Captain's Blog - December 2018
MASCOT Landing on Asteroid Ryugu a Successful Mission
An asteroid called 162173 Ryugu us a near-Earth object measuring approximately 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) in diameter. It is a dark object of the rare spectral type Cg, with qualities of a C-type asteroid and also a G-type asteroid. The current value, for mining purposes, is 82.76 billion dollars. It contains nickel, iron, water, cobalt, nitrogen, ammonia, and hydrogen. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency known as JAXA launched spacecraft Hayabusa2 in December of 2014 and successfully arrived at the asteroid in June of 2018. It is planned to return material from the asteroid to Earth by December of 2020. The Hayabusa2 mission includes four rovers. In September of 2018, the first two of these rovers were released from Hayabusa2.
This is a big step in Space as this is the very first time a mission has completed a successful landing on a fast-moving asteroid body. On October 3rd of 2018, the German-French Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout landed successfully on Ryugu after being released from its Japanese mothership, Hayabusa2. The Scout is about the size of a shoebox. The 22-lb. (10 kilograms) MASCOT carried four instruments: a camera, a spectrometer, a magnetometer and a radiometer. Twenty minutes after being released from the Hayabusa2, and traveling 167 feet, it reached the surface of the asteroid. JAXA noted that wheels are useless on an extremely low-gravity body such as Ryugu and a robot would float off the surface as soon as the tires started turning. The Ryugu robots were all designed to hop. MASCOT did this by manipulating a metal "swing arm" inside its body.
A photo was released the same day that captured the surface of the asteroid revealing a rocky, pitted terrain. Asteroid Ryugu was about 186 million miles from Earth at the time. MASCOT has only batteries (with a capacity of 200 watt-hours) with no independent power generation. Its life was limited from the moment of its spring-assisted release from the spacecraft. MASCOT's battery only lasted 16 hours after the landing. The Scout detected a relatively weak field of the solar wind and very strong magnetic disturbances caused by the spacecraft. Another MINERVA lander and an impactor probe will be released in 2019, according to JAXA.
In addition to deploying the landers, JAXA's $150 million Hayabusa2 spacecraft is designed to study asteroid Ryugu with unprecedented detail. Later this year, the U.S. spacecraft OSIRIS Rex is scheduled to make its own rendezvous with the near-Earth asteroid Bennu for NASA. That spacecraft is due to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 31 and collect samples to be returned to Earth in 2023.
Captain's Blog - December 2018
Night Sky Events This Month
December 2 – 69P/Taylor reaches its brightest
December 3 – C/2018 L2 (ATLAS) at perihelion
December 5 – Conjunction of the Moon and Mercury
December 7 - New Moon - The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 07:20 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere; close approach of Mars and Neptune; conjunction of Mars and Neptune
December 8 – The Moon at perihelion; Asteroid 40 Harmonia at opposition
December 9 - Puppid–Velid meteor shower; Conjunction of the Moon and Saturn
December 11 - C/2018 L2 (ATLAS) reaches its brightest; Mercury at dichotomy
December 12 - The Moon at apogee; LMC is well placed
December 13, 14 - Geminids Meteor Shower - The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent early morning show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from= the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky; 46P/Wirtanen at perihelion; Conjunction of the Moon and Mars; Close approach of the Moon and Mars
December 15 - Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation - The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 21.3 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise; Moon at First Quarter; NGC 1981 is well placed
December 16 - 46P/Wirtanen reaches its brightest; Asteroid 433 Eros at opposition
December 21 - December Solstice - The December solstice occurs at 22:23 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere; Conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury; The Moon at aphelion
December 22 - Full Moon - The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 17:49 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Full Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule; Ursids Meteor Shower - The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. This year the glare from the full moon will hide all but the brightest meteors. If you are extremely patient, you might still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky
December 24 - The Moon at perigee
December 25 - Close approach of the Moon and M44
December 26 - Puppid–Velid meteor shower; Venus at perihelion
December 28 - NGC 2232 is well placed
December 29 - Conjunction of Venus and Ceres; Asteroid 6 Hebe at opposition; Moon at Last Quarter; NGC 2244 is well placed
Captain's Blog - December 2018
Planetary Resources Acquisition
Planetary Resources once aimed to be the leading provider of resources for people and products in space. It described itself as being the world’s first commercial deep space exploration program. The purpose of the program was to identify and unlock the water resources necessary for human expansion in space. The main goal of Planetary Resources was identifying, extracting, and refining resources from near-Earth asteroids. The program was going to collection extensive data during a series of missions in deep space visiting multiple near-Earth asteroids. Data collection was to include global hydration mapping and subsurface extraction demonstrations to determine the quantity of water and the value of the resources available. The information gathered will allow Planetary Resources to design, construct and deploy the first commercial mine in space.
The company's first technology demonstration satellite, the Arkyd-3, launched from Cape Canaveral in 2015, and deployed from the International Space Station. Planetary Resources successfully lobbied towards the passage of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (H.R. 2262) which recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain and encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids. The company announced a partnership with the Government of Luxembourg to advance the space resources industry in 2016. Luxembourg’s Chamber of Deputies passed a law recognizing the right to space-based resources in 2017. The company launched the Arkyd-6 containing a demonstration of technology designed to detect water resources in space and has completed the world’s first deep space resource exploration plan to characterize hydrated resources on near-Earth asteroids in 2018.
So where is Planetary Resources today? The company just took an unusual turn on its path to asteroid mining. A blockchain company called ConsenSys, created by Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin, bought Planetary Resources for an unspecified sum. Blockchain-based smart contracts represent a "natural solution" for commerce in space. ConsenSys will run its space strategy at Planetary Resources' former Redmond, Washington location. The newly united companies haven't outlined a roadmap at this stage. The acquisition is as much the result of financial necessity as anything else. The company has edged closer to its plans of asteroid mining by testing its technologies in space. Recently, it laid off employees after failing to secure an important funding round. ConsenSys' takeover gives Planetary Resources a lifeline that should keep its plans intact, even if it's now likely that the company will delay a key asteroid inspection mission past its original target of 2020.
ConsenSys Solutions describes its mission as bringing blockchain to business helping enterprises, governments, non-profits, and startups across the globe build, test, and deploy public and private blockchain solutions. They offer education, advisory, and development services, as well as opportunities for joint ventures and co-creation. They host events, launch hackathons, and offer mentorship and support to small organizations and teams building blockchain-based solutions to real-world problems. The acquisition results should be very interesting and hopefully put Planetary Resources back on track.
Captain's Blog - November 2018
Night Sky Events This Month
November 4 – 64P/Swift-Gehrels at perihelion
November 5 – Conjunction of the Moon and Venus
November 5, 6 - Taurids Meteor Shower - The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the the night of November 5. The thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for viewing. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky
November 6 - Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation - The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 23.3 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset
November 7 - New Moon - The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 16:02 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
November 8 – Conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter
November 9 – Conjunction of the Moon and Mercury
November 11 – 38P/Stephan-Oterma at perihelion
November 14 – The Moon at apogee
November 15 – Moon at First Quarter; Conjunction of the Moon and Mars
November 16 – Asteroid 3 Juno at opposition
November 17 – M45 is well placed
November 17, 18 - Leonids Meteor Shower - The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The waxing gibbous moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what could be a good early morning show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
November 21 – the Moon at aphelion
November 23 - Full Moon - The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 05:40 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Hunter's Moon.
November 26 – Jupiter at solar conjunction; the Moon at perigee
November 27 – Mercury at inferior solar conjunction; close approach of the Moon and M44
November 28 – C/2016 N6 (PANSTARRS) reaches its brightest
November 29 – Mercury at perihelion; the Moon at last quarter; Venus at brightest
Captain's Blog - November 2018
NASA Encourages Commercial Companies to Take Charge
Now that it is not on the governmental list of things to do, commercial companies are proposing missions to the moon at a rapid pace. Lunar missions have not had this activity planning since the Apollo program. The commercial companies now have the means to complete such missions having the funding and technology that is necessary for success. Many companies have now set their sights on missions to the moon planning to land on the surface in the very near future! So far, China, the United States, and the Soviet Union are the only three nations to soft-land on the moon. The companies that have actual planned missions include Astrobotic, SpaceIL, iSpace, and Blue Origin. Instead of being a nationalistic dream, it is now thought of as a marketplace. The profitability for the companies mainly stems from companies hiring them to put other company hardware on the moon or hire them to mine minerals from the moon crust. Under the Trump administration, the United States is getting back on board pushing toward commercial activity on the moon. NASA has recently produced a clear message: there will be no production of robotic missions in-house. Instead, NASA is providing encouragement for commercial companies to take charge.
Future lunar missions include the following:
Chandrayaan-2 - Planned for late 2018 - Chandrayaan-2 is India's second lunar mission, consisting of an orbiter and rover, which will perform in-situ analysis of rock and soil samples. The rover portion of the mission was originally slated to be the Russian Luna-Glob 2, but the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) withdrew in the wake of the Phobos-Grunt failure due to technical aspects shared with Luna-Glob, and ISRO continued development on their own rover separately.
SpaceIL's Lunar Lander - Planned for 2019 - While the other Google Lunar X Prize teams developed large rovers to move the required 500 meters on the Moon’s surface, in order to conserve mass, SpaceIL developed the idea of a space hop: to have the spacecraft land and then take off again with the fuel left in its propulsion system, and then perform another landing 500 meters away. SpaceIL is aiming to break new scientific ground by taking first-of-their-kind measurements on the surface of the Moon.
Astrobotic's Peregrine Lunar Lander aboard United Launch Alliance Rocket - Planned for 2019 - The Peregrine Lunar Lander will fly 35 kilograms of customer payloads on its first mission, with the option to upgrade to 265 kilograms on future missions. Already 11 deals from six nations have been signed for this 2019 mission. The first mission in 2019 will serve as a key demonstration of service for NASA, international space agencies, and companies looking to carry out missions to the Moon.
iSpace's Lunar Lander - Planned for 2020 and 2021 - iSpace will fly two HAKUTO-R missions, an orbiter and a lander, as secondary payloads on SpaceX Falcon 9 launches. The orbiter is scheduled to launch in a window that opens in mid-2020 and the lander in mid-2021. The first HAKUTO-R mission will place a spacecraft with a total mass, fully fueled, of 550 kilograms into orbit around the moon. The second mission will be a lander, weighing 1,400 kilograms, including a small rover. Both are intended to demonstrate ispace’s capabilities in delivering payloads to the moon for future commercial customers.
