Friday Flybys - 11.30.07
Now, in typically random fashion, the Flybys (and on an actual Friday, yet ... what is getting into this blog?)
That's it. Enjoy this Hubble holiday image of the nearby spiral galaxy M74 "resembling festive lights on a holiday wreath." (Via Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log.)
And have a probing weekend.
* * *
IMAGE: In honor of Elon Musk, I had to pull out this great shot of Falcon in front of FAA in Washington. Love it. (But hey SpaceX, SLP supports whatever you guys do, just don't try to park that thing in front of my building on 78th Street in Manhattan.)
Luncheon with Patti Grace Smith
That's at The University Club, University Hall, 1135 16th Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. Here is your invitation and reservation form.
* * *
Also on the lunch menu at WSBR -- which of course is the "leadership forum for the promotion of commercial space business and education" -- this Friday, Nov 30th, Jean-Yves Le Gall Chairman & CEO of Arianespace will be chewing on the topic From Sputnik to High Def. And coming January 24th, Robert Peckham, President and General Manager of Sea Launch will do lunch, topic to be arranged. Also, on Feb. 26th the WSBR "flagship lunch and silent auction" will feature Hamadoun Toure, Director General of ITU.
Loosen your belt a few notches. (And who needs dessert?)
"Law or war"
This week in Wired, journalist Richard Morgan worries that "what has gone unnoticed amid the international clamor is that the Arctic battle has implications that reach far beyond the top of Earth." Unnoticed? Not by space lawyers.
Just ask the ever-quotable Prof. Joanne Gabrynowicz of the University of Mississippi her views on Earthly dealings over the frozen far north as precedent for addressing future claims to resources and land on the Moon. She instructs: "The recent Arctic events are relevant. The seabed, high seas, Antarctica, and space are, as a matter of law, global commons. What happens in one can be argued to be legal precedent in the others."
And Joanne adds, "As I tell my students, when humans have a conflict there are only two options: to reach agreement or to fight. Even agreeing to disagree or doing nothing simply puts these options further into the future; it does not create additional options. At the level of nations, these options are law or war."
We'll take more law any day.
* * *
Sundahl on The Space Show
And you can talk with Mark about the Space Assets Protocol anytime, just drop him a note. Tangentially, if you also want to chat a bit about, say, the minutiae of ancient Greek legal history (and who doesn't?), let him know, he's an expert on all that too.
(And yes, Dr. David Livingston will continue to have members of the legal profession appear on his popular program, if only to fan the rumors, which I may have personally started, that our gracious multimedia Space Show host likes lawyers.)
Space law papers wanted
The symposium will cover inter alia, "the legal and regulatory aspects on both certification and safety aspects of commercial manned space flight; current limitations will be identified and future actions will be proposed..." and yes, this will include orbital and sub-orbital flights.
Deadline for abstracts is Dec 5.
(Hat tip: Personal Spaceflight blog.)
And while you are keyboarding your latest legal opus, the 59th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2008), coming in September to Glasgow, Scotland, also wants your space law scholarship. Here is the IAC call for abstracts, which includes information about submitting papers for the 51st IISL Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space, planning at Glasgow to mark the 40th anniversary of the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space (Rescue Agreement) which indeed entered into force December 1968 -- so why not a paper on "the legal aspects of applying the Agreement to international cooperative mission profiles"? Or, if you prefer, a paper on the legal aspects of near Earth objects (NEO’s)? Or perhaps some wisdom on private international law regarding space activities? Go for it. Deadline for abstracts is March 11, 2008.
(By the way, here are IISL's rules for qualifing to be considered for the Dr. I.H. Ph. Diederiks-Verschoor Award for Best Paper of the colloquium, which includes a medal and 500 Euros. And bragging rights on SLP. ;)
* * *
If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.
~ Isaac Asimov
Satellite radio merger game
Apart from all the Thanksgiving holiday festivities this week, what can we do while awaiting the decision on the proposed XM-Sirius merger?
