Shuttle logic

As we await launch of the shuttle Discovery, set for Saturday (although weather forecasts look iffy at the moment), start the weekend off with Rand Simberg's thoughts on the mission (National Review Online); here, the host of Transterrestrial Musings considers the question, "where's the explorer's risking-taking instinct at NASA?" It's a good article about risk that does not mention law or lawyers once. Refreshing.

* * *

And Space.com's Leonard David has
this on the "going-out-of-business trajectory" of the nation's orbiter set for retirement in 2010, with only 16 missions to go.

By the way, as Jeff Foust reports, a new
USA Today/Gallup poll finds that with regard to their view as to money spent on the shuttle program, Americans are "split down the middle."

King Solomon would be proud.


UK Considers Space Tourism Rules

The UK is getting ready to launch some new space law.

As we've discussed here on SLP, pursuant to international space treaties, nations are responsible for the space activities of their citizens. (See,
Outer Space Treaty Art. VI)

Thus, if a UK company like if Virgin Galactic is going to launch from US spaceports, it'll need a green light from the
British National Space Centre (BNSC), the entity which oversees UK space activity.

To formulate a regime for licensing UK companies' space tourism activities, as
Flight international reports, BNSC will be looking at proposals over the next few months and asking "stakeholders, which could be space law firms, insurance companies and relevant government departments, their views on space tourism for the manned suborbital flight licensing system it thinks it will need under the UK's Outer Space Act, which became law in 1986."

And yes, the Centre "has had preliminary discussions" with Sir Richard Branson's company.

The BNSC spokesperson told Flight International, "At the moment, we are keeping an eye on developments in this field and considering the issue of managing space tourism with the [UK] Civil Aviation Authority."

* * *
On a related note, in his
speech at the Parliamentary Space Committee Summer Reception this month, UK science minister Lord Sainsbury said,
"we can calculate the U.K. share of the world-wide space market. In 2005 this was 7.3% overall, 2.3% in the upstream market and 11.8% in the downstream market. Ask yourself a question. How many high-tech and high value industries are there in the UK with such shares? Of course, most of the downstream are straight commercial activities. These figures demonstrate very clearly that the case for space is an excellent one. A lot of secondary arguments can also be made, such as that space encourages people to go into science, but in the coming twelve months I think we should focus on the key argument, which is that space is a high-tech, growing industry where we have a strong presence and it should be strongly supported. And that is the case that I will be making and I hope you will be making over the next 12 months."

By the way, SLP congratulates Dr. David Williams on his appointment as Director General of the British National Space Centre (BNSC), a post he assumed on May 1, 2006.

Hat tip: HobbySpace's
RLV News.


Fear of Chemistry

Building the model rocket should be the hard part. Turns out, as we've seen, getting around government restrictions on ammonium perchlorate so you can actually launch your creation may present the bigger challenge.

Rocket hobbyists are not alone in facing overzealous regulation of materials for use in amateur science. Go try and buy a chemistry kit like kids used in the 1950's. No such thing anymore.

In his article,
Don't Try This At Home, Steve Silberman worries about dangerous ways the government's chemophobia puts not just crime and terror but amateur science on the run. (Wired, June 2006)

Silberman reports that concerns about terrorism and illegal drug production (particularly methamphetamine) have prompted the government to target things such as flasks, beakers and basic labware to chemical compounds used in fireworks. Ordinary items like liquid iodine, isopropyl alcohol, sulfuric acid, hydrogen peroxide and pH strips are not spared scrutiny and suspicion. Casualties include DIY experiments, home science, educational kits, labs and classrooms. Chemophobia has infected the Department of Homeland Security, DoD, DEA, EPA, Post Office, Consumer Product Safety Commission, as well as legislatures in more than 30 states.

Popular Science columnist Theodore Gray wonder: "Why is it that I can walk into Wal-Mart and buy boxes of bullets and black powder, but I can't buy potassium perchlorate to do science because it can also be used to make explosives?"

Of course, lawmakers, regulators and law enforcement folks know, without chemicals life itself would be impossible. And smart approaches to homeland security as well as good laws for catching and stopping the bad guys responsible for scourges like crystal meth, are key to our nation's well-being. But if pursuits like home chemistry and backyard rocketry become things of the past, how does this bode for our future?

