Szoka on ITAR Reform
But I've made up for my slacking off: Just replayed the audio of The Space Show from Sunday, which featured Berin M. Szoka, executive director of the Institute for Space Law & Policy, who returned to the program for an excellent talk about ITAR, including the history of the regime and his ideas for reform.
(By the way, with all the renowned members of the legal profession who show up as guests on The Space Show, Dr. Livingston better watch out or a rumor will spread that he likes lawyers. ;)
Here's Berin Szoka's bio for the show.
And some quick notes from the broadcast:
First Berin expressed his respect for Ann Ganzer and her staff at the Department of State. (Ann was a guest of Dr. Livingston's on Feb. 12) saying it is important to understand that she is doing her job under a mandate from Congress.
Making it a personal issue does a disservice to ITAR reform. We need to change the policy, not the people. One of the big problems with ITAR is Ms. Ganzer and her agency are understaffed. [Note: Ann would agree; she commented on this problem in her talk on the program last month.--JL] We should be pushing not only for policy change, but for tools and resources.
Voices in the new and old space community are united that something needs to be done; but beyond that, it's not clear what we are pushing for. It's not clear from the perspective of a Congressional staffer. We are way behind in making our case about why the ITAR regarding space technologies should be changed and how. Berin is working on this at the Institute for Space Law & Policy.
Berin does not give legal advice on ITAR. It is such a complicated set of regs; if you need professional ITAR help Berin knows names of attorneys who are experts.
This discussion for the most part about ITAR as applied to space technologies, which "in the grand scheme of things are a very small part" of ITAR. When we complain about the ITAR, we mean the regime that applies to space. In general, the ITAR is not about space. We need to be careful about not attacking ITAR. The ITAR serves really important functions that have nothing to do with space issues.
Also, it is not fruitful to get into partisan politics that might have led us to where we are today; important to talk about substance.
Regarding arguments for changing ITAR: The economic argument is not a good argument when the trade-off is some degree is harm to national security. You are never going to convince people that avoiding harm to your business justifies some degree of harm to national security.
American national security when it comes to space tech depends on US technological leadership in space. Berin's metric for success of ITAR is a regime that maintains US technological leadership in space.
Two ways for US to do this: Stop other people from developing technologies. Or, increase your development of technologies and therefore your lead. ITAR has to do both. But right now we go too far in focusing on control and not far enough in making sure American companies lead the world in space technologies.
We must make sure US researchers, small companies, big companies, entrepreneurs can develop in this country and do not to have to leave to compete on the world market. That's the main argument.
Also compelling is the argument that in limiting US companies and driving other countries to go into space on their own and not cooperate with us, we are making a choice as a civilization as to what values and which countries will lead in developing space into the future.
The metric is US technological superiority. Space is now and is increasingly becoming critical to the US military. This is a weakness and a great strength. The military is increasingly protective of its space assets.
What do suborbital space tourism companies have to do with the military? These companies are lowering the cost of space access and developing RLV's and the things that will make us leaders in space. If we drive these people and companies offshore we will ultimately harm our national security by being overly restrictive today.
The best thing we could have as a nation would be cheap, easy access to space; and this would benefit the military.
We want to make sure the ITAR process works in a way that makes entrepreneurs succeed.
As a nation we have never made a decision on controlling space technology as weapons. What happened in 1998 is greatly misunderstood; it had very little to do with satellites and everything to do with ballistic missiles.
[Berin recaps ITAR history: from export controls going back to the Cold War when the CoCom was very successful in denying the Soviets access to sensitive Western technology, to ITAR as it exists now which has been around since 1976 when the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) passed; including the Commercial Space Launch Act (1984); the controversy arising from the launch of US commercial sats on Chinese launch vehicles; discussion of dual use; Loral and Hughes; 1998, where we are today. Good backgrounder. The real concern was about ballistic missiles and their ability to hit the US.]
Export controls are restraints on any transfer of controlled technical data to non US persons. This may include not just selling a final product but hiring a foreigner, bringing a foreigner into your plant, advertising, speaking at a conference, distributing or disseminating data. You need to go through the State Department.
The difference about space is the fact ITAR controls things being developed by small companies. But ITAR is designed with big prime contractors in mind. Big companies like Boeing and Lockheed have internal compliance organizations that are bigger that the entire staff of a new space company.
We need to find ways of making ITAR work better for everyone, especially small businesses. Give State more resources, staff, funding for e-filing, funding for customer support process.
Our NATO allies all have export controls; we are all part of the Wassenaar Arrangement. But Congress thinks other countries' controls are not tight enough. We are the only country in the world that treats space technology as weapons. In every other country they are dual use items.
Berin discusses munitions list categories that apply to space; suggests treating these things differently.