Luna-25 - Planned for 2021 - Luna 25 is a planned lunar lander mission by Roscosmos. It will land near the lunar south pole at the Boguslavsky crater. It was renamed from Luna-Glob lander to Luna 25 to emphasize the continuity of the Soviet Luna program from the 1970s, though it is still part of what was at one point conceptualized as the Luna-Glob lunar exploration program.
Luna-26 – Planned for 2022 - Luna 26 is a planned lunar polar orbiter, part of the Luna-Glob program, by the Russian space agency Roscosmos. In addition to its scientific role, the Luna 26 orbiter would also function as a telecom relay between Earth and Russian landed assets.
Blue Origin's Lunar Lander - Planned for 2023 - Blue Origin’s lunar lander is capable of bringing several metric tons of cargo to the Moon. Bezos has also expressed ambitions to orchestrate a moon landing by 2023 and to eventually establish a lunar colony.
Luna-27 – Planned for 2023 - Luna 27 is a planned lunar lander mission by the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) with collaboration by the European Space Agency (ESA) to send a lander to the South Pole–Aitken basin, an unexplored area on the far side of the Moon. Its objective will be to detect and characterize lunar polar volatiles. The mission is a continuation of the Luna-Glob program.
Chang'e 6 – Planned for 2024 - Chang'e 6 is an unmanned Chinese lunar exploration mission currently speculated to be under development. Chang'e 6 will be China's second sample return mission. Like its predecessors, the spacecraft is named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang'e.
Luna-28 – Planned for 2025 - Luna 28 (Luna Resource 2 or Luna-Grunt rover) is a proposed sample-return mission from the south polar region of the Moon. It is proposed to launch no earlier than 2025, and it would be composed of a stationary lander and a lunar rover. The rover would bring soil samples back to the lander and transfer them into the ascent stage, which would launch and insert itself into a 100-kilometer lunar orbit. While in lunar orbit, the soil-carrying capsule would be intercepted by an orbiting return module, which would perform all rendezvous operations and transfer the samples. After reloading the samples, the return vehicle separates from the orbiter and heads to Earth, while the orbital module continues its mission in the lunar orbit for at least three years.
Captain's Blog - October 2018
Night Sky Events This Month
October 1 – M110 is well placed
October 2 – Moon at Last Quarter; M32 is well placed
October 3 – NGC 253 is well placed
October 4 – Close approached of the Moon and M44
October 5 – Moon at perigee
October 7 – 1 Ceres at solar conjunction; NGC 362 well placed
October 8 – New Moon; Draconids Meteor Shower - The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 8th. This will be an excellent year to observe the Draconids because there will be no moonlight to spoil the show. Best viewing will be in the early evening from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky
October 9 - The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 03:47 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere; conjunction of the Moon and mercury
October 11 – Conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter
October 14 – Conjunction of Venus and Mercury
October 16 – Mercury at aphelion; Moon at first quarter; 136199 Eris at opposition
October 17 – Moon at apogee
October 18 – Close approach of the Moon and Mars
October 21, 22 - Orionids Meteor Shower - The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. The nearly full Moon will block some of the fainter meteors this year, but the Orionids tend to be fairly bright so it could still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky; Moon at aphelion
October 23 - Uranus at Opposition - The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes
October 24 - Full Moon – Hunters Moon - The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 16:46 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon
October 26 - Venus at inferior solar conjunction; NGC 869 is well placed
October 27 - NGC 884 is well placed
October 29 – 64P/Swift Gehrels reaches its brightest; Conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury
October 31 - Close approach of the Moon and M44; Moon at Last Quarter; The Moon at perigee; Fornax is well placed
Captain's Blog - October 2018
Comprehensive Space Law Calendar For 2019
In order to stay informed, it is highly important that you remember and attend Space Law events. Here are the upcoming events for 2019! Do not miss out on essential opportunities to stay up to date on the most progressive law in the universe.
• History: Spirit Lands on Mars (2004) Jan 3
• American Astronomical Society Winter Meeting 2019, Jan 6-10, 2019, Seattle, WA
• Scitech 2019 (AIAA), Jan 7-11, 2019, San Diego, CA
• Royal Astronomical Society, London, United Kingdom: 199th Observation of RAS founding (1820) Jan 12
• History: Chang’e-5T1 Service Module, Lunar Orbit: China module collecting data on Lunar surface for future Moon missions begins 5th year in Lunar orbit today; launched Oct 2014, reached Moon Jan 2015 Jan 13
• American Astronautical Society, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Kaanapali HI: 29th Annual AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting at Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa Jan 13-17
• History: New Horizons, Kuiper Belt Object Trajectory: Spacecraft begins 14th year in space today, launched Jan 19, 2006 – flew by Pluto July 14, 2015 and KBO Ultima Thule (2014 MU69) on 1 Jan 2019; expected to operate until at least mid-2030s Jan 19
• History: Opportunity, Mars Surface: Rover reaches 15 full years on Mars; holds “off-world” record for having driven the greatest distance; launched 2003, landed 2004 Jan 25
• History: Apollo 1 Crew Lost 1967 Jan 27
• Nasa Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG), Jan 29-31, 2019, Houston, Tx
• History: Apollo 1 52nd Observation, Nationwide USA: Increasing space awareness and education, remembrances and events honor three Apollo 1 crew members lost during a launch pad test: Command Pilot Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee Jan 27
• History: Challenger STS-51L 33rd Observation, Nationwide USA: Educational and ceremonial events held worldwide to advance space technology / education and honor 7 crew members killed in shuttle accident 28 January 1986: Commander Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Astronaut Christa McAuliffe (the 1st ‘Teacher in Space’), Mission Specialists Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnick and Ronald E. McNair, along with Payload Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis Jan 28
• History: Apollo 14 Launch 1971 Jan 31
• History: Explorer 1 First Satellite Launched by US 1958 Jan 31
• American Astronautical Society Rocky Mountain Section, Breckenridge CO: 42nd Annual Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference Jan 31-Feb 6
• History: Columbia STS-107 16th Observation, Nationwide USA / Global: Annual international conferences and events take place to further space exploration efforts in remembrance of Columbia 7 loss: Commander Richard D. Husband, Mission Specialist Laurel Clark, Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon (the ‘1st Israeli astronaut’) and Astronauts: William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown and Kalpana Chawla the ‘1st Indian American astronaut’ and ‘1st Indian woman in space Feb 1
• History: STS-63 Launch 1995 Feb 3
• ESA, Noordwijk, The Netherlands: Space Cost Engineering Conference Feb 11-12
• SpaceIL, Israel Aerospace Industries, Lunar Surface: First spacecraft from Israel planning to soft land on Moon on or around this date after launching on SpaceX Falcon 9 in December 2018; 2-meter diameter, 1.5-meter tall, 600-kg lander with 4 legs contains science experiments including one to measure Moon magnetic field Feb 13
• Singapore Space and Technology Association, Singapore: Global Space and Technology Convention 2019 Feb 14-15
• History: Vanguard 2 Launch First Weather Satellite 1959 Feb 17
• History Mercury Friendship Launch – John Glenn First American to Orbit Earth 1962 Feb 20
• History: STS-133 Final Launch of Shuttle Discovery 2011 Feb 24
• History: STS-109 Launch – Hubble Servicing Mission 2002 Mar 1
• History: Pioneer 10 Launch 1972 Mar 2
• Dynamical Models for Stars and Gas in Galaxies in the GAIA Era, Mar 04-May10, 2019, Santa Barbara, CA
• History: Gemini 8 Launch and First Docking of Spacecraft in Orbit 1966 Mar 16
• History: Robert Goddard’s First Liquid Fuel Rocket Launch 1926 Mar 16
• History: First spacewalk by Soviet Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov 1965 Mar 18
• Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), Mar 18-22, 2019, Houston, TX
• The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Washington DC: Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science Meeting Mar 26-28
• IAA Spring Meetings Mar 26-28, Paris, France
• ESA, Noordwijk, The Netherlands: Workshop on Simulation for European Space Programmes (SESP) Mar 26-28
• History: Commercial Crew SpaceX Demo Mission 2 (Crewed) Apr 1
• History: TIROS 1 Launch World’s First Weather Satellite 1960 Apr 1
• History: STS-6 Launch, First Challenger Mission 1983 Apr 4
• ESA, Noordwijk, The Netherlands: 53rd ESLAB Symposium: Gaia DR2 Apr 8-12
• History: NASA Announces Mercury Seven’s Formation 1959 Apr 9
• History: Apollo 13 Launch 1970 Apr 11
• History: STS-1 Launch – First Space Shuttle Mission 1981 Apr 12
• History: 58th Commemoration of Human Spaceflight / Cosmonautics Day, Worldwide: Celebrating Yuri Gagarin of Russia, the 1st human to orbit Earth on Vostok 1 spacecraft in 1961; the flight lasted 108 minutes at 27,400 kph and 327 km above Earth Apr 12
• History: STS-1 Landing 1981 Apr 14
• Better Stars, Better Planets: Exploiting the Stellar-Exoplanetary Synergy Conference, Santa Barbara, CA Apr 15-Jun 28
• History: Apollo 16 Launch 1972 Apr 16
• History: Hubble Space Telescope, LEO: Spacecraft with 2.4-meter diameter main telescope begins 30th year in space today, launched Apr 24, 1990; expected to continue operations until at least 2022 Apr 24
• People’s Republic of China, Nationwide: National Day of Space Flight 2019; commemorating the launch of China’s first satellite, Dongfanghong-1 on April 24, 1970 Apr 24
• International Astronautical Federation, Centre Royal de Télédétection Spatiale (CRTS), CNES,, Rabat, Morocco: Global Conference on Space for Emerging Countries (GLEC 2019) Apr 24-26
• 6th IAA Planetary Defense Conference, April 29-May 3, Washington DC
• Space Studies Board of the National Academies, Washington DC: Space Studies Board Meeting Apr 20-May 1
• International Space Day 2019, Worldwide: Events and presentations to promote STEM education and inspire people to continue the work of Space explorers; originally began as ‘National Space Day’ in 1997 by Lockheed Martin Corp May 3
• History: Alan Shepard Freedom Launch – First American Suborbital Flight 1961 May 5
• Satellite 2019, May 6-9, 2019, DC
• 12th IAA Symposium on Small Satellites for Earth Observation, Berlin, Germany May 6-10
• The Astronomical League, Global: Spring Astronomy Day 2019; astronomical societies, planetariums, museums, observatories sponsoring public viewing sessions, presentations, workshops May 11
• National Research Council Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: New Horizons in Planetary Systems with ALMA May 13-17
• The New Era of Gravitational Wave Physics and Astrophysics Conference Santa Barbara, CA, May 13-Jul 19
• Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition Regional Oral Rounds, Pretoria, South Africa (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date May 15-16, 2018)
• Apollo 10 50th Observation, Nationwide USA: Fourth crewed Apollo mission and second to orbit Moon, Astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, John W. Young, Eugene A. Cernan to be honored today as plans for International Lunar Orbital Gateway-Platform advance May 18
• Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition European Round, Lisbon, Portugal (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date May 21-24, 2018)
• IAF Global Space Applications Conference (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date May 21-24, 2018) Montevideo, Uruguay
• 7th IAA Conference on Space Technologies: Present and Future, Dnepr, Ukraine May 21-24
• 3rd IAA Private Human Access to Space (PHAS) Symposium, Xi'an, China May 27-29
• International Astronomical Union, Bologna, Italy: IAU Symposium 351: Star Clusters – From the Milky Way to the Early Universe May 27-31
• History: First American Spacewalk (EVA) Edward White Aboard Gemini 4 1965 Jun 3
• 13th IAA Low-Cost Planetary Missions Conference, Toulouse, France Jun 3-5
• National Space Society, Arlington VA: International Space Development Conference 2019 (ISDC19); at Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel Jun 6-9
• History: Mars Rover Spirit Launches 2003 Jun 10
• SAE 2019 Noise and Vibration Conference and Exhibition – Grand Rapids, MI Jun 10-13
• 56th Observation of the 1st Woman in Space, Global: Public events and commemorations occur to celebrate the first female to fly in Space, Valentina Tereshkova of the former Soviet Union; in 1963 she orbited Earth 49 times in Vostok 6 Jun 16
• 36th Observation of the 1st American Woman in Space, Nationwide USA / Global: Celebrating the first American woman to fly in Space, Sally Ride on Space Shuttle Challenger STS-7 mission in 1983 Jun 18
• The IISL at UNISPACE+50 (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Jun 30, 2018)
• Asteroid Day Ltd., Global: Asteroid Day 2019; education, events, films and entertainment hosted by organizations and individuals to increase awareness about asteroids Jun 30
• EUCASS 2019 8th European Conference for Aeronautics and Space Sciences Jul 1-4
• History: Mars Rover Opportunity Launches 2003 Jul 7
• IISL/ECSL Space Law Symposium at UN-COPUOS (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous Date Jul 09, 2018)
• Pluto After New Horizons, July 12-16, 2019, Laurel, MD
• IAA Academy Day in Pasadena, CA Jul 14
• History: New Horizons Flyby of Pluto 2015 Jul 14
• Space Exploration Day, Global: Widely observed as one the greatest achievements in Human History, proposed International Holiday to celebrate the first people walking on the Moon / another celestial body Jul 20
• History: Apollo 11 First Man to Walk on the Moon 1969 Jul 20
• History: Viking 1 Lands on Mars 1976 Jul 20
• Ninth International Conference on Mars, July 22-26, 2019, Pasadena, CA (New Date)
• Space Science Centre (ANGKASA), Institute of Climate Change of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Johor, Malaysia: 6th International Conference on Space Science and Communication: Advancing Space Science for Societal Sustainability Jul 28-30
• Understanding Cosmological Observations Benasque, Spain Jul 28-Aug 9
• 16th Annual Meeting of AOGS, US Embassy, Singapore Jul 28-Aug 2
• Mike A’hearn Symposium on Comet 46P/WIRTANEN, Aug 6-9, 2019, College Park, MD
• University of California -Santa Cruz, Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) at Northwestern University, American Astronomical Society, Reykjavik, Iceland: Extreme Solar Systems IV Conference Aug 19-23
• University of Vienna (Universität Wien), Vienna, Austria: Conference: Stars and their Variability, Observed from Space – Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of BRITE-Constellation Aug 19-23
• History: Viking 1 Spacecraft Launch 1975 Aug 20
• History: Gemini 5 Launch 1965 Aug 21
• Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Case – Suniza v Azasi, Aug 31, 2019, Location TBD
• 2nd IAA Latin American Symposium on Small Satellites (IAA LASSS), Location TBD Sept 3-6
• International Academy of Astronautics, TBD: 2nd IAA Latin American Symposium on Small Satellites (IAA LASSS) Sept 3-6
• The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Irvine CA: Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science Meeting Sept 11-12
• Nuclear Physics in Astrophysics IX, Frankfurt, Germany Sept 15-20
• AIAA, Orlando FL: AIAA SPACE and Astronautics Forum and Exposition (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Sept 17-19, 2018) Location TBD
• U.S. Air Force Association, National Harbor MD: Air, Space & Cyber Conference (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Sept 17-19, 2018)
• United Nations / Austria Symposium on Space for the Sustainable Development Goals: Stronger Partnerships and Strengthened Cooperation for 2030 and Beyond (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Sept 17-19, 2018) Graz, Austria
• Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan: Conference: Revealing Cosmology and Reionization History with the Intergalactic Medium (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Sept 18-21, 2018)
• National Science Foundation, Alexandria VA: Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) Meeting (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Sept 20-21, 2018)
• Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, NYC NY: 7th Annual Space & Science Festival (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Sept 20-23, 2018)
• History: Maven, Mars Orbit: NASA Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft enters 6th year of operations in Mars orbit, reached orbit Sept 2014; continuing to study upper atmosphere Sept 21
• AE Brake Colloquium & Exhibition - 37th Annual Sept 22-25
• IAA Academy Day Adelaide, Australia Sept 24
• European Astrobiology Network Association, Free University Berlin, DLR, et al, Berlin, Germany: 2018 European Astrobiology Conference (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Sept 24-28, 2018)
• History: Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan), Mars Orbit: India ISRO orbiter enters 6th year of operations in Mars orbit; launched Nov 5, 2013
• China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation Limited, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China: 4th International Commercial Space Forum in China (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Sept 26-28, 2018)
• History: Dawn, Ceres Orbit: NASA spacecraft begins 13th year in space today, launched 2007; entered orbit around 4 Vesta Jul 16, 2011, reached Ceres orbit March 6, 2015 Sept 28
• Space Generation Advisory Council, Bremen, Germany: Space Generation Congress: Grow, Learn, Network (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Sept 27-29, 2018)
• Forum on Air and Space Law (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Sept 27-28, 2018)
• History: Astrosat, 650-km Near Equatorial LEO: ISRO first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory begins its 5th year in space today, launched 2015 Sept 28
• Glenn Research Center, NASA, Cleveland OH: NASA’s 61st anniversary at GRC; 200 people enjoy a full-day tour of the research center and meet an Astronaut Sept 29
• International Academy of Astronautics, Bremen, Germany: IAA Academy Day Sept 30
• National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 61st Observation, USA: Nationwide celebrations and educational events occur to observe NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) becoming NASA on this day in 1958 Oct 1
• Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition World Semi-Finals, Bremen, Germany (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 2, 2018)
• Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition World Final, Bremen, Germany (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 4, 2018)
• World Space Week Association, Global: World Space Week 2019; to celebrate international contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition; Oct 4 is 62nd observation of 1st Space mission Sputnik One launched by Soviet Union 1957; Oct 10 is 52nd observation of Outer Space Treaty going into effect 1967 Oct 4-10
• The Astronomical League, Global: Fall Astronomy Day 2019; astronomical societies, planetariums, museums, observatories sponsoring public viewing sessions, presentations, workshops Oct 5
• World Metrological Organization, Indonesia Agency for Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG), Secure World Foundation, Jakarta, Indonesia: 10th Asia/Oceania Meteorological Satellite Users’ Conference (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 6-11, 2018)
• Lunar and Planetary Institute, Yellowstone National Park: The First Billion Years Initiative – Rise of Habitability: Habitability in the Early Solar System Conference Oct 7-11
• ISPCS, New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, Las Cruces NM: International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight 2019: The Tipping Point (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 10-11, 2018)
• Apollo 7 51st Observation, Nationwide USA: First crewed Apollo mission to Space with Astronauts Walter M. Schirra, Donn F. Eisele, and R. Walter Cunningham celebrated today as USA works to implement 2019 Space Policy Directives and Return to Moon Oct 11
• Lunar and Planetary Society, USRA, Lompoc CA: Lompac’s Seniors Club: First Annual Space Symposium; at Dick Dewees Community & Senior Center (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 9-12, 2018)
• Solar System Exploration Research Institute, Flagstaff & Meteor Crater AZ: 6th Field Training and Research Program (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 6-14, 2018)
• Russia Space Research Institute (IKI), Moscow, Russia: 9th International Solar System Symposium (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 8-12, 2018)
• The Astronomical League, Global: Fall Astronomy Day 2019; astronomical societies, planetariums, museums, observatories sponsoring public viewing sessions, presentations, workshops, Oct 13
• Association of Space Explorers, Houston TX: 32nd Planetary Congress of the ASE Oct 14-18
• History: Arianespace, Launch Ariane 5 / BepiColombo, Kourou, French Guiana: BepiColombo mission – European Space Agency / JAXA Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (dubbed Mio ‘waterway or fairway’) launched 1 year ago today; craft expected to reach Mercury polar orbit 2025 to map planet, investigate magnetosphere Oct 18
• History: ExoMars 2016 Orbiter, Mars Orbit: ESA and Roscosmos spacecraft reaches 3 full years at Mars, launched 2016; craft continues collecting data on atmosphere Oct 19
• Hawai’i Island Women’s Leadership Forum, Keauhou HI: 4th Annual Hawaii Island Women’s Leadership Forum; featuring local women scientists, leaders, entrepreneurs Oct 19
• IAA Academy Day, Washington DC, Oct 20
• Chang’e-5T1Service Module, Lunar Orbit: China module collecting data on Lunar surface for future Moon missions reaches 5 full years in Space today, launched 2014 Oct 23
• 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), Washington DC, Oct 21-25
• American Astronomical Society DPS, Knoxville TN: 51st Annual Meeting of the AAS Division For Planetary Sciences (DPS) Oct 21-26
• American Astronautical Society, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Marshall Spaceflight Center, NASA, Huntsville AL: 12th Annual Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium: Galvanizing U.S. Leadership In Space; at Charger Union Theater (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 23-25, 2018)
• History: Mars Odyssey, Mars Orbit: NASA spacecraft begins 18th year in orbit around Mars today, holds record for longest-surviving continually active spacecraft in orbit around a planet other than Earth; launched 2001 Oct 24
• History: STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) A & B, Heliocentric Orbit: NASA craft imaging Sun and solar phenomena begins 13th year in space today, launched 2006 Oct 26
• 2nd IAA Symposium on STEM/STEAM for Space for the Leaders of Tomorrow, MIT, Cambridge, Oct 28-29
• Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), Dubai, United Arab Emirates: 4th Young Professionals in Space Conference (YPS) 2019 Oct 28-31
• RISpace, British Interplanetary Society, Glasgow, United Kingdom: 16th Reinventing Space Conference (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 30-Nov 1, 2018)
• Theoretical Astrophysics Group at Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Daejeon, S Korea: Cosmic Dust and Magnetism (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 30-Nov 2, 2018)
• American Society of Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR), Bethesda MD: 34th ASGSR Annual Meeting (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Oct 31-Nov 3, 2018)
• History: Expedition 1 Arrives to International Space Station 2000 Nov 2
• National Space Society, University of Southern California, Los Angeles CA: NSS Space Settlement Summit (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Nov 2-3, 2018)
• Committee on Space Research, Herzliya, Israel: The 4th COSPAR Symposium: “Small Satellites for Sustainable Science and Development”; to discuss space sciences, education and satellite observations of Earth, atmosphere, Milky Way, intergalactic space, exoplanets, magnetosphere; hosted by Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities Nov 4-8
• Space Studies Board of the National Academies, Irvine CA: Space Studies Board Meeting Nov 6-8
• Venus Exploration Analysis Group, NASA, Laurel MD: 16th Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) meeting; at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Nov 9, 2018)
• STEAMSPACE, Austin TX: Cities in Space Student Competition and Conference 2019; over 500 students present their designs for living on the Moon and Mars; STEAMSPACE is dedicated to opening the space frontier in our lifetime to everyone beyond the boundaries of race, gender, ideological and socioeconomic difference (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Nov 6-8, 2018)
• Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, Ad Astra Kansas Foundation, Wichita State University, Wichita KS: Interstellar Symposium 2019; Nov 10-13 Cosmosphere tour on Nov 14
• Apollo 12 50th Observation, Nationwide USA: Sixth crewed Apollo mission and second to land on the Moon, Astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr., Richard F. Gordon Jr., Alan L. Bean are honored today as plans for international human missions to Moon and Moon Village concept are advancing Nov 14
• 3rd IAA Conference on Space Situational Awareness, (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Nov 13-15, 2018) Orlando, FL
• International Academy of Astronautics, Hsinchu, Taiwan: 4th Private Human Access to Space (PHAS) (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Nov 19-21, 2018)
• 9th IAA-CSA Conference on Space Technology Innovation (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Nov 23-24, 2018) Shanghai, China
• History: Curiosity, Mars Surface: Mars Science Laboratory reaches 8th full year in space today, launched 2011, landed on Mars Aug 5, 2012 (Pacific Daylight Time) Nov 26
• History: InSight, Mars Surface: Potential date for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft to land on Mars surface and study deep interior; scheduled end of operations Nov 2020 Nov 26
• 23rd IAA Humans in Space Symposium (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Nov 27-30, 2018) Shenzhen, China
• SpaceCom 2019, Houston TX: Space Commerce Conference and Exposition (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Nov 27-28, 2018)
• Space Frontier Foundation, Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy, Spire, Luxembourg: 3rd NewSpace Europe (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Nov 27-28, 2018)
• Science of Laws Institute, San Diego Chapter of the International Council on Systems Engineering, San Diego CA: 6th Annual Science of Laws Conference (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Dec 1, 2018)
• United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), JAXA, Vienna, Austria: United Nations Expert Meeting on Human Space Technology: Providing Access to Space (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Dec 4-6, 2018)
• 6th IAA Conference on University Satellite Missions and CubeSat Workshop Roma, Italy (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Dec 4-7, 2018)
• IAA Regional Meeting Roma, Italy (DATE UNKNOWN – Previous date Dec 5, 2018)
• First International Orbital Debris Conference, Dec 9-12, 2019, Houston, TX
• American Geophysical Union, San Francisco CA: 2019 Fall Meeting of AGU; at Moscone Center Dec 9-13
• History: Chang’e-3 Lander and Yutu Rover, Guang Han Gong, Sinus Iridum / Mare Imbrium, 44.12°N 19.51°W, Moon Surface: Spacecraft reach 6 full years on Moon surface, landed 2013 Dec 14
• History: Kepler, Heliocentric Orbit: Exoplanet hunter in K2 mission expected to run out of fuel near this date; launched 2009 Dec 15
• History: Gaia, Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange Point: ESA spacecraft reaches 6 years in orbit today; planned 5-year science collection period to map billions of stars ends May 2019, further mission goals and extension to be decided; launched in 2013 Dec 19
• Apollo 8 51st Observation, Nationwide USA: First spacecraft to leave Earth orbit and carry humans to Moon; Pioneer Astronauts Frank F. Borman II, James A. Lovell Jr., William A. Anders, legendary Earthrise photograph and historic mission are honored today in events and celebrations nationwide Dec 21
• Mars Express, Mars Orbit: ESA spacecraft enters 17th year in Mars orbit today; will continue to study Mars atmosphere & climate, planet structure, mineralogy, geology, and to search for traces of water; launched June 2, 2003 Dec 25
Captain's Blog - September 2018
Master’s Degree or Ph.D. in Asteroid Mining
The first mention of asteroid mining was in the science fiction story by Garrett P. Serviss called Edison's Conquest of Mars published in the New York Evening Journal in 1898. Now, there is a new space mining program at the Colorado School of Mines. The Center for Space Resources will offer the first ever Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in space mining beginning this month. Space mining has long been of interest for the School of Mines. The first mining probes won't blast off into space for another five-eight years, but the School of Mines is hoping to ready students for those jobs ahead of time. The goal of the program is to prepare students for jobs in the space resources industry. They will focus on the exploration, extraction, and use of space resources. With the resources space has to offer, it’s only a matter of time before humans try to extract them.
The Colorado School of Mines’ space resources program could be the first of many like it that would ensure the pioneers of this new industry are well-equipped to meet its challenges. Right now, we really only worry about asteroids if they are heading toward the Earth or threaten spacecraft. Our relationship with asteroids is set to change dramatically in the coming years. Asteroids are laced with valuable raw materials including gold, silver, cobalt, and titanium. A single asteroid that was discovered in 1852 contains an estimated $10,000 quadrillion worth of iron; if we extracted all the materials from the asteroids in the asteroid belt, NASA believes we could give every human on Earth $100 billion.
There are currently three options for mining including bringing raw asteroidal material to Earth for use, processing it on-site to bring back only processed materials, and transporting the asteroid to a safe orbit around the Moon, Earth or to the ISS. Mining operations require special equipment to handle extraction and processing of ore in space. Due to the distance from Earth to an asteroid selected for mining, the round-trip time for communications will be several minutes or more, except during close approaches to Earth by near-Earth asteroids. Technology being developed by Planetary Resources to locate and harvest these asteroids has resulted in the plans for three different types of satellites which include Arkyd Series 100 (the Leo Space telescope) is a less expensive instrument that will be used to find, analyze, and see what resources are available on nearby asteroids, Arkyd Series 200 (the Interceptor) Satellite that would actually land on the asteroid to get a closer analysis of the available resources, and Arkyd Series 300 (Rendezvous Prospector) Satellite developed for research and finding resources deeper in space.
Technology being developed by Deep Space Industries to examine, sample, and harvest asteroids is divided into three families of spacecraft including FireFlies are triplets of nearly identical spacecraft in CubeSat form launched to different asteroids to rendezvous and examine them, DragonFlies also are launched in waves of three nearly identical spacecraft to gather small samples (5–10 kg) and return them to Earth for analysis, Harvestors voyage out to asteroids to gather hundreds of tons of material for return to high Earth orbit for processing.
In February 2016, the Government of Luxembourg announced that it will be creating an industrial sector to mine asteroid resources in space by, among other things, creating a "legal framework" and regulatory incentives for companies involved in the industry. By June 2016, it announced that it would "invest more than $200 million in research, technology demonstration, and in the direct purchase of equity in companies relocating to Luxembourg." In 2017, it became the first European country to pass a law conferring to companies the ownership of any resources they extract from space. Asteroid mining could potentially revolutionize space exploration.
Captain's Blog - September 2018
Comparison of The American Space Free Enterprise Act and The Space Frontier Act
The American Space Free Enterprise Act and the Space Frontier Act take two different approaches towards authorization and continuing supervision, but both bills do so with the goals of streamlining the process to make is less burdensome for applicants to obtain a license. The key difference is the approaches is who the bills designate respectively as the lead agency and their view on the treatment of article VI of the Outer Space Treaty. The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act simplifies and strengthens the space-based remote sensing regulatory system, enhances U.S. compliance with international obligations, improves national security, and removes regulatory barriers facing new and innovative space operators.
The Space Frontier Act primarily focuses on reforms to regulation of commercial launches and remote sensing. It includes language for the streamlining of processes for licensing launches and reentries as well as for licensing remote sensing spacecraft. It also includes language authorizing an extension of the International Space Station to 2030.
The Space Frontier Act of 2018 Highlights:
·To reduce regulatory burdens and streamline processes related to commercial space activities, and for other
·It is the policy of the United States to provide oversight and continuing supervision of nongovernmental space activities in a manner that encourages the fullest commercial use of space,
consistent with section 20102(c) of title 51, United States Code.
·It is the sense of Congress that— (1) increased activity and new applications in space could grow the space economy; (2) it is in the national interest of
the United States— (A) to encourage and promote new and existing nongovernmental space activities; and (B) to provide authorization and continuing supervision of those activities through a process that is efficient, transparent, minimally burdensome, and generally permissive; and (3) to conduct those activities in a manner that fully protects United States national security assets, NASA human spaceflight and exploration systems, NASA and NOAA satellites, and other Federal assets that serve the public interest.
