A US patent gives the inventor "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" the invention in the US or importing the invention into the US for 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed.

Simple? It can be. In its latest newsletter,
Nolo advertises David Pressman's Patent It Yourself, a guide to the not-necessarily-so-mystifying patent process, from conducting a patent search to filing a successful application.

Also available,
Nolo's Patents for Beginners by David Pressman & Richard Stim, CD-ROM's, Patent Pending Now! and PatentEase Deluxe 5.0, Richard Stim's Profit From Your Idea: How to Make Smart Licensing Deals, Jack Lander's All I Need Is Money: How to Finance Your Invention, and Nolo's , The Complete Inventor's Kit.

But why buy guidebooks and software? Over at the
US Patent and Trademark Office, the feds offer a lot of good, free help for inventors. Dig in. For more than 200 years the PTO has advanced its mission "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries. (Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution). And yes, you can apply for a patent online.

(However, to enforce your patent rights or bring a patent infringement action, better call a registered patent lawyer.)

I don't see any space companies on the USPTO's list of the
10 companies that received the most U.S. patents in 2005 (Jan. 2006). We'll have to work on that.

Meanwhile, here's a collection of odd, obscure, wacky and
patently absurd patents. Thomas Jefferson, the first US commissioner of patents, would be proud.

And you don't have to be an intellectual property lawyer to drop in on some patent law blogs, including Dennis Crouch's popular

Here's a quick quiz: What laws apply to things invented on board the International Space Station? A fun issue. In a tiny nutshell: Under article 8 of the
Outer Space Treaty, a state has jurisdiction over objects it launches into space. And the ISS is really just a compilation of nationally-owned modules and elements built by ISS partners. Under the Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement, national laws apply respectively to each module or element. (IGA, Art. 21.) As far as US law goes (other nations' and international patent law will wait for another post), any invention made, used or sold in outer space on board a spacecraft that under jurisdiction or control of the US is considered to be made, used or sold on US territory (35 U.S.C. § 105(2003)). Thus US patent laws apply to US portions of the ISS. And the legal complexity only begins there. Much has been written about IP in space, and I won't delve into all that here. For a talk on space patents and space IP generally, here is a recap of intellectual property lawyer William Hulsey III on The Space Show in February talking about IP rights on earth and beyond, including inventions in outer space, patent trolls and more.

Just remember what a young patent clerk named Albert Einstein once said:
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

* * *
(Image: US Patent 6,960,975 -
Space vehicle propelled by the pressure of inflationary vacuum state.
Inventors: Volfson; Boris (Huntington, IN)
Patent Application. No.: 11/079,670
Filed: March 14, 2005)

* * *

UPDATE: Via NASA Watch --
U.S. Patent 6,962,310 - Inflatable satellite bus
Inventors: Bigelow; Robert T. (Las Vegas, NV)
Assignee: Bigelow Aerospace (North Las Vegas, NV)
Filed: November 4, 2004


Hot ticket

Those of you trying to win your SpaceShot suborbital trip on a Rocketplane XP by predicting the weather in New Your City these days, here is a hint: City Remains Under Heat Emergency As Mercury Climbs Above 100. It is hot here.

They've even picked up the story in
China. Here it is in Arabic.

(Sure, lots of other cities are breaking records with their own triple-digit temperatures this summer. But their weather won't win you a trip to space, will it?)

Good luck. And if you win, take us with you.
* * *
(Image credit: AP - hot construction worker in Brooklyn.) (Yes, I said he's hot.)


Paperless Moon

NASA is on a mission to save space.

It's not what you think. Our sometimes nimble space agency has created
Lunar e-Library -- a searchable DVD compilation of Moon mission history, including a complete set of the Apollo mission and science reports, flight evaluations, lunar studies, experiments and data, historical documents, interviews and much more. (collectSPACE via a Dan Schrimpsher dateline.

A ton of bulky, dusty NASA Moon mission records now in handy electronic format. Nifty. And just in time for Project Orion.