ITAR has devastated the US share of the launch industry market, satellite manufacturing market; made things very difficult for small space companies; has had a catastrophic affect on university space research, US participation in global exchange.
Ideas for reform: We need an ITAR that works for America; an ITAR that is, in general, fast, clear, simple and easy, that makes distinctions between hostile and friendly countries, and is easy for small businesses to comply with.
For space technologies, we need to make distinctions as to the specific categories; we need an approach that does not control technologies that are available outside the US and especially those that are both available outside and superior. Example: the Russians were simply better at some things, like automated rendevous.
We want to make sure the ITAR does not control public domain information in a way that stifles free exchange of ideas.
Berin fleshes out these ideas. Good, thoughtful work. My notes cut off here, but that's OK, you can listen to the whole MP3.
Congress should listen to Berin Szoka, too.
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By the way, Berin says to help with ITAR reform or for more information, please contact him at the Institute.
He also invites us to the International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2006) May 4-7, at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles. Lots happening there.
A new space race for a new generation
- Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Mobilizing NASA’s mission of human space exploration
- Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX)
Robotic space exploration needs continued support
- Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA)
(Naturally, Space Politics has a summary.)
ULA Approval Closer
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UPDATE: Rocky Mountain News (via Dow Jones News Service) picks up the story (no sub. req'd).
Missiles and Space Environment
Space Law Probe is a peaceful blog. When it comes to laws governing missile defense and related issues, expert help is welcome. Thankfully, Steve Mirmina sent over his new article in the Journal of Space Law, The Ballistic Missle Defense System and its Effects on the Outer Space Environment.
(Steve, who is senior attorney in NASA's Office of the General Council, international law practice team, presents this article in his personal capacity, not to express the views of the government.)
He writes, "the U.S. is in the process of creating a Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) to protect against the threat of rogue nation attacking the U.S. with ballistic missiles.... The system is designed to track incoming missiles by radar and then destroy them before they reach U.S. soil.... Unfortunately, certain space-based effects of the BMDS could result in the pollution of critical orbits in outer space. Without making a judgment on whether the BMDS is, or is not, a worthwhile endeavor to defend the homeland from attack by rogue states, this paper will focus on the international law implications of the BMDS' effects on the outer space environment."
Steve's article overviews the Missile Defense Agency and its objectives; it explains "how the missile defense system is intended to work." Then it turns to "the fundamental question" of whether it is legal under international law to use outer space for military purposes.
Steve looks at the effects of orbital debris causes by the BMDS and "dangers to other civil users of outer space such as the shuttle, international space station and astronauts generally." He examines international law restrictions on contamination of outer space.
And Steve notes "other military space applications, including the use of anti-satellite weapons that would damage or destroy another country's space assets, must be scrutinized to determine long lasting effects of resulting debris on the outer space environment."
A fascinating analysis. Read it all.
(And for more Mirmina space law insights, look here and here. Or, ask his Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court 2005 world champion team.)
Heinlein & Dula
And yes, for the record, serving as one of the three trustees of the Heinlein Prize Foundation is Houston space lawyer, Art Dula. (Just another example of cool things space lawyers do in their spare time.)
Learning to Fly
You couldn't see it via the live webcast, but as Elon Musk reports this morning, "at T+25s, a fuel leak of currently unknown origin caused a fire around the top of the main engine that cut into the first stage helium pneumatic system. On high resolution imagery, the fire is clearly visible within seconds after liftoff. Once the pneumatic pressure decayed below a critical value, the spring return safety function of the pre-valves forced them closed, shutting down the main engine at T+29s."
A friend reminded Elon, "only 5 of the first 9 Pegasus launches succeeded; 3 of 5 for Ariane; 9 of 20 for Atlas; 9 of 21 for Soyuz; and 9 of 18 for Proton." Elon's reaction? "Having experienced firsthand how hard it is to reach orbit, I have a lot of respect for those that persevered to produce the vehicles that are mainstays of space launch today."
Here on Space Law Probe, we share that respect. And we look forward to the next launch, which Elon hopes will "occur in less than six months."
Per ardua ad astra, as always.
(Mirror of the launch video courtesy Mike Taht.)
Dale on Commercial Space
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UPDATE: Ms. Dale also spoke at a Space Transportation Association breakfast yesterday. And for you polcasting fans enjoying the multimedia offerings over on Space Politics, Jeff Foust has the MP3 (includes Q&A after the remarks). The early blogger gets breakfast.
Chinese rocket crime
Space crime does not pay.
Space Billionaire Lessons
Hobnob with Peter Diamandis of X Prize Foundation and Zero Gravity Corp (keynote); Jeff Greason of XCOR; John Spencer of Red Planet Ventures and the Space Tourism Society; Guillermo Sohnlein of the International Association of Space Entrepreneurs; folks from the California Space Authority, and more.
