(And I am reading Dr. Vedda's presentation between dispensing Halloween treats to vampires, ghosts, zombies, cowboys, Superman, a Power Ranger, mermaids, Dorothy, a few Harry Potter characters, and yes, one little lawyer in a pinstripe suit with gavel and briefcase. And I hope his parents don't find out about this. In any case, working at home is a pleasure provided there are nonstop distractions like these. Boo!)
Space Cowboy Governor
A hoot of an idea.
Friday Flybys - 10.27.06
By the way, earlier this week I posted about a different species of waiver. The waiver here, however, (under 49 U.S.C. 70105(b)(3), is not about liability but avoiding unnecessary regulation. And who doesn't love that?
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Image credit: Disney/Pixar (who else?) (For my 4-year-old space ranger nephew, Jakie, who IS Buzz Lightyear this Halloween.)
To infinity and beyond.
So how's the agency doing so far? In a GAO study titled, Commercial Space Launches: FAA Needs Continued Planning and Monitoring to Oversee the Safety of the Emerging Space Tourism Industry (GAO-07-16/Oct. 2006), the ol' audit, evaluation and investigative arm of Congress took a look at FAA’s safety oversight processes, talked to federal and industry officials and then evaluated the FAA on: "(1) safety oversight of commercial space launches, (2) response to emerging issues, and (3) challenges in regulating and promoting space tourism and responding to competitive issues affecting the industry.
The verdict? On the whole, so far so good. GAO found "FAA has provided a reasonable level of safety oversight for commercial launches", the agency's "licensing activities incorporate a system safety process, which GAO recognizes as effective in identifying and mitigating risks" and "the agency is appropriately applying management controls in its licensing activities, thereby helping to ensure that the licensees meet FAA’s safety requirements."
In connection with "emerging issues" including "the potential development of space tourism, FAA has developed safety regulations and training for agency employees."
Of course, "industry has raised concerns about the costs of complying with regulations and about the flexibility of the regulations to accommodate launch differences." But GAO notes, "FAA believes it has minimized compliance costs by basing its regulations on common safety standards and has allowed for flexibility by taking a case-by-case approach to licensing and by providing waivers in certain circumstances."
What does GAO see as some of the challenges for FAA? The agency "expects to need more experienced staff for safety oversight as new technologies for space tourism evolve, but has not estimated its future resource needs. Other challenges for FAA include determining the specific circumstances under which it would regulate space flight crew and passenger safety before 2012 and balancing its responsibilities for safety and promotion to avoid conflicts."
What about the launch record? GAO found that while "FAA has met its annual performance goal to have no fatalities, serious injuries, or significant property damage to the public during licensed space launches and reentries since establishing this goal in 2003," the oversight folks noted of 179 launches, FAA had joint oversight responsibility with other federal agencies for 152 (about 85 percent) and sole responsibility for 27 (about 15 percent). GAO noted "challenges that FAA faces in the future in assuming sole responsibility for launch safety oversight at spaceports" and the "challenge of ensuring that its 2006 regulations on licensing and safety requirements for launch, which are based on the Air Force’s safety requirements for expendable launch vehicle operations at federal launch sites, will be suitable not only for operations at federal launch sites, but also for operations at spaceports."
GAO also considered "key competitive issues affecting the U.S. commercial space launch industry, and to what extent are the industry and government responding to them..."
And GAO looked ahead to the 2008 DOT report that will address, inter alia, "whether the promotion of human space flight should be separate from the regulation of such activity." GAO "suggests that Congress revisit FAA’s promotional role and decide whether it should be eliminated. GAO recommends that FAA assess its future safety oversight resource needs and identify the circumstances that would trigger passenger safety regulation before 2012."
Lots of interesting kitchen sink-type stuff in this report, too, including the sections, FAA’s Launch and Reentry Licensing Process (Appendix III) and Timeline and List of FAA Commercial Space Launch Rulemaking and Guidance (Appendix IV).