·Section 102 Office of Commercial Space Transportation: The Assistant Secretary for Commercial Space Transportation shall serve as the Associate Administrator for
Commercial Space Transportation. It is the sense of Congress that, in the absence of comprehensive regulatory reform, the Secretary of Transportation should make use of existing authorities, including waivers and safety approvals, as appropriate, to protect the public, make more efficient use of resources, and reduce the regulatory burden for an applicant for a commercial space launch or reentry license or experimental permit.
·Section 107 Regulatory Reform: Congress finds that the commercial space launch regulatory environment has at times impeded the United States commercial space launch sector in its innovation of small-class launch technologies, reusable launch and reentry vehicles, and other areas related to commercial launches and reentries. The objective of this section is to
establish, consistent with the purposes described in section 50901(b) of title 51, United States Code, a regulatory regime for commercial space launch activities under chapter 509 that—
creates, to the extent practicable, requirements applicable both to expendable launch and reentry vehicles and to reusable launch and reentry vehicles;
is neutral with regard to the specific technology utilized in a launch, a reentry, or an associated safety system;
protects the health and safety of the public;
establishes clear, high-level performance requirements;
encourages voluntary, industry technical standards that complement the
high-level performance requirements established under subparagraph (D); and
facilitates and encourages appropriate collaboration between the commercial space launch and reentry sector and the Department of Transportation with respect to the requirements under subparagraph (D)
·§ 60124.Authorization to conduct nongovernmental Earth observation activities: No person may conduct any nongovernmental Earth observation activity without an authorization issued under this subchapter. The Secretary may waive a requirement under this subchapter for a nongovernmental Earth observation activity, or for a type or class of nongovernmental Earth observation activities, if the Secretary decides that granting a waiver is consistent with section 60121. A person seeking an authorization under this subchapter shall submit an application to the Secretary at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary may require for the purposes described in section 60121, including—
a description of the proposed Earth observation activity, including—
a physical and functional description of each space object;
the orbital characteristics of each space object, including altitude,
inclination, orbital period, and estimated operational lifetime; and
a list of the names of all persons that have or will have direct operational or
financial control of the Earth observation activity;
a plan to prevent orbital debris consistent with the 2001 United States Orbital
Debris Mitigation Standard Practices or any subsequent revision thereof; and
a description of the capabilities of each instrument to be used to observe the
Earth in the conduct of the Earth observation activity.
·Section 301 Promoting Fairness and Competitiveness for NASA Partnership Opportunities (1) fair access to available NASA assets and services on a reimbursable, noninterference, equitable, and predictable basis is advantageous in enabling the United States commercial space industry; (2) NASA should continue to promote fairness to all parties and ensure best value to the Federal Government in granting use of NASA assets, services, and capabilities in a manner that contributes to NASA's missions and objectives; and (3) NASA should continue to promote small business awareness and participation through advocacy and collaborative efforts with internal and external partners, stakeholders, and academia.
·Section 303 Sense of Congress on Maintaining a National Laboratory in Space: It is the sense of Congress that—
the United States segment of the ISS (designated a national laboratory under
section 70905 of title 51, United States Code)—
benefits the scientific community and promotes commerce in space;
fosters stronger relationships among NASA and other Federal agencies, the
private sector, and research groups and universities;
advances science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education through
utilization of the unique microgravity environment; and
advances human knowledge and international cooperation;
after the ISS is decommissioned, the United States should maintain a national
laboratory in space;
in maintaining a national laboratory described in paragraph (2), the United
States should make appropriate accommodations for different types of ownership
and operational structures for the ISS and future space stations;
the national laboratory described in paragraph (2) should be maintained beyond
the date that the ISS is decommissioned and, if possible, in cooperation with
international space partners to the extent practicable; and
NASA should continue to support fundamental science research on future
platforms in low-Earth orbit and cis-lunar space.
·Section 304 Continuation of the ISS; Maintaining use through at least 2028.—Section 70907 of title 51, United States Code, is amended by striking “2024” each place it appears and inserting “2030”. Maintenance of the United States segment and assurance of continued operations of the International Space Station.—Section 503(a) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18353(a)) is amended by striking “2024” and inserting “2030”. Section 504(d) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18354(d)) is amended by striking “2024” each place it appears and inserting “2030”.
American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act (115th Congress 2017-2018) Highlights:
·This bill grants the Office of Space Commerce of the Department of Commerce the authority to issue certifications to U.S. nationals and nongovernmental entities (U.S. entities) for the operation of human-made objects launched from Earth and the items carried on them (space objects).
·The office shall require only one certification for a U.S. entity to: conduct multiple operations using a single space object, operate multiple space objects that carry out substantially similar operations, or use multiple space objects to carry out a single space operation.
·The bill sets forth requirements for the approval of applications for the issuance or transfer of a certification. Applications must include a space debris mitigation plan.
·The office shall establish a Private Space Activity Advisory Committee to: analyze the status and recent developments of nongovernmental space activities; analyze the implementation of the certification process; provide recommendations on how the United States can facilitate and promote a robust and innovative private sector that is investing in, developing, and operating space objects; identify any challenges the private sector is experiencing regarding activities in outer space; review existing best practices for U.S. entities to avoid harmful contamination of celestial bodies and adverse changes in Earth's environment resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter; advise on matters relating to private sector space activities; and provide information, advice, and recommendations related to the office's authority.
·The committee shall be terminated 10 years after it is established.
·The bill directs the President to protect the interests of U.S. entities in outer space, including commercial activity, the exploitation of space resources, and ownership rights over space objects and obtained space resources.
·The bill authorizes the office to issue permits for the operation of space-based remote sensing systems.
·Only one permit is required for the operation of a space-based remote sensing system to: conduct multiple operations using such a system, operate multiple such systems that carry out similar operations, or use those systems to carry out a single remote sensing operation.
·A person may apply for a permit to operate a space-based remote sensing system that utilizes a civilian federal government satellite or vehicle as a platform. The office may offer assistance in finding such opportunities. An executive agency may enter into an agreement for such use if the agreement is consistent with the agency's mission and statutory authority.
·The office shall establish an Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing to: advise on matters relating to the commercial space-based remote sensing industry; analyze the implementation of the space-based remote sensing system permitting process; provide recommendations on how the United States can facilitate and promote a robust and innovative private sector that is investing in, developing, and operating such systems; identify any challenges the private sector is experiencing with the authorization and supervision of the operation of such systems; and provide information, advice, and recommendations related to the office's authority or to authorized private sector activities in outer space.
·Such committee shall be terminated 10 years after it is established.
·Any U.S. entity with a valid license for the operation of space-based remote sensing system may: elect to be immediately considered permitted, or apply for a permit and continue to
operate pursuant to such license until a permit is issued.
·No launch or reentry may be prevented under the authority of the Department of Transportation (DOT) on the basis of national security, foreign policy, or international obligations of the United States if the payload has received a certification to operate as a space object.
Captain's Blog - September 2018
Space Events & Launches This Month
September 1: Low in the west-southwestern sky Venus will be situated only a finger's width to the lower left of the bright naked-eye star Spica in Virgo. Visible in binoculars or telescope
September 2: Last Quarter Moon
September 2: Mercury at perihelion
September 2: Aldebaran passes the moon
September 5: Venus at aphelion
September 6: Mercury meets Regulus
September 6 evening: Saturn stationary near two Messier objects
September 7 overnight: Neptune at opposition
September 8 pre-dawn: Morning zodiacal light for Mid-Northern observers
September 9: New Moon
September 9: Piscid Meteor Shower
September 9: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will be launching the Telstar 18 Vantage (Apstar 5C) communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
September 10: Comet 21P will be closest to Earth and will be at its brightest form before dawn. Must use either binoculars or telescope.
September 10: Japan launches its H-2B rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center. Will deliver supplies to the International Space Station
September 11: Moon at perihelion
September 12 evening: Young Moon passes Venus
September 12: NASA to conduct final test of Orion spacecraft’s parachute system at Yuma Proving Ground in AZ.
September 13 evening: Jupiter near the Young Moon
September 14: Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) will arrive at the International Space Station after a 3.5 day flight. NASA TV live coverage starting at 6am EDT
September 15: United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket will launch NASA’s ICE Sat-2 to measure ice sheet elevation and ice sheet thickness changes linked to climate change along with measurements of Earth’s vegetation biomass
September 16: First Quarter Moon
September 16: India to launch Nova SAR-S and SSTL-S1 Earth observation satellites and several secondary payloads from the Satish Dhawan Space Center
September 17 evening: Moon meets Saturn
September 17: Conjunction of the moon and Saturn
September 19: Mars and Moon meet
September 19: Moon at apogee
September 20: Spacewalk – two NASA Astronauts – installation of new batteries in the International Space Station’s P4 Truss 4A power channel.
September 20: Conjunction of the moon and Mars.
September 21 evening: Venus is at its brightest
September 21: Piscid Meteor Shower
September 22/23: Fall Equinox
September 24/25: Full Harvest Moon
September 26:Two NASA astronauts will take the second of two spacewalks in less than one week to install new batteries in the International Space Station's P4 Truss 2A power channel. The spacewalk will last approximately 6.5 hours
September 29 overnight: Aldebaran buzzes the Moon again
September 30: Algol at minimum brightness
Join the Intergalactic Bar Association and get involved in the future of law!
Captain's Blog - August 2018
Is Space Technology Outpacing Space Law?
Within five to seven years, more satellites will be launched into space than in the history satellites. Space policy hasn’t been a high priority on our government’s agenda. Today’s most innovative companies’ plans are being disrupted by antiquated rules and regulations. The United Nations established the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies” in 1967 also known as The Outer Space Treaty. The agreement states that each nation shall be responsible for all and any of the space activities originating from their nation and maintain control over all space objects originating from their country.
The current system in place for launch permits involves getting permission from the FCC which requires all permit applicants to prove that their satellite won’t cause injury or harm when/if it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere. Among the many check boxes, the FCC also requires launch permit applicants to prove that their satellites will be able to be tracked and monitored in space. Because of these requirements, it is very difficult to be able to obtain a permit. Faced with this prospect, ambitious startups will be tempted to push the boundaries to see just how severe the penalties will be for operating without a permit.