Lawyers of space billionaires and future space billionaires welcome.
Rocket Fuel Fight Update
As I reported here, in considering whether the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives properly classified APCP as an "explosive," a unanimous US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found for the plaintiff rocket hobbyists and remanded the matter to the Bureau. (Tripoli Rocketry Association, Inc. and National Association of Rocketry v. BATFE Feb 10, 2006).
Mark Bundick, president of NAR and Ken Good, president of TRA now update members and hobby rocket lovers on the case; via Rand Simberg who has been following the action. Here is a summary:
More fireworks to follow.
* * *
UPDATE: Over at the Rocket Dungeon I see Dick Stafford has posted the full text of the TRA/NAR joint statement (since the page its on is not a permalink). Hit tip to Dick, who, by the way, is a member of TRA and NAR, level-2 certified.
Space law in Paris
No worries; as promised, here is a brief recap of the event, sent in by SLP's Euro-correspondent and space law LL.M candidate at Leiden University, D.J. Den Herder, who made the big sacrifice of stopping work on his thesis to travel to Paris for the forum.
(By the way, unconfirmed sightings and reports indicate D.J. may have spent the weekend. However, anything unrelated to the space law forum that may have happend to D.J. while he was in Paris, stays in Paris. Merci beaucoup!)
Practitioners and academics from across Europe convened at ESA Headquarters Friday to discuss legal and policy aspects of space tourism.
The forum’s keynote speech was delivered by Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn, who began by presenting the ESA Director-General with a model Virgin space ship, and proceeded to brief Euro-lawyers on Virgin’s business model.
Mr. Whitehorn emphasized that Virgin was not approaching its current SpaceShipTwo effort as a space tourism project per se, but rather as a means to prove the commercial viability of space tourism and also of air-based rocketry (with an eye toward the potential for manned orbital vehicles).
On the licensing front, he noted that FAA/AST considered the rocket component and White Knight aircraft together to be one launch system, and thus the system would not be “designated by the aviation authority” (the effort instead, presumably, licensed exclusively by AST.) Virgin has apparently nevertheless selected registration numbers for the craft – N400K (as in 400,000 feet, the target altitude of SpaceShipTwo) – and also volunteered to “build to Part 25 standards,” though certification as such would not be required.
Mr. Whitehorn further noted that Virgin’s due diligence indicates the risk of an onboard medical incident outweighs the risk of vehicle failure. As such, he said Virgin was in talks with NASA regarding health aspects, and was also seeking a European partner for such consultations.
Also addressing the forum was Steve Bochinger from Euroconsult, who cautioned that turning the concept of “going to space” into a mass consumer market was “very ambitious.” Mr. Bochinger took care to differentiate suborbital and orbital flight, pointing out unique circumstances that have allowed Russia to achieve profit at the margins. He warned that the orbital tourism market is not likely large enough to amortize investment in the long or short term, and noted there was no reason to anticipate a significant decrease in associated costs.
Other forum highlights included a presentation by Dr. Martin Stanford of UNIDROIT, who suggested the Cape Town Convention on mobile equipment financing was particularly germane to questions of financing and security in space tourism, and also a presentation by ESA lawyer André Farand, who cited issues raised by the International Space Station’s Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) as relevant for consideration going forward. Mr. Farand said he believed there would not be new negotiations to “fix the rules” vis space tourism on the international level, and it is now up to individual states to implement appropriate national laws.
Notable legal lacunae observed by members of the academy attending the forum included the familiar issue of an air space/outer space delimitation, and also the related distinction between aircraft and spacecraft, raising the specter of civil aviation conventions on liability.
Finally, an issue that received significant academic attention was the definition of astronaut. Professors expressed concern as to precisely how space flight participants would be recognized in an international context, and the ensuing ramifications – from criminal jurisdiction and control issues, to liability considerations, to diplomatic status as envoys of mankind (see Art. V of the Outer Space Treaty), to the potential for unjust profiteering by sale of the envoy label.
SpaceX Relaunches Antitrust Action
(Hat tip: Clark Lindsey at RLV and Space Transport News)
Pentagon on ULA
What does DOD recommend? My sources in the Pentagon declined to discuss the position taken. That's because I have no sources in the Pentagon.
Ultimately, the FTC decides whether to allow the merger to go forward. (And as I've noted, pursuant to the joint venture agreement, either party may terminate the deal if it does not win government approval by March 31.)
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UPDATE: Sun. 8:30AM (off yesterday, checking in...) Looks like on Friday Reuters updated with a report well-connected defense consultant Loren Thompson said the Pentagon is "conditionally recommending" approval of a merger and wants to "aggressively manage" the JV "to keep it from acting as a monopoly." No confirmation reported from the Pentagon or FTC.
Get your Journal of Space Law
And yes, the Journal is coming to Westlaw and Lexis; stay tuned for announcements.