Have a look. (If nothing else, the report stands in great contrast to other, less than favorable GAO studies of government space activities.)
(Hat tip: Clark at HobbySpace)
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UPDATE: By the way, speaking of FAA, in case you missed it in New Mexico, here is FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey's "All Systems Go" keynote which she delivered last week at the Wirefly X-Prize Cup Executive Summit. I especially like the part where she called the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 "the most sweeping space law since the days of buzz cuts and Tang." Ah.
And after the speech, Ms. Blakey, along with FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, Patricia Grace Smith, had a nice chat about FAA space transportation safety and regulation with Alan Boyle. Some reporters have all the fun.
New NASA Cross-Waivers
How about NASA's proposal to amend 14 CFR Part 1266, the 14-year old rule covering the use of cross-waiver of liability provisions in NASA agreements? This ought to slow your heart rate.
NASA wants the rule made current in light of developments including the ISS Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) which entered into force for NASA and partners between 1998 and 2005. (IGA article 16 "establishes a broad cross-waiver of liability among Partner States and their contractually or otherwise related entities by requiring those entities to make similar waivers of liability. Thus, NASA is required to include IGA-based cross-waivers in contracts and agreements for activities related to the ISS.") Also, NASA seeks to update the waiver provisions in wake of the Columbia accident.
Under the proposal, along with a few "generally clerical" changes, NASA would delete the subsection regarding the cross-waiver of liability during Space Shuttle operations (§ 1266.103) and expand the scope of the ELV provision to encompass RLV's as well as other users of the same launch vehicle during the same launch. (§ 1266.104)
(And yes, the regulation applies only to NASA launches that are not licensed by the FAA.)
A treat, and it's about time NASA dusted off this provision and polished it up.
Of course, the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 as amended (42 U.S.C. § 2451 et seq.), authorizes NASA "to enter into and perform such contracts, leases, cooperative agreements, or other transactions as may be necessary in the conduct of its work and on such terms as it may deem appropriate, with any agency or instrumentality of the United States, or with any State, Territory, or possession, or with any political subdivision thereof, or with any person, firm, association, corporation, or educational institution" and engage in international cooperative programs pursuant to NASA`s mission. And NASA has indeed entered into "a great number" of agreements "to meet wide-ranging NASA mission and program requirements and objectives."
NASA states almost boastfully that it "has had a long history and consistent practice of requiring international and domestic partners to cross-waive claims for loss or damage and, thus, assume responsibility for the risks inherent in space exploration."
(But where does the Agency get the authority to waive claims of the U.S. Government? See, Pres. Clinton's Delegation of Authority, Oct. 13, 1995 60 FR 53251; and 42 U.S.C. 2458c.)
I note the proposed rulemaking's preamble contains an interesting discussion of the differences between the broad ISS cross-waivers and more limited-in-scope ELV cross-waivers. (Uh-oh. Did I say "interesting" and "cross-waivers" in the same sentence?)
For you cross-waiver connoisseurs who would like to weight in on the rule making, submit your comments on or before November 22, 2006. The Agency says it "plans to implement these changes as expeditiously as possible after this proposed rule becomes final." And if you have questions, or demand to discuss this with a lawyer at NASA headquarters, contact none other than Steve Mirmina: 202/358-2432; firstname.lastname@example.org. (But tell Steve you saw his name in the Federal Register first; he's probably tired of reading about himself on Space Law Probe. ;)
(Hat tip: NASA Watch.)
Image: Astronaut doing paperwork, signed by Gordon Cooper, via Astronautarchives.com.
Beijing Court Says No Moon Sales
The "Lunar Embassy of China," a company selling land on the moon, lost the first round in a battle against an earthly government bureau on Friday.
The Haidian District Court in Beijing ruled against the company's lawsuit to win back its business licence that was suspended by the city's industry and commerce watchdog.
The Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce (BAIC) clamped down on the company last October for "speculation and profiteering," and blacklisted it as one of the city's top 10 false advertisers in 2005.
The verdict is the first handed down in the case. Legitimacy over lunar ownership and sales was at the core of the dispute during the past two hearings.
The plaintiff, Li Jie, chief executive of the Beijing Lunar Village Aeronautics Science and Technology Co Ltd, claimed his company was legal as it was authorized by the US Lunar Embassy and registered at the BAIC in September 2005.
Dennis Hope, a US entrepreneur, founded the US Lunar Embassy in 1980 by registering his claim to the surface of the moon and eight other planets with the US Government.
Millions of people have bought lunar "land" from Hope, according to media reports.
Li quoted the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty to prove the legitimacy of his assertion. "The treaty forbids governments from owning extraterrestrial property, but it doesn't mention corporations or individuals," said Li.
But the BAIC refuted Li's interpretation as groundless, saying the treaty ruled out the possibility of any ownership of the moon. In addition, the BAIC said that Li's money-making business violated the treaty, which stipulates that any exploitation of outer space should benefit all human beings.
The administration defines Li's business as speculation and profiteering, which means illegally seeking profit by making use of legal loopholes and trading commodities actually restricted by relevant laws.
Li's company was shut down three days after it opened in September 2005.
Thirty-three people bought 49 acres of land on the moon at a price of 298 yuan (US$37) per acre, and most of them gave the land to their friends as a gift, said Li.
Buyers received deeds, a site map, a copy of the "lunar bill of rights" and a copy of Hope's declaration of ownership filed with the US Government.
Li, 42, who claims to be an inventor and owner of seven patents, said he had lost about 1 million yuan (US$125,000) in the lunar real estate business. He spent about 300,000 yuan (US$27,500) booking 110,000 acres of lunar land from Hope.
"I will go to the Supreme People's Court until I win back the right to do so," Li said.
Li got involved in a new lawsuit this week after his latest attempt to sell "World Cup air" was halted by the local trade bureau.
He sought a permit to sell "World Cup air" for 50 yuan (US$6.3) a bag to football enthusiasts unable to make the trip to Germany this year.
Las Cruces Flybys
Me? Well, far from the Wirefly X PRIZE Cup and related hot happenings this week, somebody had to get stuck at work, turn green with envy and sit around just reading all the blog posts from Las Cruces. That's my job.
Of course, we have live Webcasts (per schedule, Oct. 20-21). And then there's the X PRIZE Cup in 3D via Google Earth (download Google Earth 4 if you don't already have it).
First hand blogspace and other space media accounts of the events are free for the clicking. Two words: Check HobbySpace. (But you knew that.) Clark is live-blogging as well as linking to coverage by Jeff Foust, Rand Simberg, Leonard David and others.
A few items just for starters:
Alan Boyle reports on the gathering of space hot shots at the International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight, where on the first day Peter Diamandis predicted profits for suborbital space tourism in three to five years; and yesterday, panelists discussed spaceport business.
And Robin Snelson has all the coverage of NASA's Northrop Grumman-sponsored Lunar Lander Challenge, featuring John Caramack's Armadillo Aerospace, with updates on the FAA's go-ahead. Good luck John!
Lots more to follow, of course.
(I just hope somebody brings me back a t-shirt.)
China Space Policy Update
The "8,500-character" (how many words is that?) white paper, China's Space Activities 2006, updates the Chinese government's 2003 white paper on space activities.
According to the 2006 paper, the past 50 years in space development has been "splendid."
Going forward, China -- a country that spends a 10th of NASA budget on space activities -- will "center its work on the national strategic goals, strengthen its innovative capabilities and do its best to make the country's space industry develop faster and better."
Here is the section on China's international cooperation and its 16 space agreements and memorandums signed with "13 countries, space agencies and international organizations over the past five years." (Xinhau)
The government, as Jeff Foust also noted, wants to create new legislation and to "formulate laws, regulations and space industrial policies for guiding and regulating space activities, increase the level of administration by law, and create a legislative environment favorable for the development of space activities."