Rand Simberg has noted, "[i]n addition to being fun and educational, model rocketry is one of the paths that many took to becoming aerospace engineers."

Silberman quotes Shawn Carlson, a 1999 MacArthur fellow and founder of the Society for Amateur Scientists, who argues, "[t]o criminalize the necessary materials of discovery is one of the worst things you can do in a free society. The Mr. Coffee machine that every Texas legislator has near his desk has three violations of the law built into it: a filter funnel, a Pyrex beaker, and a heating element. The laws against meth should be the deterrent to making it -- not criminalizing activities that train young people to appreciate science."

Makes sense. After all, if future scientists find themselves discouraged from or punished for engaging in science experimentation, the criminals and terrorists have already won.

And really, what'll chemophobic regulators go after next,
dihydrogen monoxide (aka hydrogen hydroxide)? Sheesh.


Space Law in Ukraine

A new entry for our digital calendar of international space law events: the government of Ukraine will graciously host the upcoming UN Workshop on Space Law, titled, "Status, Application and Progressive Development of International and National Space Law" in Kyiv, Ukraine, November 6-9, 2006.

Ukraine makes for another interesting destination; previous UN space law workshops have taken place in Nigeria, Brazil, Korea and the Netherlands. Check out
reports and proceedings from those events.

If you plan on attending the gathering in Kyiv, it's not a requirement but you may wish to brush up on your Ukrainian space law. But does
Ukraine have any national space law? You bet. Here is a roundup of Ukrainian space laws, mostly in English, courtesy of the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs, or if you prefer, in Ukrainian (courtesy of the National Space Agency of Ukraine.)

If you're counting the minutes until the workshop, here is the
current local time in Kyiv.

And if you do meet a Ukrainian space lawyer, greet him or her with, Добрий день (how do you do?); or, if you've had a bit too much
Ukrainian beer, just go ahead and say, Я вас кохаю (I love you)!


Faster than light and backward

Here is "the latest example of logic-defying tricks that physicists can now perform with light" -- such as, oh, making a pulse of light travel backward -- and faster than the speed of light. Or, making a pulse of light fired into an optic fiber exit one end the fiber -- "seemingly out of nowhere" -- before it actually entered the other side. (This mystifying news comes via a recent New York Times article which, if you read fast enough, you will have completed before it was published).

Here on Space Law Probe we love physics but at this rate we may have to stop calling things like the speed of light laws of science. At some point we will realize 186,000 miles per second (or, 670,000,000 miles per hour) is merely, you know, a suggestion.

Sadly, lawyers study law rather than cool cosmic tricks for getting around laws; this makes passing the bar exam, for example, more difficult for us than it would be for scientists.

By the way, speaking of speed, some folks over at the Rocket Dungeon may want to
raise the speed limit in Texas so travelers can get to the X Prize Cup faster. Well, why not? Leave it to those crazy guys who build rockets for fun to legislate state speed limits. Beats lawyers, anyday. Or worse, lawless physicists. Yeeeha! ;)

* * *

Have a super weekend, everyone.

Drive carefully ;)



As we've all heard, something strange appears to have happened at the FTC. Hmm... My guess, probably just another one of those Internet hoaxes.

In any case, what a long, strange regulatory trip this has been. And it's not over yet.

Meanwhile, an SLP reader e-mailed to ask for the draft consent decree. I do not have the document, but if anyone at Boeing, Lockheed or the government (or any interested parties such as Northrop, SpaceX) has electronic copy handy and would like to share it, send it here -- I'd be happy to post.

And for those who are new to the ULA saga, Boeing and Lockheed agreed to form United Launch Alliance approximately 14 months ago. But don't ask the companies what that joint venture was supposed to be about. Who remembers?


Kurtin on Smallsats

Size matters. In his Via Satellite column this month, Owen D. Kurtin of Brown Raysman in New York, takes A Closer Look: Smallsats, and finds "the satellite industry is segmenting into use and application-driven spheres of large satellites and smallsats appropriate for different satellite services, with certain overlapping areas such as satellite telecommunications in which each may be appropriate and either complement each other or compete. It appears that while the demise of the large satellite platform predictions were wrong, the smallsat option is fully operational as well." (Dollars and Sense, June 2006).