(Other items I can confirm: Joanne spoke in Saudi Arabia and wore a burka. I'm trying to get some photos. And yes, she was recently in her hometown, NYC, and did not call to meet me for cappuccino downtown. I overlook that sort of thing one time.)
Meanwhile, to subscribe to the Journal if you don't already, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And here's the table of contents for current issue (Winter 2005) (and note the appearance of some SLP favorite writers, including Steve Mirmina at NASA and, of course, Prof. Glenn Reynolds of the University of Tennessee and blogspace):
University of Mississippi School of Law
A journal devoted to space law and the legal problems arising
out of human activities in outer space.
Volume 31 Winter 2005 Number 2
Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz
Call for Papers
Satellite Distribution in Meteorological Forecasts for Air Navigation
Chinese-Brazilian Protocol on Distribution of CBERS Products
Jose Monserrat Filho & Ãlvaro Fabricio dos Santos
Complementary Protocol to the Framework Agreement Between the Government of the PeopleÂs Republic of China and the Government of the Federative Republic of Brazil on Cooperation in the Peaceful Application of Outer Space Science and Technology on the Cooperation for the CBERS Application System
The Ballistic Missile Defense System and its Effects on the Outer Space Environment
Steven A. Mirmina
International Cooperation for Sustainable Space Development
Satellite Earth Observation as "Systematic Observation" in Multilateral Environmental Treaties
Space Law in its Second Half-Century
Glenn Harlan Reynolds
Report of the IISL Space Law Colloquium in Vancouver, Canada, October 2004
Patrick Salin, Macha Ejova, Ali Akbar Golrounia, Kenneth Weidaw, Martha Mejia (edited by Tanja Masson-Zwaan)
Preparing Written Briefs for International Law Competitions: A Primer
Stephen E. Doyle
Making Space Happen: Private Space Ventures And The Visionaries Behind Them
By Paula Berinstein
Reviewed by Diane Howard
Case Developments and Recent Publications
Recent Space Law Cases and Publications
Keishunna Randall & Katrina Sandifer
- Law Review Articles
- Law Review Comments/Notes
- United States' Legislation
- United States Pending Cases
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CORRECTION: Actually, it was not a burka, it was an abaya. And I'm working on Joanne for those hot glossies.
Space for Belgium
And if you'd like to visit, here's a great excuse. We are all invited to the first Space Days in Liege, Belgium, March 28 & 29 2006 (free registration), courtesy of Wallonie Espace, "an association of industries, universities, laboratories concerned by space research and development in Wallonia and in Brussels." The members of Wallonie Espace want to show off their "expertise and excellence in space systems, services, applications, spin-offs."
Before you go, read Belgium's national space law. Ah. You didn't know Belgium had its own space law? On June 28, 2005, the Belgian Federal Parliament adopted the Law on the Activities of Launching, Flight Operations or Guidance of Space Objects (unofficial translation).
The Belgian Federal Science Policy Office says the space legislation "aims particularly at: ensuring the legal and material safety of operational space activities performed under Belgian jurisdiction; developing an appropriate legal framework for the hosting of this sector in Belgium." And the Office graciously presents questions and answers covering the legislation.
In a nutshell, the law, which references international law generally and applicable UN space treaties specifically, provides for engaging in space activities under Belgian "jurisdiction or control" subject to prior "authorisation" (the word "license" is not used) from the Minister responsible for space (Chapter II).
Under Art. 5. §1. "The King may determine the conditions for granting authorisations with a view to ensuring the safety of people and property, protecting the environment, ensuring the optimal use of air space and outer space, protecting the strategic, economic and financial interests of the Belgian State, as well as in order to satisfy the Belgian State's obligations under international law. The King shall determine to what extent the conditions set by him shall apply to the activities covered by a current authorisation."
The legislation also establishes a National Register of Space Objects for spacecraft of which Belgium is the launching state (Chapter V). And under the section, "Liabilities, counterclaims and measures in the event of falling space objects," it regulates assessment of and liability for damages caused by a space object, and limits liability of the operator (Chapter VI).
Indeed, the Kingdom is serious about its space law. Anyone who carries out space activities covered under the law (Art. 2) without authorisation, or communicates "intentionally false or incomplete information on an application for authorisation" "shall be liable to a period of imprisonment of between eight days and one year and a fine of between 25 and 25,000 euros, or to one of these sanctions." Yikes.
By the way, I understand a workshop on "the Belgian Space Legislation and other comparative examples of national space laws," will take place in April at the Belgian Parliament in Brussels. According to European Center for Space Law, "the programme will be finalised in the coming weeks and published on the ECSL website." I'll look for that update.
Merci. Dank u. Danke.