Hmm. How about a satellite radio merger crossword puzzle?
(This blog is not Antitrust Law Probe, but here on SLP we've seen proposed mergers come and go, and this just might be the first deal to inspire its own crossword puzzle. And why didn't we have this during the ULA saga? Twittling our thumbs during the days when the biggest ULA update was this "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, variably incorrect or otherwise fact-free reports that the deal has won FTC approval....)
Here are the clues to the puzzle above.
Yes, a few of the items might be construed as semi law-related. (No worries, indepth knowledge of the Sherman or Clayton Acts is unnecessary.)
Some answers may or may not be found in the documents, filings, comments and other materials posted on the FCC's XM-Sirius transaction page.
And here are some random obvious answers: Howard Stern, NAB, terrestrial, family friendly, FCC, Circuit City, iPod, Howard Stern, Clear Channel, Howard Stern. Just put 'em in wherever they fit.
Another hint: the answer to 25 across is not Space Law Probe.
Have fun. Listen to space radio while you play.
Meanwhile, as we heard, in a interesting development earlier this month, FCC sent questionnaires to Sirius and XM seeking yet more information (apparently earlier responsive filings, some of which which Mel Karamzin estimated cost his company $1 million in photocopying alone, proved insufficiently revealing for the regulators). Friday was the deadline for responding. And does this latest action by the Commission indicate approval of the deal is more likely? Less likely? Depends on who you ask. I will refrain from linking to any of the miriad of statements, rumors, reports, etc., but suffice to note many industry watchers in recent months predicted the deal would close by year end. Not so fast.
Also on Friday, FCC issued a Second Protective Order to further safeguard the companies' "highly confidential and competitively sensitive documents."
And in a big development, in a recent interview, former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, who oversaw the formulation of satellite radio rules and the granting of licenses to XM and Sirius, spoke out in support of the proposed merger and called it "pro-competitive."
The waiting game continues.
* * *
(Hat tip and soundtrack: Orbitcast.)
(Oops, almost forget: Check answers here.)
Date with FAA
Save the Date – 11th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference: "Roadmap to 2015", February 5-6, 2008, Doubletree Hotel, Crystal City, Virginia.
Agenda and other conference info to follow. As always, this is an excellent annual event hosted by associate administrator Smith and her crew. Be there or be grounded. (Not really. But go. Even if you have to take an ol' airplane.)
Space Protocol needs industry support
Professor Mark Sundahl, who, as we know from our blogspace interactive experiment in international treaty-drafting, among other things, is a member of the UNIDROIT working group charged with drafting the Space Assets Protocol to the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment, sends SLP the following quick update.
Work on the Space Assets Protocol to the UNIDROIT Cape Town Convention has reached a critical juncture. Substantial progress has been made to refine the technical aspects of the protocol, such as its application to components of space assets. However, the project may be delayed if greater support from the space industry does not materialize. The benefits of the protocol to space entrepreneurs and existing companies is clear: the ability to easily create enforceable security interests will reduce the cost of credit and make financing more available. A progressive law of secured transactions is particularly important in the current environment of reduced liquidity since lenders are now looking for greater security.
In light of this, members of the space industry and financial institutions are urged to lend their support to UNIDROIT's efforts and provide their input so that UNIDROIT can move forward with the project and create a legal regime that is most responsive to the needs of the industry. Any comments, questions or expressions of support can be sent me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark adds that Sir Roy Goode (who is also writing the commentary to the Rail Protocol, which sounds interesting, too but hey, it ain't space law), is in the process of revising the draft Space Assets Protocol. And yes, UNIDROIT will be issuing a report in the near future detailing status, etc. Stay tuned.
For now, as attention is focused on getting input and building support from industry, tune in to Mark on The Space Show, Nov. 19th for an opportunity to hear more, offer your comments and ask questions. (And say hi to David Livingston, too. ;)
* * *
UPDATE: An SLP reader sends in this related pointer -- the University of Illinois College of Law's Illinois Business Law Journal has an overview, Financing Space Assets and Private Business Entities (Part I) (Oct 22, 2007). Thanks, Marky R!