Do I have to say it? Look for more space lawyers in China.
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Image: China National Space Administration chief Sun Laiyan, news conference Oct. 12, 2006 in Beijing; CNSA.
Brachet on UN Space
Gérard said he was speaking "in a personal capacity" and his comments did not necessarily reflect the views of COPUOS.
Here is PDF version of the presentation: The future of space activities and the role of UN COPUOS. Or, if you prefer, (and enjoy hearing English spoken with a French accent,) here is the audio of his talk.
(I am playing the MP3 now; if time, will post a summary of the remarks. But text only. I presumaly do speak English as a first language, however being from NYC, my accent is not nearly as listenable as Gérard's.)
UK Space Act Covers Bermuda
Alas, all I have is Bermuda's daily newspaper, The Royal Gazette, reporting that Bermuda will finally be brought under the umbrella of Britain's Outer Space Act at the end of the month, which "could pave the way to the Island picking up thousands of dollars in filing fees."
According to the Gazette, "Telecommunications Minister Michael Scott said the Island now had the legal framework to attract the satellite industry - although some major companies, including Intelsat, already have a nominal presence here. When the Act is rubber stamped in the UK at the end of the month, Bermuda will be better able to attract fees for issuing launch licenses."
In a press conference this week, Mr. Scott specified, "We are poised to position Bermuda as a provider of globally recognised space services and as a country which is able to develop its space assets into useable assets by the international space industry." Go for it!
Mr. Scott did not shy away from mentioning taking space business away from the US, and also noted the ongoing tussle between Bermuda and the Isle of Man over orbital slots, which I discussed here.
(Hmm. Maybe I should take a trip down there after all. You know, just to monitor developments.... Pass the rum swizzle?)
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Image credit: Bermudagetaway.com
ABA Aerospace & Defense Committee Update
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We'd like to wish you a warm welcome to the 2006-2007 ABA year as a member of the Aerospace and Defense Industries (A&DI) Committee. [Actually, I am not currently a member--JL.]
Here is a quick list of projects we have begun working on already:
Steering Committee: We need volunteers to serve in this critical role in supporting the Committee and would very much appreciate any expressions of interest by committee members, within DC and elsewhere.
Newsletter: We would like to try and pull together a Committee newsletter for quarterly electronic distribution, focusing on significant events and issues. We need volunteers to help coordinate this effort and to provide inputs.
"Brown Bag" lunches: While our efforts will initially focus on the Washington, DC area, the travel schedules and home bases of our Committee members certainly allow for a broader scope of these types of events. If members would like to work on organizing these types of events in other locations, please let us know.
Program for Spring Meeting: We are also interested in receiving suggestions from committee members for a program that can be developed and presented at the Spring 2007 ABA meeting. Please provide any such suggestions as quickly as possible, since the deadline for submitting proposals is October 3. [Oops, missed it. Sorry.--JL]
Year In Review: Finally, we are interested in receiving suggestions from committee members on new law that might be included in a Year in Review submission. Please provide such suggestions within the next few weeks, as well, since the deadline for the overall submission is December 1.
Teleconferences: The ABA has initiated teleconference programs during which issues of significance to members can be reviewed in some detail. This type of program allows participation across cities on topics of particular interest to committee members. The deadline for the first set of teleconference proposals is October 23, so any suggestions in this regard would also be timely and very welcome.
We look forward to an exciting and productive year and welcome your active participation.
Howard Stanislawski, Chair
James Kearney and William Steinman, Vice Chairs
Auckland Wins Space Law Trophy
Last week in Valencia, Spain (not Barcelona, as the University's press release states), before three sitting members of the International Court of Justice, New Zealand's Auckland out argued students from Canadian space law powerhouse McGill University in the finals of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition to take the world title.