EU-Russia Space Deal
Brussels, 10 March 2006
Space policy: EU and Russia join forces and sign cooperation agreement
The EU and Russia are strengthening ties in space cooperation. The Head of the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (Roscosmos) Anatoliy Perminov, the Director General of the European Space Agency Jean-Jacques Dordain and European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen signed a joint document to enhance bilateral cooperation in space activities. The enhanced cooperation encompasses space applications (satellite navigation, earth observation and satellite communications), access to space (launchers and future space transportation systems), space exploration and the use of the International Space Station (ISS) and space technologies development.
Read the full press release with joint statement of the European Commission and the Federal Space Agency (Via Europa's press room; thanks also SpaceRef.)
Cornhusker space law update
As the Lincoln Journal Star updates, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law "has found a professor willing to shoulder much of the space law labor for the program's experimental first year." And that law professor is UNL's Matt Schaefer.
Professor Schaefer, who teaches international law, business and trade, and whose credentials include serving as a director in the International Economic Affairs Office of the National Security Council, "will develop a course, give presentations and organize a major conference on space law over the next year... bring guest lecturers to the law college and hold seminars for the university and military communities..." and "organize a major conference on military and space law issues."
Of course, Nebraska typically is home to not space venturers but folks like farmers, grain processors, cattle ranchers, meat-packers and yes, the Strategic Air Command.
Nebraska's military connection remains strong, and the new law program naturally will cover military space issues. Lots of buzz about that. But as Prof. Schaefer works with officials at Offutt Air Force Base "to try to strengthen university-StratCom ties" he of course knows that a comprehensive 21st century space law program encompasses the fast-growing area of commercial space.
Current and future space law addresses international as well as domestic space developments, ventures and plans, and military and civil space sectors share the arena with entrepreneurial space. A vision combining all facets of the fascinating and growing space law field should go far to build some space cred for the cornhusker state.
SLP sends best wishes for success to Prof. Schaefer and UNL.
Go Space Huskers!
It's 3/14 at 1:59 (:26:535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209 74944 59230 78164 06286 20899 86280 34825 34211 PM, give or take a few microseconds... -- that's New York time).
Have a brilliant and tasty Pi (π) day. (And for those who don't use the US date format, we'll check back on "Pi Approximation Day," 22/7 -- July 22.)
And happy birthday Dr. E.
Space Elevator Politics
"For the 2006 midterm elections, Republicans should propose an idea so big that it stretches to the stars. Republicans should commit the government to building a space elevator by 2020."
In reference to which Professor Reynolds, in fact, Insta-comments, "I like space elevators, but I kind of doubt this is an election-winner."
Agreed. (And not to quibble, but to be precise, the Professor does not actually "like space elevators," he loves them.)
(Well there are different kinds of probes...)
An SLP reader e-mailed this weekend asking, "who's watching NASA's watchdog?" I had not blogged about the ongoing investigation of the NASA inspector general but as we read in an unsettling report in the Washington Post last month -- and to answer the question -- apparently the FBI-led Integrity Committee of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency is.
I don't find much to report by way of an update (yet), but as Guy Gugliotta in the Post covered, the Committee is looking into complaints made by former and current employees within NASA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) that NASA Inspector General Robert W. Cobb failed to investigate safety violations and penalized his own whistle-blowing inspectors.
(By the way, as Inspector General, Cobb is a member of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency.)
According to the Post, "complaints describe efforts by Cobb to shut down or ignore investigations on issues such as a malfunctioning self-destruct procedure during a space shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center, and the theft of an estimated $1.9 billion worth of data on rocket engines from NASA computers" and that "NASA employees and former employees said Cobb's actions had contributed to a lack of attention to safety problems at NASA."
The article also reports allegations that the IG "disregarded the inspector general's mandate to root out 'waste, fraud and abuse' and caused dozens of longtime NASA employees to leave the IG's 200-person office and seek investigative work elsewhere."
And yes, Cobb is a lawyer and did previously serve as Associate Counsel to the President where "he handled the administration of the White House ethics program" and before that, among other positions, he worked at the United States Office of Government Ethics. Cobb was appointed by Pres. Bush and took office in April, 2002.
All of which moved me to take a look at the NASA OIG's most recent semiannual report to Congress (a document which is required under the Inspector General Act of 1978 ) (Public Law 95-452), and scrutinize the sections on safety.
No indication of anything awry in the OIG's office.
(By the way, the OIG has its own Legal Unit which, as indicated on the web page, "is not a component of the NASA General Counsel's Office.")
In his summary of the "serious management and performance challenges facing NASA" dated Nov. 14, 2005 (this report is required pursuant to the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000), Cobb listed four "challenges":
Nothing about an inspector general who could use a bit of inspecting himself.
While we await developments, here's a GAO report on Handling of Allegations Against Senior OIG Officials (Oct. 1996). What a predicament.