* * *
Meanwhile, on a less dire note, as I've previously reported, there are still enough spy bucks left in the US intelligence coffers to fund NRO Junior, not for kids and would-be espionage professionals only: an unclassified online training facility where anyone, even government spooks and their favorite contractors, can put together a spy satellite -- ok, it's a jigsaw puzzle -- maneuver a spysat through a maze, build a paper plate satellite puppet, play satellite capsule catch, lots more. Perhaps there's hope for our spy-filled future after all.
Unfunded mandate vs. "cosmic extinction"
For NASA's part, Scott Pace told House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, "NASA would be pleased to implement a more aggressive NEO program, if so directed by the President and Congress. However, given the constrained resources and strategic objectives the Agency has already been tasked with, NASA cannot place a new NEO program above current scientific and exploration missions."
Astronaut and champion NEO-buster Rusty Schweickart of the B612 Foundation, who has critiqued NASA's NEO report, testified before the subcommittee about various aspects of NASA's report to Congress (which the agency prepared in response to the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-155)), including NEO tracking, search, discovery, deflection, the Spaceguard Survey, size matters (yes it does) and more. Here is his prepared statement.
Rusty criticised the space agency for failing to recommend a program to meet the 140-meter search goal, but said: "One can sympathize with NASA's fear of the dreaded 'unfunded mandate' from Congress while decrying the Agency's decision to defy the Congressional directive and to delay the initiation of this critical search program."
He wants NASA to produce a supplement to its NEO report "based on new knowledge which has come to light since it began its analysis."
Apart from technical, budgetary and other issues arising from the threat of potentially Earth-shattering NEOs, on the legal side, Rusty said "the single most important question" of the hearing was: "What governance structures should be established to address potential NEO threats?" Good question. He said NEO work at NASA "in an orphaned status" and recommended that Congress make NASA responsible for the "technical development elements of protecting the Earth from NEO impacts as a public safety responsibility."
And beyond technical responsibility? Rusty concluded with the obvious obsevation, that NEO mitigation "is a planetary challenge, not a national one."
But no worries. There's an infinite amount of time to figure this all out and decide what to do next. Or is there.
Meanwhile, thank goodness it's Friday, but not Friday, April 13, 2029, when NEO-trackers say there is a one in 45,000 chance that the small (250-meter) asteroid Apophis could swing by for a little close-up of Earth (and possibly return in 2030).
An yes, we're looking forward to results of the Planetary Society's $50,000 competition to design a mission to rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid such as Apophis.
(By the way, if you find yourself in NYC, now would be a good time to rocket over to the Hayden Planetarium for the spectacular space show, Cosmic Collisions. And if Rusty is in town I'll be happy to treat him to it.)
* * *
IMAGE: © American Museum of Natural History, "A young Earth is pictured moments after a collision with a Mars-sized wandering planetoid over four billion years ago."
We have the ability to make ourselves safe from cosmic extinction.
Scottish Space Agency?
With Scotland looking a few years ahead to the launching of its first satellite (that's right, ScotSat-1), a Herald pro-space writer argues Scotland should have its own space agency, or as he put it, "our own wee version of NASA."
And Scottish space entrepreneur Craig Clark believes, "There is a real opportunity now for Scotland to get involved in space industry."
However, as to a government space agency, he concludes, "at the moment, our hands are tied. One of the rules of devolution is Scotland can't have a space programme." (I'm not sure that's a bad thing. After all, when has a national space program ever gotten in the way of space ventures?)
TopSat in Disasters Charter
Here is the announcement.
The Disasters Charter, as we know, is "a joint initiative by global space agency members to provide emergency response satellite data free of charge to rescue authorities responding to major natural or man-made disasters anywhere in the world."
