IT’S A WRAP FOLKS…SPACE LAW BLOG REVIEW 2020
By Alexandra Dolce • December 28, 2020•Writers in Residence
Space law governs space related activities. Space law is considered international law because like general international law it is comprised of treaties, conventions, general assembly resolutions as well as the rules and regulations of international organizations.
National legislation is relevant vis a vis space law because of the increase of private actors in the exploration and travel to space. It is estimated that private actors will spend close to 1 trillion dollars, this year alone, in conducting space related activities. These private actors need to be regulated. The treaties mentioned above cover only state activities in space, not the actions of private parties or companies, as such “government oversight is essential to protect public safety, property, the environment and to fulfill state obligations under international law”.
SPACE DEBRIS & ARTEMIS ACCORDS
Space debris is considered problematic because it can cause damage in outer space and on the ground upon Earth re-entry. It can cause damage to space crafts and in some cases even space crew if the impact of the collision is pronounced enough. Last, but not least, space debris causes space pollution. Currently there are more than 500,000 pieces of debris in outer space. Debris can travel up to speeds of up to 17,500 MPH, which means that the smallest piece of debris, if it collides with a satellite or space craft, can cause noticeable to significant damage. 
Accords may deal with debris….On May 17, 2020 NASA unveiled The Artemis Accords. The Artemis Accords are a set of principles and processes where The United States and other countries agree to a common set of principles that refer to how the moon is to be explored. www.spaceref.com/artemis
According to NASA, the raison d’etre of this Accord is to “establish a common set of principles to govern the civil exploration and use of outer space”. Bilateral Artemis Accords agreements, based on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty are aimed at “creating a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for the benefit of humanity”. www.nasa.gov
Space tourism is defined as humans traveling to space for recreation. Yep, instead of going to Paris for dessert, just fly to space, have brunch, champagne and take copious amounts of selfies. Space tourism is currently estimated to be a 23 billion dollar industry. According to an article published in 2019 by CNBC.com tourists will pay a MERE $52 million for a trip to the International Space Station.
With the emergence of space tourism the possibilities and probabilities for profit and liability are currently endless because this is novel terrain. However the message is clear. It’s time to work with experts in every filed in order to anticipate, legislate and regulate.
In the realm of space, drones are an exceptional tool for flying long distances and for gathering data in areas where humans are currently incapable of or not prepared to travel because of distance and atmospheric restrictions.
However what’s needed NOW is drone legislation and litigation; legislation to regulate the use of drones in air space, and to regulate individual privacy rights and litigation to expand and or contract those rights.
In my opinion a space arms race is inevitable. It is inevitable because it is tied to economic and national security. The goal at this point is not to avoid what has been developing rapidly for the last 30 years or so, but to contain and manage it. The strategic placement of space weapons will not deter war but will increase fear.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, space is now an integral part of our lives, and many countries are aiming to become space faring countries. As such a methodology must be in place to manage threats and especially threats of war on space satellites and other space equipment and activities.
There must be clear protocols and treaties that delineate the rights and obligations of all interested parties. If a party chooses not to become part of treaty or protocol, dialogue is essential and they should be encouraged to follow certain norms allocated in these space protocol and treaties.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has adopted rules for the arbitration of disputes relating to outer space activities.
The rules are “optional”. As such, parties in a space related dispute may choose to use them or not. Pursuant to the Rules, standing is very broad. Hence, states, intergovernmental agencies, NGOs, corporations and private parties may use them as a forum.
The Rules provide a forum for various methodologies to be used by parties. For instance, parties may select a panel of arbitrators or just one. Most importantly, awards of the Court are final and binding, which creates certainty and continuity. By continuity I am referring to precedence.
The Rules are a great start, however as space activities become more and more privatized and domesticized, my belief is that states needs to create a specific forum, within their court systems, to address the disputes of private space faring activities.
Space Law is a new and exciting field. As with anything new, expect innovation, change, legislation, and litigation, greed and altruism; not all in that order. The final words “BE PREPARED”!
 Paul Stephen Dempsey, National Laws Governing Commercial Space Activities: Legislation, Regulation & Enforcement, 36 Nw.J.Int’L L.&Bus 1 (2016)
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