(By the way, Cobb may or may not also have run afoul of the Principles and Standards for Offices of Inspector General of the Association of Inspectors General, but never mind that.)
Meanwhile, one of 16 whistleblowers, NASA ex-manager Gerry Brown told the the Daily Press, he wants his life back.
Credit where its due, folks seem to work hard at the OIG; for example as OIG's Office of Investigations reports, during the 6-month period ending September 30, 2005, its work "led to $5,308,195 in recoveries" as well as "20 indictments or informations [and] 14 convictions, plea bargains or pretrial diversions."
In the interim, if you'd like to join forces with NASA as a citizen watchdog, here's the agency's cyberhotline to submit a criminal, administrative or civil complaint involving a NASA center or program.
Astrolaw advice for NASA
Want to know what future moon law will look like? It's simple. Just ask high school students.
NASA did. Folks from Langley met with kids from the Legal Studies Academy at First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach "to study space law" one day in December (and yes I'm just hearing about this now, which is serendipitous, I've already posted a couple of space law education related items this week) and here's a somewhat belated article from Virginia's DailyPress.com (apparently they just heard about it too).
(The article even refers to astrolaw, a term I have not heard in many moons...)
It's a super idea to talk with 21st century high school students about space law. As seasoned business and space law practitioner Ken Weidlaw, panelist on a first-ever CLE program in space law (coming to Pennsylvania this month, as I blogged here), expressed in an e-mail to me this week, he wants to "generate interest with the younger attorneys and law students in this up and coming legal area." And it all starts in grade school and high school.
So were any lawyers on hand when NASA met with future space-faring kids to contemplate law? According to the before-the-fact press release, San Francisco attorney and former chief counsel at NASA Ames Research Center, J. Henry Glazer, was invited to "introduce students to NASA's Vision for Space Exploration and various international treaties that govern space exploration."
By the way, the students informed NASA we will need Bowflex exercise machines on the moon; also, "comfort food" because astronaut ice cream tastes like "silly putty." I agree on both counts, although I'm not sure we'd necessarily legislate those items. And what about sex? Apparently, there was a split of authority over the advisability of this sort of activity. Hmm. Kids, maybe some things are not the business of space law? And other things will, no doubt, work themselves out... over time.
Spacecasting Beltway Breakfasts
First, he recorded OSTP associate director Richard Russell talking commercial space transportation policy at a Space Transportation Association breakfast (Feb. 9); then he nabbed a STA morning talk by Rep. Tom Feeney on China space policy (Feb. 16).
And here's Jeff's latest early bird polcast: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's remarks at STA breakfast, March 8. (Of course, there's a text summary if you prefer, via SpaceRef.)
The early polcaster gets the coffee; can the rest of the day be far behind?
Blogspace sounds better and better all the time.
"It's not if -- it's when."
To that end, we have Dick Stafford and Clark Lindsey to thank for linking to and commenting on this unblinking reality check of an expose in Desert Exposure in which editor David A. Fryxell thoughtfully invokes everything from the death of Christa McAuliffe, "the planet's first space tourist," to the single crash that contributed to the demise of the Concorde, "the safest airline in the world," and puts together a less than dizzyingly rosy view of the fiscal and other hazards and challenges of space tourism in New Mexico and beyond. Essentially, Fryxell worries that New Mexico's spaceport will be "a flight of fancy that will leave taxpayers holding the bag."
(Oh sure. This'll go great with my morning coffee and toasted corn muffin.)
The piece is long and worth reading. In the end, of course, everyone knows the taxpayers of New Mexico are taking a monetary risk. (And these taxpayers don't exactly carry the pocket change of guys like Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, John Carmack, Jim Benson, Eric Anderson or Chirinjeev Kathuri.) But needless to keep saying, the gains may be great.
Everyone also understands accidents -- on the ground and in space -- happen. To go forward, you have to at least seriously doubt Fryxell's view that, "it might take only one high-profile disaster to destroy the space tourism business..." As Clark Lindsey points out, "[i]f an accident happens four or five years after tourist flights begin, I think it will have far fewer negative consequences on the industry that if it happens in the first year or two."
Interestingly, one scary risk is not so much a deadly spaceflight accident itself, but the nation's reaction to one. As the article notes, in the event of a calamity that results in the loss of a space tourist's life, Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn worries about what Congress and the FAA will do; James Oberg is afraid of "the trial lawyers." So yes, a bad spaceflight mishap may hurt business. But in the end, the real damage may result thereafter from litigation and legislation.
Now those are risks we have to take.
ULA - Still Up in the Air
However, Reuters reports that under a clause in the merger agreement of the military rocket launch operators, either company could terminate the deal if it doesn't win regulatory approval by March 31. (And as I mentioned, I have not seen the JV agreement.)