Since Nov. 1, 2000, the Charter has been activated more than 100 times (last total I read was 140), including for US disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Southern California fires. The list of the Charter's recent activations reads like a timeline of human catastrophe.
Lots more on the Charter here.
Thanks for your help, TopSat.
* * *
IMAGE: TopSat, launched on a Kosmos 3M rocket from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia into a polar low orbit on Oct. 27, 2005 and declared operational in Dec. 2005.
Sarbanes-Oxley in Space
But in the post-Enron space age, federal lawmakers have delivered some newfangled and from a business perspective, hard-to-love legislation -- not for space technology companies only.
Take the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No. 107-204, 116 Stat. 745), aka the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002 or, if you prefer, Sarbox or SOX.
Some space industry experts see a serious downside to the regulations designed to guard against corporate fraud. Space Daily last week quotes Chris Stott of ManSat who "cautions that the greatest risk to American new space technology firms, 'is not technology, not event government regulations,' often associated with delays and failures in early stage space technology firms, but Sarbanes-Oxley."
According to the article, Stott calls the law "the 'perfect financial storm' and argues that the expensive, and crippling laws are having the unintended effect of driving thousands of early stage companies to list in the United Kingdom on the Alternative Investment Market. He emphatically urges the audience to contact their Legislators to remedy this madness."
Clearly Sarbanes-Oxley and other new regulations have ushered in sweeping changes in the corporate compliance landscape, and as is generally the case, small companies are hardest hit by onerous regulation. Big companies in aerospace, telecom, high tech and other industries of course know what keeps their chief compliance officers up at night, and can usually afford the costs associated with government regulation. (Although they don't much like it either. However, interestingly, as Business Week suggested, businesses may see a silver lining in section 404 compliance actually helping to cut costs. Hmm.)
Not everyone would put reform minded SOX in the same league as big bad ITAR. But in September at IAC 2007 in India, Chris Stott moderated the session, "Enabling the Frontier: Regulatory Challenges to the Utilisation of Space," in which the two regimes got an almost equal attention. Space lawyer and Excalibur Aerospace CEO Art Dula (who likes to call ITAR the "Foreign Technology Development Act,") said of SOX:
"There is a very real opportunity cost inherent in dealing with Sarbanes-Oxley. You simply have to ask yourselves on a risk-reward basis if what you get in terms of better public regulation of your companies is worth the cost to those companies and to the society. It's very much a problem that Congress is going to have to solve."
Here is a videocast of that IAC session, with Chris and Art joined by Christian Salaburger of MDA Space Missions, Clayton Mowry of Arianespace, John Purvis, general counsel of SES Luxembourg, and Prof. Frans Von Der Dunk of the International Institute of Air and Space Law at Leiden University.
And if you're looking for SOX materials -- rulemaking, reports, studies, proposals, FAQ's, more (hey, we're going to need 'em), SEC has a warehouse full. And if you need a corporate space lawyer (and who doesn't?) as always, SLP has referrals.
* * *
IMAGE: Slide courtesy of the U.S. Government Accountability Office
Tuesday treks - 11.6.07
First, greetings to everyone in Los Angeles this week for California Space Authority's Transforming Space 2007, including lawyer and government space folks like Shana Dale, Jane Harman, Adam Schiff, Ken Calvert and Doug Griffith, as well as newspace gurus Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis, Anousheh Ansari and many others. Congratulations to all the CSA 2007 SpotBeam Awards recipients, including Space Innovation Award winner XCOR Aerospace. Hoping for a few recaps from LA, if not perhaps a couple of glossies from the event's smokin' space fashion show (where, as I had promised, no lawyers would be modeling space lawyer suits and couture. If we're lucky.)
Flybys (in no particular order or trajectory, as usual) . . .
A few accolades:
Congratulations to China on Chang'e-1 entering lunar orbit: the nation's first circumlunar satellite.
Congratulations to SpaceX on ground breaking at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, "opening a new era in commercial space operations." Looking forward to Falcon 9's maiden launch in late 2008.