Place your bets

Given an infinite amount of time, anything can happen. And since time is nature's way of making sure everything does not happen at once, some things do happen before others.

Here on SLP we may wonder which of these things will happen first:

- New national space policy? (Space Politics)

- Decision on United Launch Alliance? (RLV News)

- Impromptu shuttle flights? (The Onion)

- US Wins World Cup? (FOX Sports)

- Doomsday? (Washington Post)

Never mind.


Why I do not want a spaceport in my backyard...

Actually. Now that I think about it, I do want a spaceport in my backyard.

(Darn. I live in Manhattan. Not much chance of it happening.... Oh well. Never mind.)

Hot news on the spaceports front this week. As
Alan Boyle and others reported, the FAA/AST issued a commercial launch site operator license to the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority (OSIDA) to operate a commercial launch site. Good for Oklahoma and Rocketplane. As FAA notes, "Burns Flat is the second inland launch site licensed by the FAA. Oklahoma joins several other states with commercial launch sites. There are two facilities in California and one each in Florida, Virginia, and Kodiak Island in Alaska."

Jeff at Personal Spaceflight has a
spaceport news roundup. Also, a reminder - lawyer Jack Kennedy runs a Spaceports blog. And of course, Clark covers spaceport action, and everything else, over at HobbySpace and RLV News.


Breaking News on ULA

News flash: There has been no new unsubstantiated rumor in connection with United Launch Alliance (ULA), the proposed Boeing Lockheed EELV merger, in approximately 48 hours.

That's right, in an astonishing development this week, almost two days have now passed since the surfacing of unverified, retracted, verfiably incorrect or otherwise fact-free reports that the deal has won FTC approval. Or has not.

In light of this development, I feel it is now safe to disable my
ULA auto-post (created to once a month, or specifically in response to news that "a decision on ULA is expected in two weeks, or simply at random, blog, "sure, we've heard that before").

In addition, at this time, SLP is ready to make a prediction regarding the hotly anticipated ULA outcome: When the FTC does in fact issue its decision on the merger, no one will believe it.

More to come.

Meanwhile, there's always interesting reading while awaiting the government's action on ULA. From The Space Review this week, here is
Taylor Dinerman's take on the joint venture.

And going forward, have no fear -- when ULA news breaks, somebody will fix it.


Futron on High Def Future

In its new report, Satellite Services Demand - The Future in High Def, (June 9, 2006) Futron "highlights key findings of our latest ten-year forecast of global demand for satellite communications services." Dig in.

Futron concludes, "video services will continue to be the largest market for satellite capacity throughout the next ten years, with data services also seeing growing demand across a range of services. The challenge lies in choosing how to commit resources in the most efficient way in order to take advantage of the specific opportunities within these markets." And for "companies building, launching and operating satellites, as well as those creating the user equipment to work with them and the investors looking to finance their ventures, the opportunities in the satellite industry continue to be many and diverse."


South Africa Space

Keith Campbell writes, "South Africa is a country highly dependent on outer space. South Africa is a country very involved in outer space. However, South Africa is a country with neither a space policy nor a space agency. But that will change, and change within the next couple of years." Read how.

And interestingly, the article notes, students can take a class on space law at South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand (Wits Law School). That's progress.

* * *
Update: Jeff Foust comments on the article.


Deceptive Space Advertising

When it comes to prize-winning trips, air and space are two different destinations.

Clark Lindsay on HobbySpace links to a report about a New Zealand
Advertising Standards Authority ruling that a ride in a Russian MiG fighter jet which flies only to the upper atmosphere, heart-stoppingly cool as that is, alas, is not a trip to space.

The ASA, which applies a "voluntary code" which "bans ads from making claims that mislead or deceive consumers" but "allows exaggeration if it is so obvious it is not considered to be misleading," upheld a complaint about
Xtra Broadband's "Win a Trip to Space" promotion, finding the ads "went to far" since the winner would only fly to the stratosphere.

The advertisements were created by
Saatchi & Saatchi, which may not have known the difference.

No mention of whether space lawyers were brought in to testify as expert witnesses about the legal difference between air and space. This blog is not Stratosphere Law Probe (or even Mesosphere Law Probe, Thermosphere Law Probe or Exosphere Law Probe, for that matter) but
we don't actually know the demarcation either.