Meanwhile, industry folks and others sure are doing some talking. The Reuters update (which was picked up in the Washington Post and elsewhere; by the way, in January some media outlets, although not others, were reporting the deal had received preliminary Pentagon approval) quotes one defense analyst saying there is "a real danger of this proposal unraveling because the government is likely to take steps that would undermine the business logic of the transaction."
And antitrust attorney Andrew Klevorn of Chicago's Stahl Klevorn & Solberg said "the merger review had been unusually long and there was 'a significant risk' that one of the companies could pull out." He also told the news service "there was still a chance the government could approve the deal by the end of the month under a consent decree that would mandate certain 'conduct' by the two companies."
(Hat tip: Keith Cowing at NASA Watch.)
ECSL Practitioners Forum - Update
SLP's Euro-correspondent and space law LL.M candidate D.J. Den Herder, who was spotted sitting next to Mr. Whitehorn for lunch at the FAA/AST conference last year, will be semi-live blogging the forum for us in between personally serving the esteemed keynote speaker his refreshments. (Thanks for the update, D.J. Now get back to your thesis!)
Naked rockets and TV ratings
I don't get it. Unless science, ingenuity and fun are only for "mature audiances" shouldn't Wild and Weird Rockets -- if it must carry a rating at all -- get a "TV-PG"? I see where parental guidance would be recommended since the show depicts the use of things inherently dangerous for youngsters, such as power tools and propellants. (Come to think of it, I could have used some grownup supervision myself.)
Better yet, how about someone on hand to explain the rocket equation? Alas, most adults can't do that.
Under the television rating system, "TV-MA" denotes a program that "is not intended and should not be viewed by audiences under the age of 17. The program may contain extreme graphic violence, strong profanity, overt sexual dialog and/or explicit sexual acts."
Extreme graphic violence? Strong profanity? Explicit sex acts? Gosh, I did not see any of that yucky grownup stuff. Far from it. The show depicts a group of dedicated, innovative and fun-loving hobbyists who gather in Kansas for an annual amateur competition to launch some supercool, lovingly hand-built rockets. Because they can. And they're happy to show off the technology and how it's all done, too. (Hey, sometimes the good ol' Army of Davids just wants to have fun with their slingshots. ;) So? What's not for kids?
OK, extreme graphic explicit rocketry can be titillating. And phallic symbolism associated with rockets aside, the hobbyists do appear quite ga-ga over their sleek flying machines. Nothing unsexy about 'em. And no, rocket games are not for everyone. But a writer should have a fetish about books. An astronomer should be enamored of the stars. So...rocket lust? Maybe that accounts for the TV-MA rating.
And yes, the competition takes place in the state of Kansas, where it seems some school districts would pin a "TV-MA" warning on a high school biology video. (And indeed, who would argue that evolution is not even sexier than rocketeering?)
What else could it be? I had to step away during the second half of the program -- did Janet Jackson entertain between launches? (If she did, I'm sure not even the FCC would have noticed. Who could have taken their eyes off such gorgeous rockets?)
Some might wonder if this is just another case of post-Sept 11 misapplication of security concerns, along the lines of the feds classifying the popular propellant for solid-propulsion model rockets as an "explosive" (see, Rocket Propellant Case Goes Boom).
Well at least some things on the Science Channel, like Voyage to the Planets and Beyond, do get a family friendly "TV-G." (Shh. Don't tell the censors you need rockets to get to the planets.)
In the end, some would suggest the real obscenity is shielding kids from science.
Never mind. TV-MA rating or no, I would not have hesitated to watch the show, or anything else on the Science Channel, with my 7-year old niece. Besides, she's better at making the popcorn. (And if I ask nicely, she'll even explain to me how the microwave works.)
(Speaking of which, have you seen the Food Network lately? Mmm . . . Sugar Rush, Boy Meets Grill, Sara's Secrets ... now that's what I call TV-MA.)
21st Century Space Law CLE
(Particularly U.S. lawyers who need more continuing legal education credits to meet their state's requirements, which includes me, and I'm always scrambling at the last minute.)
Drum roll please....
This, far as I know, is the first CLE offering in the nation that specifically covers space law. Presented by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute ("the continuing legal education arm of the Pennsylvania Bar Association"):
SPACE LAW: IN THE 21st CENTURY AND BEYOND
(6 total CLE credits)
March 23, 2006 (Thurs) Philadelphia, PA 8:30AM-4:30PM
March 29, 2006 (Wed) Pittsburgh, PA 8:30AM-4:30PM
With the talented faculty:
Pamela L. Meredith, Esq. - Zucker, Scoutt & Rasenberger, LLP, Washington, D.C.
Laura Montgomery, Esq. - FAA, Washington, D.C.