And double thumbs up on the launches of Space Angels Network and International Institute of Space Commerce. Give us a holler at SLP if you want to meet friendly space lawyers, any time. Space means business.
Finally, it's probably way to early in the week to contemplate but black holes may harbour their own universes. Yup, even more space lawyers needed.
* * *
IMAGE CREDIT: XCOR Aerospace.
Awaiting UK space tourism rules
But last week the Telegraph's science (not law) correspondent Richard Gray filed the nice but not exactly news-intensive item, Ministers order review of space law. He reports that UK science minister Ian Pearson "asked the British National Space Centre to produce a consultation on updating the Outer Space Act 1986."
Here's the whole newsflash:
A trip into outer space may seem a good way to escape everyday life on Earth, but British space tourists will find that while they might defy gravity, there is to be no getting away from the law.
Ministers have ordered a review of an obscure piece of legislation controlling the UK's activities in space. They believe that when Virgin Galactic and other companies begin offering public flights into space, rules will be needed to control the industry and the behaviour of British subjects in orbit.
New regulations are expected to deal with criminal offences in space, to ban dumping of waste and to prevent damage to Mars and the moon.
Virgin Galactic hopes to begin commercial flights by early 2009. Ahead of that, Ian Pearson, the science minister, has asked the British National Space Centre to produce a consultation on updating the Outer Space Act 1986.
Fair enough. (Apart from that reference to UK's existing space law as an "obscure piece of legislation." We beg your pardon!) The article doesn't indicate the venue or occasion which may have prompted Pearson to made the statement.
In any case, yes, we know. So what are they waiting for?
Meanwhile, over the UK space policy side, we see a lot of action underway and documents orbiting. As I reported, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee in July issued its space policy report entitled, 2007: A Space Policy, which naturally included a section addressing space tourism. And in October, as expected, the government published its response to the Science and Technology Committee Report on space.
The space policy report states:
61. We are excited by the potential afforded by sub-orbital travel and the rise of the space tourism industry. We do not believe that it is the responsibility of Government to fund this work but developments in this area should be encouraged through appropriate regulation. The BNSC should use its consultation on regulation to discuss the establishment of a regulatory framework and responsible body with the relevant authorities. We recommend that the Government continues its policy of non-financial support to the space tourism industry and that it outline the developing nature of that support in the forthcoming space strategy. (Paragraph 334)
And in its response, the government specifies:
The Government agrees with this Recommendation and is keen to explore the commercial opportunities for the UK offered by this new emerging field as well as to develop a suitable regulatory regime for it. It has had preliminary discussions with FAA colleagues in the USA with a view to understanding their approaches. It will be seeking views on the approach to space tourism in the public consultation relating to the review of the Outer Space Act (OSA) regulatory approach.There you have it.
* * *
IMAGE: Courtesy Virgin Galatic. Cheers!
Office of Space Commerce (again)?
Ah. Simple: the proposed bill, called the "Space Commerce Act of 2007," sent to the Hill by the Bush administration in October, as yet has no sponsor and has not been introduced. Stay tuned. (The proposed measure falls under the jurisdiction of the House Science Committee.)
Meanwhile, I am happy to post the proposed text, below (it's short). The bill would update 15 U.S.C. §1511e in various ways, including change the name of the Office of Space Commercialization back to the Office of Space Commerce (and I'm not sure that's actually an update), refocus responsibilities and emphasise promotion of geospatial technology and support for positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) organizations.
As we've noted here on SLP, talk of reviving and updating the office is not new. One issue was how much focus Commerce would place on established sectors such as communications, GPS and remote sensing, versus our emerging space and sub-orbital industries.
From some of the proposed language including the mandate to "promote the advancement of United States' geospatial technologies related to space commerce" we see why geospatial industry folks love the proposal. The proposed bill does not similarly addresss space tourism or technologies related thereto.