(Of course, if physicists like Clark give us the answer, how will we learn?)

The article does quote one analyst who makes a good point, "The dollar value of a trip to space is measured in the tens of millions of dollars. A ride in a fighter plane costs tens of thousands."

The authority's ruling is posted
here (in RTF format which for some reason my laptop would not open).

According to the article, the ASA board "believed the ads made a claim likely to exploit a consumer's lack of knowledge about space travel."

To which a spokesperson for the company said, "The next time Telecom is venturing anywhere near space, we'll make sure we get our galactic language more clear."

For now, in the end, the prize-winner reportedly "chose to go to the Maldives instead of accepting the ride on the MiG." Ah, well. We can't really blame him.


Blitzing Congress

If it's three months after March Storm, it must be Blitz time.

As we know,
2006 Space Blitz, the NSS and Space Exploration Alliance's citizen lobbying effort, hit Washington this week to "demonstrate citizen support for space exploration" and ask lawmakers "to fund NASA at the full authorized level of $17.9 billion," to allow the space agency "to aggressively develop the next generation of space exploration vehicles, while pursuing other important objectives like: Connecting upcoming lunar exploration work with future human exploration of Mars; stimulating private sector efforts with programs like Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) and the Centennial Challenge program; and sustaining vital science missions, including the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF), a dedicated probe of the Planet Jupiter’s moon Europa, and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOPHIA)."
* * *
Space Exploration Alliance is a "partnership of the nation’s premier non-profit space organizations" including the American Astronautical Society, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Aerospace Industries Association, Aerospace States Association, the California Space Authority, Federation of Galaxy Explorers, Florida Space Authority, Moon Society, Mars Society, NASA Alumni League, National Coalition of Spaceport States, National Society of Black Engineers, National Space Society, The Planetary Society, Space Access Society, the Space Generation Foundation, and the X PRIZE Foundation.)

Happy space blitz!


ILA Space Law Committee

This just in from the 72nd biennial conference of the International Law Association (ILA) (taking place June 4-8 in Toronto, Canada): Justice Markandey Katju of India was appointed to ILA's committee on space law.

More news from the committee sure to come. Meanwhile, for those unfamiliar with ILA, the association, founded in Brussels in 1873, devotes itself to "the study, clarification and development of international law, both public and private, and the furtherance of international understanding and respect for international law". ILA boasts 3700 members and 50 regional branches in operation around the world.

Yes, ILA has a space law committee which has the status of permanent observer, and reports annually, to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. For further reading, visit the
ILA's space law committee page. And here is the committee's draft 2006 report, Legal Aspects of the Privatisation and Commercialisation of Space Activities, Remote Sensing and National Space Legislation.


On FAA Rocket Permit Rules

The comment period is closed and industry has weighed in on FAA/AST's proposed rulemaking, Experimental Permits for Reusable Suborbital Rockets.

(As we've discussed, along with the proposed rule,
Human Space Flight Requirements for Crew and Space Flight Participants, this is the second NPRM intended to implement the requirements of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004.)

As with the first NPRM, folks in the shiny new commercial space transportation industry appear comfortable working with FAA/AST, and continue to speak highly of the thoughtful efforts the agency puts into promulgating the proposed rules. After all, regulation is a necessary evil and everyone knows you have to train your regulators from the start. And regulating the rockets should not be tricker and more complex than building them.

Here, in no particular order, we have links to comments on the experimental permits NPRM now posted on
DOT's docket site (docket number 24197):

Spaceport Associates tells FAA the "proposed concept of the Experimental Permit is a good one, and it will clearly introduce savings in time and cost for the operators, so is to be commended." Then it offers suggestions as to "where they may be still further improved," including in connection with the quantitative risk criteria, streamlined system safety management, engineering and operating requirements, pre-flight reporting, one-year license period, for-hire prohibition and paperwork reduction.