An alternative exists: a company can try to export their satellite to another country and try their hand in that country’s permitting process. Because of The Outer Space Treaty, the U.S. will always be required to monitor all satellites from our nation. New Space renegades will continue to explore and push boundaries which may be their only solution. If our government continues to ignore the need for comprehensive space policy, it’s just a matter of time before a major civil, commercial or international dispute occurs in space that could prove legally catastrophic.
Captain's Blog - July 2018
President Trump Wants a Sixth Branch of the United States Armed Forces in Space
“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to have merely an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space.” Those were Donald Trump’s words when he first directed the Department of Defense and Pentagon to establish a United States Space Force (USSF) as the 6th branch of the United States Armed Forces directed by General Joseph Dunford. The USSF is intended to have control over military operations in outer space. It would absorb operations and duties of the Air Force Space Command. In a 2017 National Security Strategy, a document periodically prepared by the executive branch that outlines major national security concerns of the United States, The Pentagon’s top priority was cited as being the protection of space infrastructure. A report was issued in February of 2018 by the United States Intelligence Community that warned of Russia and China’s anti-satellite weapons that could shoot down United States satellites in the next two to three years. Pence stated, “Both countries have tested anti-satellite technology in the past and are now pursuing hypersonic weapons surpassing current missile-defense capabilities.” “Just as advances in aviation technology drove the emergence of air as a new battlefield in the 20th century, advances in space technology have made it clear that space is the new battlefield for the 21st century.”
He also addressed four fundamental steps that the United States Government would take to create the USSF including a new U.S. Space Command to unify leadership and ensure a smooth, military integration, a Space Development Agency to focus on research and advancing space technologies and war-fighting capabilities, new government structures to solidify the branch's future, and "war fighters." President Donald Trump first suggested a Space Force during a speech in March 2018 when he said, "We're doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said, maybe we need a new force. We'll call it the space force.” He directed the DoD and The Pentagon "to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces" which would be "separate but equal" from the United States Air Force. Three months later, he signed the Space Policy Directive-3 (SPD-3) which implements framework for space traffic management. President Trump is the first president to publicly call for a separate military branch for space. A provision in the House version of the 2018 U.S. defense budget requested the creation of the USSF. Leading the efforts are Reps. Mike Rogers (R AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN). Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson stated that a space force, in addition to war fighting responsibilities, should have the roles of space debris cleanup and asteroid defense.
So, what is a space force? A space force is a military branch that conducts space warfare. There is only one country that had a space force. In an announcement on June 18, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed the establishment of the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Two studies are currently being done by Congress to determine the practicability of a space force. The first study will measure the extent that a space force would be necessary and the second study will examine the cost, the nature, and the implementation. What would a space force do? The U.S. military has not provided any specific information but they are working on ways to protect satellites from threats like jamming, blinding sensors by pointing lasers at them, and destruction by kinetic objects, such as missiles or other satellites.
In 1982, the U.S. Air Force established the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) to provide "space capabilities" for spaceflight missions, navigation, satellite communications, missile warning and space control. The AFSPC has units at Air Force bases all over the United States that provide space capabilities including services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of the Department of Defense, NASA and commercial launches of satellites. The early version of the U.S. Air Force existed as the U.S. Army Air Corps which was an aerial warfare sector of the U.S. Army. Congress later decided they needed to have a new branch of the military. Donald Rumsfeld led a Congressionally directed commission on national security space management in 2000. A number of reforms were recommended including a reorganization of the United States Air Force to take on space-related activities of the Department of Defense. A number of factors, including the September 11th attacks, prevented the reforms from implementation. Many current and former Air Force, military, and space professionals are opposed to the measure. Some of the feedback was that the proposal will not address acquisition issues and that it will derail integration between space and other military domains. It could also cause additional unnecessary bureaucracy that could make acquisition and budget problems worse. There are also many supporters of proposal of a space force including NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Air Force Colonel and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former Air Force Colonel and astronaut Terry Virts, former astronaut David Wolf, former astronaut Clayton Anderson, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson who was an early opponent of the Space Corps proposal but is now in full alignment. Vice President Mike Pence in August 2018 announced a plan that would establish the Space Force by 2020.
***Update - On August 13, 2018, President Trump signed into law the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. It includes the re-establishment of the U.S. Space Command by the end of 2018. U.S. Space Command will be led by a four-star general or admiral and will temporarily be a sub-unified combatant command under U.S. Strategic Command, until it can be a full unified combatant command. Pence stated that actions by U.S. adversaries make it clear that space is already a warfighting domain. “For many years, nations from Russia and China to North Korea and Iran have pursued weapons to jam, blind and disable our navigation and communications satellites via electronic attacks from the ground,” Pence said. “But recently, our adversaries have been working to bring new weapons of war into space itself.” “Creating a new branch of the military is not a simple process,” Pence added. “It will require collaboration, diligence and, above all, leadership. As challenges arise and deadlines approach, there must be someone in charge who can execute, hold others accountable, and be responsible for the results.”
Captain's Blog - June 2018
Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law Conference on “The Weaponization of Outer Space: Ethical and Legal Boundaries”
The Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) is a non-partisan institute dedicated to the preservation of the rule of law in 21st century regarding warfare and national security. The only center of its kind housed within a law school, CERL draws from the study of law, philosophy, and ethics to answer the difficult questions that arise in times of war and current transnational conflicts. On Thursday, April 5th, CERL held a public keynote at the University of Pennsylvania Law (Penn Law) Michael Fitts Auditorium on “The Weaponization of Outer Space: Ethical and Legal Boundaries” with Major General David D. Thompson, Air Force Space Command. Claire Finkelstine is the founder and faculty director of CERL and also a professor of law and professor of philosophy at Penn Law Algernon Biddle. She opened the conference speaking about a variety of space related concerns.
The conference revolved around the idea that our 21st century lives are highly dependent on satellites and space-based technologies, and our military depends on these technologies for its operations and communications. The conference addressed topics such as ways in which the military uses outer space, the risk of weaponization of outer space, and issues faced by the U.S. in terms of protecting its assets while seeking to avoid a space conflict. It also addressed the effects of a conflict in outer space. Questions were address such as what can and should the U.S. be doing to protect against attacks on satellites, how does the law of armed conflict apply to outer space, and how would a space conflict affect us all in our daily lives. The conference brought together approximately 40 top-tier experts, including faculty members of Penn Law, specialist practitioners, and global experts from diverse fields including academia, public policy, the aerospace industry, and national security. The conference offered foundational views on the pressing ethical, legal, and policy issues arising out of the potential of armed conflict in that domain. Some other topics included ways in which the U.S. and other leaders in space can protect their space assets in accordance with the Outer Space Treaty, the prohibition on non-peaceful uses of outer space, arms control measures, and the role that commercial actors play in securing space for sustainable civilian and military uses.
The Space Age began with the development of several technologies beginning with Sputnik 1 launched by the Soviet Union in October of 1957. This was the world's first artificial satellite. The launch of Sputnik 1 began a new era of political, scientific and technological achievements that became known as the Space Age. The Space Age was characterized the United States and the Soviet Union making Rapid advances in technology including rocketry, materials science, computers and other areas. In 2011, NASA permanently grounded all U.S. space shuttles and has since relied on Russia to take American astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Restraint has been the dominant approach among space faring nations, all of whom understood that continued access to and use of space required holding back on any threats or activities which might jeopardize peace in space. Recently, there has been a shift in international rhetoric towards more offensive capabilities in space. China, Russia, and the United States have all held various tests in space in recent years, leading to speculation that they all possess anti-satellite weapon capabilities. These tests suggest that there is a move towards weaponization of space. But what about the core principles of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that space shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes?
India, Israel and Japan are now taking a more active stance towards space defense. The U.S. Space Command, U.S. Strategic Command, and the U.S. Air Force Headquarters have been undertaking an assessment to determine how the U.S. Government can gain dominance in the space domain. Their goal is to develop offensive space control and active defensive strategies and capabilities. There is also a distinct lack of transparency about actual capabilities and intentions on the part of all major players in space leading some commentators to describe this as a conceivable return to a Cold War-type arms race, and to the foreseeability of a space-based conflict. United States is at highest risk for the most to lose from a space-based conflict having the most technology in space.So how can the U.S. and its allies protect their space assets from being targeted in a space-based conflict? There is a critical need for clear representations from States as to their position on national and international law applicable to space on the emerging weaponization of space. Cassandra Steer, the acting executive director of CERL at the University of Penn Law, recently told Politico that the U.S. is on the verge of "a cyclical escalation” that some may believe is a “conceivable return to a Cold War–type arms race.
Captain's Blog - May 2018
Book Review: The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos
Author Christian Davenport is a staff writer at the Washington Post covering the space and defense industries. As a frequent radio and television commentator, he has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, PBS NewsHour, and several NPR shows, including All Things Considered and Diane Rehm. The extreme challenge of space travel is the theme of Davenport’s new book, “The
Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos.” (Space Barons) His book documents the emergence of a commercial space industry in the past 15 years, from the first flight of SpaceShipOne to the prospect of Earth orbit as a venue for tourism/recreation.
The United States no longer has a manned space program, and the government has not shown any immediate plans to fund another. A quartet of billionaires has stepped in to fill the void. The Space Barons is the story of a group of billionaire entrepreneurs who are putting their fortunes into the resurrection of the American space program. Comprised of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Paul Allen, Space Barons discusses the billionaires using innovation to lower the cost of space travel, and send humans further than NASA has gone. They have birthed a new Space Age aiming for the moon, Mars and beyond. “If NASA, or Congress, or any president wouldn’t stand up as John F. Kennedy did in 1961 when he promised to send a man to the moon within a decade, then this class of entrepreneurs would attempt it.” Space Barons captures this historic quest to rekindle the human exploration and the colonization of space led by billionaires and their vast fortunes, egos, and visions of space as the next entrepreneurial frontier. These entrepreneurs have founded some of the biggest brands in the world Amazon, Microsoft, Virgin, Tesla, PayPal-and upended industry after industry. Now they are pursuing the biggest disruption of all: space. The book focuses on the billionaire’s biggest projects including SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, with an emphasis on their eccentric leaders. There is a lot of information about Paul Allen, who bankrolled SpaceShipOne, the first private vehicle to reach space. Davenport had access to all four people, as well as some of their inner circles. He dramatically displays his reporting and storytelling skills.