By the way, Ed Morris, director of OSC (pictured here), is scheduled to keynote at the Reach to Space conference at which I'm sure he will discuss his office and the legislative proposal. (As a mini-preview we have one slide titled "Space Commerce Act of 2007" from Ed's presentation at a recent event organized by the National Military Intelligence Association). (Yes, I jacked his slide and his picture. Now I owe him two favors.)
On a semi-related note, for those of you who can't get enough of strategic plans (and who can?) here is the OSC Strategic Plan: U.S. Leadership in Space Commerce (March 2007).
Now without further ado (and no follow-up questions, please - I have dinner plans ;), the proposed Space Commerce Act of 2007:
A BILL To provide technical corrections to the Technology Administration Act of 1998, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1: SHORT TITLE.
(a) This Act may be cited as the "Space Commerce Act of 2007."
SEC. 2. ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OFFICE OF SPACE COMMERCE.
(a) The heading of 15 U.S.C. § 1511e is deleted and replaced with the following:
"Office of Space Commerce".
(b) Section 8(a) of the Technology Administration Act of 1998 (15 U.S.C. § 1511e(a)) is amended to read as follows:
"There is established within the Department of Commerce an Office of Space Commerce (referred to in this section as the “Office”)".
SEC. 3. FUNCTIONS OF THE OFFICE OF SPACE COMMERCE.
Section 8(c) of the Technology Administration Act of 1998 (15 U.S.C. § 1511e(c)) is amended to read as follows:
"Functions of Office.― The Office shall be the principal unit for space commerce policy activities within the Department of Commerce. The Office shall―
"(1) Foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the United States’ space commerce industry;
"(2) Coordinate space commerce policy issues and actions within the Department of Commerce;
"(3) Represent the Department of Commerce in the development of United States policies and in negotiations with foreign countries to promote United States’ space commerce;
"(4) Promote the advancement of United States’ geospatial technologies related to space commerce, in cooperation with relevant interagency working groups; and
"(5) Provide support to the U.S. Government organizations established pursuant to the United States Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Policy issued December 8, 2004 (and any successor organizations)".
Space 2.0 lawyers
"Space 1.0' was astronauts, rocket ships and billion-dollar government projects. 'Space 2.0' is venture-backed entrepreneurs starting new companies with new technologies."
That's the clarification from Burke Fort, director of the Eighth Continent Project, the initiative launched this summer and headquartered in Colorado which bills itself as "the world's most comprehensive program to integrate space technology and resources into the global economy."
Good for Colorado, too. (I thought it was New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson but it was in fact Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to whom we may attribute the quote, "For the first time, government, industry and academia have joined forces with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to forge the next frontier in commercializing space technology and resources." (Where is his state's spaceport?)
Space 2.0 is about business, and naturally all kinds of lawyers and firms are prepared -- or will be -- to offer key services and get in the Space 2.0 game. An early adapter in the Space 2.0 law arena, Townsend and Townsend and Crew has announced it is a founding sponsor of Eighth Continent which means the law firm has signed on to "provide both funding sponsorship and legal services" to the project.
Interestingly, Townsend doesn't have a space law or aerospace group. But they are a top patent and trademark firm. And the firm covers many practice areas and specialties including technology transactions that are sure to come in handy. Which tells you something about the nature of space business law practice at 21st century firms.
Yes, like Web 2.0, everyone can get in on Space 2.0.
Join the 2.0 club.
* * *
Speaking of space law action in Colorado, a reminder about a CLE offering: the Colorado Bar Association's 6-credit CLE program on Aviation and Space Law takes place Nov. 15 in Denver (with video replays Dec. 7 in Colorado Springs, etc.) Of course, we know what happens when air law and space law share a seminar -- typically air gets most of the attention. As I noted, among the panels at this CLE on air crashes, aviation transactions, aviation environmental issues, there is one panel covering, "What's New in Space Law," presented by Rachel A. Yates, who can handle it all -- she is both a 1.0 and 2.0 space lawyer.