The Personal Spaceflight Federation (which includes AirLaunch, Armadillo Aerospace, Mojave Spaceport, Rocketplane, Scaled Composites, Space Adventures, SpaceDev, SpaceX, t/Space, The SpaceShip Company, XCOR, X PRIZE Foundation and Virgin Galactic) details the views of its membership, and provides this summary:
* The Federation strongly supports the FAA's decision to use a streamlined approach to the authorization process for experimental permits, including the exclusion of quantitative risk criteria;
* The language concerning single licenses or permits and experimental airworthiness certificates should be clarified with respect to experimental airworthiness certificates not being required for a permit or license;
* The language stating that experimental permits are not required for a launch license should be emphasized;
* The definition of anomaly is problematic and should be removed;
* Any requirement that launch activities occurring on private land need a launch site operator's license must be removed;
* The requirement for a program description must be clarified in the preamble to describe the intended level of detail expected.
* The types of hazard analysis required must be revised given the language concerning "decreased safety margins" and "increased workload", and this is even more the case given the requirements for anomaly recording and reporting;
* References to overflight of water should be revised to refer to "navigable waters";
* The requirement to provide air traffic control with real time position and velocity data for reusable suborbital rockets must make allowances for the accuracy limitations of the technology and the air traffic control system; and
* The Federation strongly supports the FAA's determination that prizes do not constitute compensation for hire.

Rocketplane, which joined with the Federation, also filed seperately, recommending that "the experimental permit go further in the safety process than only requiring a preliminary hazard list" and that "[r]equiring an estimation of a probability of a third party catastrophic event (Ec) would ensure adequate safety analyses to minimize the risk to the uninvolved public especially in the case of over flight of a populated area."

David Masten of Masten Space Systems (yes, that's a picture of Masten's rocket, above), "congratulates the FAA on a good balance between creating a simple, clear and streamlined process for obtaining an experimental permit and protecting the uninvolved public." And he comments, the "requirement for a site operator license for a private launch facility adds an undue burden of regulatory compliance without increasing safety." He aclarificationit of clairfiaction in connection with certain provisions (§437.27 Pre-flight and post-flight operations, and §437.91 For-hire prohibition).

National Association of Rocketry ("on behalf of approximately 4,600 members" of the association of sport rocketry hobbyists) overviews safety guidelines of NFPA 1122 (Model Rocketry) and 1127 (High Power Rocketry) and submits that these sport rocketry activities "should be specifically excluded from any consideration for FAA licensing under the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004."

And more from the rocket hobbyists, a
joint response submitted by Tripoli Rocketry Association, the Association of Experimental Rocketry of the Pacific (AERO-PAC), the Stratofox Aerospace Tracking Team, among other interested folks who are members of the High-Power Rocketry (HPR) community, points out that "[o]ne of the activities which drives the high end of HPR is university research" and seeks to "ensure that this cooperation between university researchers and volunteers is not considered 'for hire' so that it can continue to grow toward suborbital launches." The commenters also submit, "[s]ince the purpose of the proposed Part 437 Experimental Permits is to reduce the paperwork necessary for an experimental suborbital launch below the burden of launch licenses intended for orbital launches, we request that HPR launches should be explicitly included in Part 437."

one-paragraph comment from SpaceShot observes: "The 30 expected fatalities of the uninvolved public per million flights standard is too stringent. If six families drive from Austin to Las Cruces round trip across half Texas to go to the Spaceport to watch the dads all take a flight together, together they will expect incur 150 deaths per million flights in auto accidents."

Beyond-Earth Enterprises discusses the use of commercial licensed spaceports v. private launch facilities; it also comments that "restricting the carrying of non-human cargo for compensation may impede some business models and place an unnecessary hindrance on this nascent industry."

Last but not least, an 11-page response (and the only comment with footnotes, including citations to legislative history) by
Blue Origin, offers feedback on provsions including the definitions of "launch" and "reentry," the duration of permits (Blue proposes this be increased from one year to 18 months), operation of private launch sites ("We strongly oppose FAA's proposal to impose a site operator license requirement on permittees using private, exclusive use launch sites"); human space flight (supporting 437.21(b)(4) which would apply the human space flight rules to permits to the extent a spaceflight participant or crew is aboard a suborbital RLV, but not to permit holders having a remote operator); inspection (section 437.95 which would even require FAA inspection of additional vehicles of the same design prior to flight "seems particularly unnecessary"); sections 437.55 & 437.57 - Hazard Analysis & Operating Area Containment (Blue supports); and other provisions.

I'll check back to see if the docket adds any other items. Meanwhile, read 'em for yourself, as FAA is doing right now. And yes, once again, everyone who did not comment loved every word of the NPRM.

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