The narrative is drenched in testosterone. Women make up 1 in 3 professional scientists and 1 in 5 professional engineers, but there are few women to be found in the pages of Space Barons. Space entrepreneurs form a small priesthood where obsession squeezes out any semblance of work-life balance. The book also has some interesting stories beyond the billionaires, such as Beal Aerospace, one of the first serious commercial rocket companies. There's a recap of Bezos's quest to recover Apollo 11's F-1 engines from the ocean, and a side trip to a 1920 New York Times editorial scolding Robert Goddard for believing a rocket engine would work in a vacuum. As Bezos pointed out, "My friends who say they want to move to Mars one day, I say: Why don't you go live in Antarctica for a year first because it’s a garden paradise compared to Mars." The book provides few personal details about Bezos or Musk, but that’s partly because men this driven don’t have the time for pleasures of social or family life.
Captain's Blog - April 2018
Orbital Debris Mitigation Practices and Why They Are So Important
One of the top priorities for NASA is regulating the increase of orbital debris in near-Earth space. Orbital debris includes man-made objects orbiting about the Earth with no useful purpose and also naturally occurring primitive materials such as meteoroid particles. Primitive materials are those that are least modified by the processes where the initial solar nebula evolved into our present solar system. As surviving remnants of the nebula, they include chondritic meteorites, cosmic and interplanetary dust particles, and cometary material sampled both in Earth's stratosphere and by the Stardust sample return mission. Some examples of man-made orbital debris include carriers for multiple payloads, debris intentionally released during from a launch vehicle or during mission operations, debris resulting from spacecraft or upper stage explosions or collisions, spacecraft and upper stages of launch vehicles, solid rocket motor effluents, and small paint chips released by thermal stress or particle impacts.
The U.S. Government has put programs and projects into place that will assess and limit the amount of debris that is released in a planned manner by writing into law mitigation standard practices. In all operational orbit regimes, spacecraft must be designed to minimize or eradicate debris released in normal operation. Debris larger than 5mm remaining in orbit for longer than 25 years must be analyzed and vindicated regarding cost effectiveness and mission necessity. Programs are also in place to address accidental explosions and the mitigation of debris limiting the risk to other space systems during mission and after completion of mission, post-mission disposal of space structures, and selection of safe flight profiles and operational configuration.
Mitigation measures include prevention of new debris, analyzing tether systems, designing satellites to withstand impacts by small debris, designing spacecraft or upper stage to limit the probability of collision with known objects during orbital lifetime, implementing operational procedures such as using orbital regimes with less debris, adopting specific spacecraft attitudes, and atmospheric reentry options. NASA was the first space agency in the world to issue a comprehensive set of orbital debris mitigation guidelines taking place in 1995. The U.S. Government shortly after developed a set of Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices. The Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee then adopted a consensus set of guidelines designed to mitigate the growth of the orbital debris in 2002. The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations' Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space adopted a set of space debris mitigation guidelines very similar to the IADC guidelines in 2007. The guidelines were later endorsed by the United Nations in 2008.
Currently, more than 22,000 orbital debris are being tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network traveling between 4 and 5 miles per second. Many ways to eliminate orbital debris are currently being discussed. The e.DeOrbit mission was proposed publicly in 2014 by the European Space Agency. The mission would seek out satellite debris at an altitude between 500 and 620 miles. The European Space Agency is considering several kinds of "capture mechanisms" to pick up the debris, such as nets, harpoons, robotic arms and tentacles. CleanSpace One is a technology demonstration spacecraft that is expected to launch this year from the back of a modified Airbus A300 jumbo jet. The Swiss Space Systems satellite would then meet up with a decommissioned SwissCube nanosatellite to move it out of orbit. This would be a method of pushing the debris out of space.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency proposes to use an electrodynamic tether where current would slow down the speed of satellites or space debris. Slowing the satellite speed would make it gradually fall closer to Earth where it would burn and turn to ash. This would be a method where the power of electricity would be used. Texas A&M University's Sling-Sat Space Sweeper proposes swing capturing an object, swinging it towards Earth's atmosphere, and then using the momentum to sail on to the next piece of space debris for removal. CubeSail, a British proposal, would use the drag of a solar sail to push orbiting space debris down to lower orbits.
Space Debris Elimination, or SpaDE, would push satellites into a lower orbit by using air bursts within the atmosphere. A design proposal from Daniel Gregory of Raytheon BBN Technologies in Virginia would use a balloon or high-altitude plain to send the bursts out. This method is referred to as huffing and puffing. Another method is where a network of nanosatellites, connected with a piece of electrically conducting tape that could be as long as 2 miles, could knock satellites down as it passes through Earth's magnetic field and produces voltage. The solar-powered ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator (proposed by Star Technology and Research, Inc.) would get rid of all large pieces of satellite debris in low-Earth orbit within a dozen years. The Kessler syndrome is a chain reaction of collisions dramtically increasing the amount of debris. This could affect useful polar-orbiting bands, increase the cost of protection for spacecraft missions, and could potentially destroy live satellites. The measurement, mitigation, and potential removal of debris is critical for the future of space.
A current event that you would think had no impact on space debris is having an impact. An unexpected effect of a no-deal Brexit would be the UK potentially getting less warning about space debris plummeting towards Earth. EU space surveillance and tracking (EUSST) program set up in 2014 tracks orbiting debris that could pose a risk to satellites and issues “re-entry warnings”. If the UK leaves the EU without making a deal, it may no longer be part of the program in terms of operation and further development. However, as well as the UK’s tracking capabilities, which form part of the EUSST system, the UK will continue to receive space, surveillance and tracking data from the US.
Captain's Blog - March 2018
Timeline of the Evolution of Space Debris
1960s: Need to better understand space environmental threats to human spaceflight mission. Biggest concern is natural space debris specifically micrometeoroids.
1970s: Explosions begin creating more human-generated space debris. Kessler & Cour-Palais warn human-generated space debris may eventually become bigger threat than natural space debris.
1980s: More explosions, Space Station Freedom, and military ASAT testing create high-level awareness of space debris. Need to minimize creation of space debris from human activities in Space. Ronald Reagan - Minimize creation of space debris in tests, experiments, and systems. George HW Bush - Encourage other countries to adopt space debris minimization policies.
1990s: Need guidelines to minimize the creation of space debris through on-orbit activities. Adoption of national & international mitigation guidelines can slow growth. Bill Clinton – Develop design guidelines for space debris minimization, and take a leadership role in promoting international adoption.
2000s: Chinese ASAT test and Iridium-Cosmos collision undo progress from mitigation guidelines. Need to develop collision warning & avoidance measures. George W Bush - Follow national orbital debris mitigation standards, and incorporate into licensing of commercial satellites.
2010s: Post-mission disposal not enough, needs to be combined with remediation. Barack Obama - Preserve the space environment, foster development of space collision warning measures, and research debris removal technology.
Captain's Blog - February 2018
Falcon Heavy Leads the Way to Planetary Exploration
One of the greatest visionaries in the galaxy is set to launch the one of the most powerful and operational rockets ever assembled into space this week. Elon Musk, who's imagination is as deep as a black hole, is not only the founder of privately owned SpaceX, but may be the person who paves the way for mass human migration beyond Earth's atmosphere. The launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy on Febuary 6th will showcase the ability to lift the equivalent of a 737 jetliner filled with passengers, luggage, and fuel, packing nearly 23,000 kilonewtons of thrust from its 27 Merlin engines. The goal of the test launch is to prove that the Falcon Heavy can be the blueprint for a reusable space vehicle that would allow us to send a large payload into a hyperbolic deep space orbit and eventually migrate to other planets in the future. This is known as the Hohmann transfer. With a successful launch SpaceX would be taking a taking a major leap towards its goal of bringing a human colony to the surface of Mars.
The attempt alone is impressive on paper. The rocket stands 230 feet in height, will generate over five million pounds of thrust at liftoff, and there's a possibility that six surrounding counties in central Florida may hear one or more sonic booms during the landing attempts. (Brevard, Indian River, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia). Musk has also estimated that SpaceX has invested about 500 million dollars to develop the new rocket. If the launch is successful, SpaceX will be known in creating easily the biggest and most advanced rocket in the world. While this is a test flight, a successful launch will surely catapult SpaceX advances in which Musk states “I think we'd be ready to put satellites on the next mission.” The mission Musk is referring to could take place within the next three to six months and continue SpaceX's momentum to Mars.
Due to cautionary protocol, the Falcon Heavy will only be carrying a dummy payload on its first flight. And while the long term goal is to migrate past the moon, Musk has said to consider this test a win as long as the rocket doesn't explode into a billion pieces. Musk has stated that they will not be sending tourists around the moon in 2018 on the Falcon Heavy. Instead, SpaceX will be using the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket). This should be the very next rocket launched after the Falcon Heavy this week and is designed to launch hundreds of people into space at one time. Contingent upon BFR's scheduled completion, Musk has stated SpaceX will send people, including two tourists into space on this rocket. If the rocket is not completed on schedule than SpaceX will revert to the idea of sending people into space using the Falcon Heavy. Either way, the time seems to be right around the corner for space travel to be feasible among some of Earth's general population.
The Falcon Heavy will begin its maiden voyage at launch pad 39A in Cape Canaveral with an estimated 100,000 spectators visiting to witness the event. This is the same historic site where NASA's Apollo moon missions launched. It seems to be a stage set for stardom, and with Musk's red Tesla Roadster on board, along with David Bowie's classic “Space Oddity” playing on loop within the vehicle, this could one small launch for man followed by one giant launch for mankind.
The colonization to Mars is no longer a question of if, but a question of when. When will the rockets provide enough data to instill trust in the average citizen? When will living be sustainable on Mars? When will we know proper space protocol when we do colonize? With a successful launch of the Falcon Heavy, many of these questions will be answered sooner rather than later. One thing is for certain, before a cosmic colony can be built, the regulations and laws to govern it must be written by lawyers educated in space law. There will be many, many legal issues arising
out of this orbit and knowledge of space law will be vital for lawyers to stand as a benchmark for the future. Without space lawyers, our dreams of living beyond our planet may come to a standstill; we need you now for a mission critical practice, the practice of outer space law. Our mission at the Intergalactic Bar Association
is to enable the fulfillment of that great dream of humanity to travel to the stars by preparing the next generation of lawyers to be some of the Greatest Lawyers in the Galaxy.