Douglas Mullen, Esq. - FAA, Washington, D.C.
Kenneth M. Weidaw, III, Esq. - Weidaw Peck & Associates, LLP
Check out the glossy brochure.
Topics on tap:
Sounds super. And what a faculty. Ken had mentioned to me in an e-mail a few months ago that this program was in the works. I myself have a half-written space law CLE course (intended as a webcast) gathering dust on my harddrive (actually, some of it is in my desk drawer, and I think a few sections are on a disk somewhere in my briefcase), and one day I will complete it, but in the interim I'm thrilled to hear about this and link to it. It'll be hot.
So go make space law education history (first make sure your state accepts Pennsylvania CLE credits -- I know New York does -- ) and register now.
Space Law Nebraska Style
We don't exactly have one. And now, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln -- that's right, Nebraska -- wants to remedy the deficiency and make a name for itself as, well, the Yale of space law.
The JournalStar.com reports university leaders are putting together a proposal to start a space law program at the law school. The law school, which may start to offer classes in space law as soon as August, is looking into purusing a "long-term goal" under the leadership of University of Nebraska President J.B. Milliken of making UNL "the country's leading space law educator."
Significantly, the dream of space law dominance grew out of "Milliken's conversations with various U.S. Strategic Command leaders in the past year." A new space law program "would allow the university to partner with the powerful and deep-pocketed U.S. Strategic Command at nearby Offutt Air Force Base."
In informal talks between president and "military brass" over "ways to strengthen the weak relationship between the state's flagship university and its flagship military base" the article reports, "Milliken kept hearing that the country needed more lawyers trained in space law." I could have told him that.
Law school dean Steve Wilborn and UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman like the idea. The dean is now at working on a space law program proposal and says "we're hopeful of doing something starting next year."
The idea even caught the eye of State Senator Chris Beutler of Lincoln who wrote a letter to Milliken saying, "I suspect that the College of Law might well be the ideal location for this country's first comprehensive space law program, and such an endeavor would be good for the country, good for the University and good for the City of Lincoln."
By the way if Nebraska wants to be a space law leader, one reputable model, of which of course the dean is aware, would be the University of Mississippi School of Law's National Remote Sensing and Space Law Center, under the leadership of its director, Prof. Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, who also serves as editor-in-chief of the nation's only Journal of Space Law.
(And watch out, McGill and Leiden.)
* * *
UPDATE: Of course, if anyone can catch up for a moment with the University of Tennessee's Prof. Reynolds -- that is, between his endless distractions like authoring bestsellers, blogging, podcasting, and generally making those seemingly nonstop Insta-celebrity rounds -- no doubt his unique space law and education insight would be worth seeking out. (And never mind Tennessee's got him, just remember his ol' Nebraska Guitar Militia.)
Spaceport de New Mexico
In addition, last week the Governor signed House Bill 835 which allows the State Investment Office to invest in New Mexico aerospace companies that receive more than $100 million in funding from federal agencies like NASA.
(Speaking of which, Jeff Foust was not googling Jessica Simpson when he found an item about NM's contingent investment of up to $20 million in t/Space "buried" in an AP story about a $13 million dollar state loan to fund a movie starring the actress. ;)
Leonard David covers the developments in New Mexico.
As Leonard relays, the spaceport site consists of "approximately 27 square miles of open, generally level, range land in southern New Mexico that has been picked for its low population density, uncongested airspace, and high elevation." Not much to look at just yet, but if you'd like to drive out before things start jumpin' Mike McConnell has some directions including a warning about snakes. Well if you love rocketships you're not going to let a few rattle snakes run you off. (Do I hear any lawyer jokes?)
No press release yet from the spaceport's "anchor tenant" Virgin Glactic but Sir Richard Branson must be delighted.
As Governor Richardson boasted, "Clearly, we are leading the pack in the race to space against states like Florida, Oklahoma, California, and Texas. New Mexico can be very proud of the role we are taking in the Second Space Age."
Just remember the New Mexico state motto: Crescit eundo. (It grows as it goes.)
More Feedback for FAA
Last week I looked at some of the comments (including some very complimentary feedback) already received by the FAA and filed in the DOT docket (FAA-2005-23449) in response to the proposed Human Space Flight Requirements for Crew and Space Flight Participants.
I see a bunch more folks have now submitted comments in time to meet the Feb. 27 deadline.
Here's a sampling, in no particular order, of some of the more recent submissions:
(Death!? Buzzkill! Space tourists just wanna have fun!)
And I haven't finished reading them but a bunch more comments are on the record, including from Spaceport Associates, as well as Association of Space Explorers – USA, Starchaser Industries and others. Take a look. Ken Wong and the lawyers at AST will no doubt appreciate how organized and thoughtful these are.
And yes, everybody who did not comment loved every word of the NPRM.