Congratulation to Auckland's space law wranglers Jonathan Orpin and James Townshend and their coaches Simon Mount, Isaac Ihaka, and associate law professor Scott Optican.
As I've noted, the 2006 problem involved the sale and operation of commercial remote sensing satellites (Galatea v Thalassa).
And yes, world famous remote sensing law expert Prof. Joanne Gabrynowitz was on hand for the finals. She called the arguments "excellent."
Auckland also won in 2003 in Bremen, Germany beating finalists from Georgetown University and the University of Bremen.
The finals, of course, took place during and in conjunction with the 57th International Astronautical Congress and the International Institute of Space Law's 49th Colloquium.
And here is a list of the trophy winners since the start of The Lachs Moot in 1992:
2005 - George Washington University (US) -- World Finals: Fukuoka, Japan
2004 - University of Leiden (the Netherlands) -- World Finals: Vancouver, Canada
2003 - University of Auckland (New Zealand) -- World Finals: Bremen, Germany
2002 - Georgetown University (US) -- World Finals: Houston, US
2001 - National University of Singapore -- World Finals: Toulouse, France
2000 - University of Paris XI (France) -- World Finals: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1999 - Vanderbilt University (US) -- World Finals: The Hague, the Netherlands
1998 - University of North Carolina (US) -- World Finals: Melbourne, Australia
1997 - University of Paris XI (France) -- World Finals: Turin, Italy
1996 - University of Helsinki (Finland) -- World Finals: Beijing, China
1995 - University of North Carolina (US) -- World Finals: Oslo, Norway
1994 - John Marshall University (Chicago, US) -- World Finals: Jerusalem, Israel
1993 - University of Leiden (the Netherlands) -- World Finals: Graz, Austria
1992 - George Washington University (US) -- World Finals: Washington, US
Who will win the Manfred Lachs Trophy (pictured above) next year? Break out your treaty law, book your flight for the 2007 International Astronautical Congress in Hyderabad, India and stay tuned.
Under the new, quietly released document, the nation's "fundamental goals" are to:
Strengthen the nation's space leadership and ensure that space capabilities are available in time to further U. S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives; Enable unhindered U. S. operations in and through space to defend our interests there; Implement and sustain an innovative human and robotic exploration program with the objective of extending human presence across the solar system; Increase the benefits of civil exploration, scientific discovery, and environmental activities; Enable a dynamic, globally competitive domestic commercial space sector in order to promote innovation, strengthen U. S. leadership, and protect national, homeland, and economic security; Enable a robust science and technology base supporting national security, homeland security, and civil space activities; and Encourage international cooperation with foreign nations and/or consortia on space activities that are of mutual benefit and that further the peaceful exploration and use of space, as well as to advance national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives.
Peruse (which either means "examine thoroughly" or "glance over hastily") the 10-page document. And compare this Bush administration update with the now-superseded, pre-9/11 (and pre-lots of other things) Clinton-era space policy, from way back in September 1996.
Clark Lindsey comments on the document's commercial space guidelines.
New Scientist focuses on the security provisions (expressing some concerns Jeff Foust predicted).
Space.com's Leonard David has an overview (which also ran in USA Today and on MSNBC.com).
The Space Foundation "strongly urges the next Congress and its relevant congressional committees, upon convening, to act upon the principles and guidelines of the National Space Policy."
And for some historical perspective on all this, here is NASA's collection of key documents in space policy, dating back from the 1950's.
Friday Flybys - 10.06.06
Have a super weekend, and happy World Space Week!
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Image: Big bang background radiation, via COBE
Let's Make (UL)A Deal
As the FTC summarizes, the consent order (approved by Boeing and Lockheed, which the Commission approved 5-0, with a separate concurring statement by Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour) "first requires ULA to cooperate on equivalent terms with all providers of government space vehicles. This will ensure that ULA cannot give an unfair advantage to the space vehicle businesses of its parent companies during DoD’s space vehicle procurement process. Next, the space vehicle businesses of Boeing and Lockheed must provide equal consideration and support to all launch service providers when seeking any U.S. government delivery in orbit contract. This provision will prevent Boeing and Lockheed from discriminating against nascent government MTH launch services suppliers in order to protect ULA’s monopoly status. Finally, Boeing, Lockheed, and ULA are required to safeguard competitively sensitive information obtained from other space vehicle and launch services providers."