Why can't lawyers do this sort of thing? Wouldn't it be great to gather and keep all case files and client documents on disks and toss the paper? I am all for eliminating paper to the fullest extent possible. As many have said for decades, the law office should go paper-lite if not
paperless. Save the sliced dead trees delivered in trucks for origami. (There's just no good way to fold a flash disk.)

The office is just a start. One big push would be if all courts and regulatory agencies required e-filings. Other paper stuff lawyers love such as money, magazines and newspapers should be all electronic, all the time. And kids will easily adapt to an unpapered world. Soon, games like "rock paper scissors" will be updated ("rock disk scissors").
At home, toilet paper, tissues and napkins... well, never mind. Certain paper requirements will just have to wait until someone invents the right nanomaterials.

But really, seems to me a printed item's
tangibility (palpability, tactility, tangibleness, touchableness, you know) is overrated.

By the way, here's the ABA saying a paperless office is
90 percent mental, 50 percent physical. I don't know what that means but as a lawyer, the math sounds about right. And here's more on the digital law office.

Sure. Any day now.

By the way, NASA's Lunar E-library is free and folks can order it by filling out two forms. Yes, those are
online forms.

* * *
(Image credit: Modular origami sphere, Prof. Thomas Hull. Neat, isn't it?)


Prof. Reynolds on HobbySpace

Ahh. I'd been waiting for this.

(And what took those two space-happy, weblogging lads from Tennessee so long to get together for a little online Q&A? I would have also enjoyed this via a live podcast from a cafe in Knoxville -- maybe part 2.)

Here you have it -- HobbySpace host Clark Lindsey's e-mail
interview with Prof. Glenn Reynolds, who we on SLP know and love, of course, as the famous law professor and multimedia maverick who sometimes writes about other stuff when he really should be updating his space law book, and occasionally posts to a blog some people have heard about.

Clark has excellent questions for the ever-eclectic professor, touching on hot button topics including space advocacy, human spaceflight, space elevators, ITAR and more.

A few highlights:

If Glenn was head of the Space Council, he would "encourage a prize-based approach, like the X-Prize and NASA's (small) Centennial Challenge grants.... more money in fairly basic R&D stuff: materials, engine technology, the like, all focused on the needs of commercial rather than military uses." And he would "promote space tourism" because it is "an important economic, and political, engine for more progress in space."

Glenn thinks the new regulatory regime for commercial spaceflight is "pretty good."

On the space agency: "NASA is growing steadily less relevant to the growth of human spaceflight, and I think that's probably inevitable given NASA's bureaucratic ossification. To his credit, Michael Griffin seems to have a firm grip on reality, and isn't succumbing to the usual NASA temptation to snuff out anything that might be a rival."

On liability for space tourism accidents: "[F]ears of litigation are exaggerated here. People may sue, but they will likely lose, as with other extreme sports."

On ITAR: "It's often possible to lobby away bureaucratic impediments, but on the other hand the control of missile technology is a nontrivial matter. In light of current events, I think ITAR restraints will be an issue for a decade or so after which the technology will be so widespread it won't matter."

Read the whole thing.

The only big question Clark left out was, when will the professor complete his follow-up to Outer Space: Problems of Law and Policy?

Next interview.

Oh, and for the record, Glenn's fall semester space law class is "substantially oversubscribed."

* * *

UPDATE: As Clark notes and 50 trillion Instapundit readers know, Glenn is on vacation this week, so now is the ideal time to talk about the professor behind his back and spread rumors. So here's the deal: It's not really a vacation. Shhh. Glenn is at this moment slogging away on his new space law book which will be coming out later this year. The beer in the picture is just a cover-up. The book will be a surprise. Even his publishers don't know. I have a copy of the draft. More on all this later. Pass it on.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Professor Reynolds has agreed to guestbog Space Law Probe. That's right. Via nanobot, after the singularity. I'm beyond thrilled. Stay tuned for the schedule.

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