Here is the FTC's complaint, in which Commission alleged the proposed joint venture would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. § 18), and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended (15 U.S.C. § 45), "by substantially lessening competition in the U.S. markets for government MTH launch services and government space vehicles."
And this is the FTC's six-page "Analysis of the Agreement Containing Consent Order to Aid Public Comment."
By the way, the order is "subject to public comment for 30 days, until October 31, 2006, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final." Send comments to: FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20580.
And if you need to brush up on some antitrust law, the 8th Annual Sedona Conference on Antitrust Law and Litigation will take place October 26-27 at the Hilton Sedona Resort in Arizona.
New Vacationauts in New York
Jeff Foust and Michael Belfiore showed up shoeless (we don't want to scuff the material) and with digital cameras to sit in the cool, cozy SS2 cabin and experience Virgin Galactic's coming out party in New York. Alan Boyle also covered the event.
I made it over on Saturday morning for NextFest's panel on "The New Vactionauts," with Eric Anderson (Space Adventures), Peter Diamandis (X Prize and, you know, everything else), Chris Shank (NASA), Alex Tai (Virgin Galactic) and Granger Whitelaw (Rocket Racing League). The panel was upbeat indeed after Sir Richard's appearance on Thursday, Anousheh Ansari's success, the upcoming happenings at Las Cruces, etc.
You had to dig all the videos. Eric proudly showed the one of Anousheh onboard ISS (which I posted here last week). Alex showed the eye-filling "Let the Journey Begin" about a ride on SS2 (now you don't have to just imagine what $200,000 can buy). And the RRL folks always have awesome eye candy.
When Alex talks about Virgin's plan you never heard the word "safety" so much. (The lawyers must have got to the guy.)
And yes, the panelists hawked all kinds of goodies for sale: sub-orbital flight reservations, ISS trips, zero-G rides, X Prize Cup tickets, etc. Way to do a New York style convention. I hope a lot of would-be space travelers brought their credit cards.
(Later, I did snap a picture of Eric sitting in the SS2 cabin, and another of him and Alex together, but I don't have my camera handy to post them. See Jeff's flickr pictures here.)
Of course, space exploration was only one of the categories of cool new things covered at NextFest. But after taking seeing the SpaceShipTwo mockup and the fun everyone had at the Virgin Galactic exhibit, a lot of the attention-grabbing robots running around the show came over and told me -- off the record of course -- that they were secretly jealous of the humans.
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Imge credit: Lenta
Space Law in Valencia 2006
First, as part of the Congress, the International Institute of Space Law is hosting its 49th Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space. (That's right, one of the world's oldest, almost annual, space law gatherings.)
Sessions at this year's colloquium will include:
- legal aspects of space transportation and launching;
- legal aspects of disaster management;
- international cooperation in space activities, with special focus on remote
- space law at times of armed conflict;
- other legal matters, including the relationship between government and private sector in space activities.
Also in Spain this week, the Valencia showdown you moot court mavens have been waiting for, the semi-finals and world finals of the 15th Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition 2006, Galatea v Thalassa: Proteus Intervening (concerning the sale and operation of certain commercial remote sensing satellites). And the world final on Thursday, judged by three sitting members of the International Court of Justice, will be at the Sala de Vistas of the Valencia Supreme Court in cooperation with the Tribunal de las Aguas de Valencia. After that, the International Institute of Space Law hosts its annual dinner.
Buena suerte to the moot court teams. And greetings to everyone in Valencia from SLP, (reporting, unfortunately, from NYC, not Spain this week).