***Update – The Falcon Heavy was a successful launch.
Captain's Blog - January 2018
The Militarization of Space
Regular readers may recognize a recurring theme of the
Captain's Blog in examining the ways that nations have abandoned and continue
to depart from the spirit, if not the letter, of the foundational Outer Space
Treaty of 1967. While other
international treaties, notably the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 prohibiting
nuclear tests and explosions in outer space, may provide some governance or
guidance, the Outer Space Treaty is the principal international law that
requires the peaceful use of space by nation states. The Outer Space Treaty of
1967 requires that the use of outer space be "for the benefit and in
the interests of all countries" and "in the interest of maintaining
international peace and security and promoting international co-operation and
understanding," and it additionally broadly prohibits the weaponization of
outer space. Article IV of the Outer
Space Treaty states:
States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station weapons in outer space in any other manner.
The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the Moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited.
While there could be some academic value to splitting hairs in defining space weapons and the weaponization of space, such pursuits seem to be driven towards weakening the interpretation of the text of the Outer Space Treaty. The simple fact is that the Outer Space Treaty, both by its letter but more importantly by its spirit, requires the peaceful use of space. Now that the reality of the pragmatic use of space approaches, nations are discarding their peaceful aspirations for what they would no doubt argue is a more realistic approach to the weaponization of space. The
author seeks not to judge whether this particular development is positive or negative, but to encourage the reader to consider the implications both to international law - treaties - and to space law.
The United States military has become particularly vocal about its intentions to turn outer space into a battlefield. A draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2018 classified outer space as a "combat domain," which is commonly known as a battlefield. The NDAA became law - Public Law No. 115-91 - on December 12, 2017, without a section that had been in an earlier version of the 2018 NDAA that caught the attention of news agencies and apparently stated:
It is the policy of the United States to develop, produce, field, and maintain an integrated system of assets in response to the increasingly contested nature of the space operating domain to [among other things] deter or deny an attack on capabilities at every level of orbit in space, [as well as to] defend the territory of the United States, its allies, and its deployed forces across all operating domains.
The 2018 NDAA, as passed, instead required the Department of Defense to develop a plan to establish a separate military department responsible for the national security space activities of the DoD within 45 days, including recommendations for legislative language. We can thus expect to see a detailed legislative mandate for the militarization of space later this year. As the Secretary of the US Air Force, Heather A. Wilson recently said, "We are moving forward with modernization in space, so we’re increasing our lethality in all of our areas of endeavor. And we are shifting to space as a warfighting domain.”
Regardless of one's personal stance on the militarization of space, it should be clear that it is an inevitable future unless something radical changes. There are opportunities for space lawyers in setting the parameters of international law and future treaties, in negotiating contracts for the various components of moving materiel into outer space, and in pursuing the inevitable claims arising from the militarization of space, among many other opportunities. The future possibilities are endless for space lawyers. Join the Intergalactic Bar Association and prepare yourself for the future of law.
Captain's Blog - December 2017
Asgardia: Will you be a citizen?
While many of us were contemplating our upcoming holiday menus, a relatively-new "space nation" called Asgardia was launching its first satellite, the eponymous Asgardia-1, from a Nasa facility in Virginia. While this may at first appear trivial or gimmicky, an astute observer will note the significance of this development. Consider that we may well be witnessing the creation of an entirely new type of legal entity, a "space nation." In light of the apparent demand for "citizenship" in Asgardia and the favorable media coverage it has received, we should expect to see a growing number of so-called "space nations," each with its own unique offering of citizenship benefits.
Founded in October 2016, Asgardia the space nation is a concept created and driven by 53-year-old Russian rocket scientist and billionaire Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli. Dr. Ashurbeyli founded Asgardia in October 2016 with the stated mission of ensuring "peace in space," and has completely self-funded the venture. With favorable press coverage Asgardia achieved its goal of 100,000 "citizens" and has launched its first satellite - a micro satellite called a nanosat that is about the size of two-liter soda bottle - on a Nasa commercial cargo vehicle named OA-8 Antares-Cygnus. On the satellite is a 512-GB hard drive containing the personal data - typically a name and a photograph - for 18,000 of Asgardia's citizens. The data was submitted by the citizens themselves for inclusion in this special "first," which is emotionally sentimental for some. The satellite also carries Asgardia's constitution, flag, and coat of arms. Asgardia-1 was launched from Earth on November 12, and rendezvoused with the International Space Station on November 15, 2017.
In early December, Asgardia-1 will then be released into low earth orbit to begin its (short) life orbiting the Earth. Because it does not have its own propulsion system, Asgardia-1 is only expected to be able to maintain its orbit for five to 18 months. After Asgardia-1 loses sufficient velocity to begin re-entry, it will quickly lose speed and burn up in Earth's upper atmosphere. Because of the size and material composition of Asgardia-1, there is no chance that any part of it could survive re-entry. Asgardia, of course, intends to launch a series of additional micro satellites in the near future.
According to Asgardia's website, citizenship is open to most persons on the planet who are willing to accept and abide by Asgardia's constitution. The only criteria are that the person must be over 18 years of age and must have an email address. Earthly nationality, gender, religious beliefs, race, and financial standing play no role in determining citizenship applications.
The significance of the development of a new legal framework - the space nation - should not be missed in the marketing and media frenzy. Asgardia is preparing to hold its first elections. It also has plans to apply to the United Nations for recognition as a sovereign space nation. Those who wish to be deeply involved in developing the future law of space nations are likely to find Asgardia their best opportunity. It is certain that the detailed and well-thought-out legislative framework being developed by Dr. Ashurbeyli and his Asgardians will have a lasting impact on the law of space nations.
If the reader has any doubt about the broad scope of Dr. Ashurbeyli's vision for Asgardia and the law of space nations, his statements on Asgardia's website eliminate that doubt. Through Asgardia, he plans is to "create a new judicial reality in space":
Today, many of the problems relating to space law are unresolved and may never be solved in the complex and contradictory dark woods of modern international law. Geopolitical squabbles have a great influence, and are often rooted in the old military history and unresolvable conflicts of countries on Earth. It is time to create a new judicial reality in space.
It is of crucial importance that space law does not become the law of the jungle. Today, only 20 countries on Earth out of about 200 have a space presence, and have, for example, plans to mine in space and lay claim to exclusivity and monopoly. New space law has to equally protect the interests of every human being on Earth.
Asgardia's legal envelope includes the creation of a new legal platform for the exploration of near-Earth and deep space. ‘Universal space law’ and ‘astropolitics’ have to replace international space law and geopolitics.
As many terrestrial lawyers continue gazing downward into their law books, space lawyers are looking up into the skies and imagining a new way forward. While cynics and detractors may mock from the sidelines, space lawyers will create a new legal reality for tomorrow. As Ram Jakhu, the director of McGill University's Institute of Air and Space Law, says, "Everything that's amazing starts with a crazy idea. After a while, science fiction becomes science fact, and this is an idea which is just being initiated." It is an exciting future full of potential for tenacious space lawyers. Join the Intergalactic Bar Association and prepare to make your mark.
Captain's Blog - November 2017
Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates to Cooperate in Space Exploration
At a meeting on October 10, 2017, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dr. Ahmad Belhoul al Falasi, UAE's Minister of State for Higher Education and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, met with Luxembourg's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, Etienne Schneider, to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) initiating bilateral cooperation between the two nations on space activities, with particular focus on exploitation of space resources.
The working alliance is indicative of the Grand Duchy's continued push to lead the European Continent in pursuing space exploration and the privatization of space resources, and of UAE's recent massive investments in technologies useful to such endeavors. While billed as being the pursuit of "peaceful activities," given the financial stakes, one should probably instead recognize that Europe and UAE must be motivated by an anticipation of economic profit and technological superiority from space exploration.
It is not frequently reported in the American press, but UAE has been making large investments to transition from a petroleum-based economy to a knowledge-based economy similar to Singapore. These investments have made the technology and military technology sectors of the economies of UAE and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members among the very best in the world at this time. Council members work closely together, and Saudi Arabia recently announced plans to build a fascinating knowledge-based city called NEOM that is planned to be 33 times larger than New York City, and which Mohammed bin Salman envisions as a place "not for conventional people or conventional companies, ... [but] for the dreamers for the world."
The MoU between UAE and Luxembourg is a five-year agreement to cooperate and anticipates the sharing of resources and the exchange of information and expertise in space science and technology, human capital development, and space policy, law and regulation. The MoU emphasizes that it is a natural extension of the collaborative and consensus-building efforts that the countries consider a guiding principle of their efforts.
At the signing, Minister Schneider gave the following remarks on Luxembourg's behalf:
Luxembourg is promoting actively the peaceful exploration and the sustainable utilization of space resources for the benefit of humankind. In line with those goals, the Grand Duchy encourages discussions on space resources exploration and utilization in all relevant international fora. By signing this MoU with the UAE Space Agency, we continue to endorse cooperation at bilateral and multilateral levels in order to progress together with other nations on a future governance scheme and a global regulatory framework for space resources utilization.
Dr. Ahmad bin Abdulla Humaid Belhoul al Falasi, had this to say on UAE's behalf:
Our collaboration with Luxembourg is aligned with the strategic visions of both the Space Agency and the UAE. This includes working towards closer international cooperation, establishing mutually beneficial international partnerships and exchanging scientific knowledge with the rest of the world. The UAE Space Agency recognizes the importance of international collaboration in the field of peaceful exploration of outer space, as this field is considered to be part of humankind's common heritage. It is extremely important in our view for all competent entities in this field to work together towards the common goal of enhancing the welfare of humanity.
Savvy readers will expect more news from the Luxembourg and the GCC in the near future about their planned cooperation and initiatives, both with each other and with US-based companies pursuing the privatization of space resources.
Captain's Blog - October 2017
European Space Industry to Use Strap-on Rockets to Remain Price Competitive
France's space launch industry received a needed endorsement on September 14, 2017, when the European Space Agency (ESA) became the first customer to contract with Arianespace SAS for launch services using its next generation Ariane 6 rocket. ESA contracted for two Ariane 6 rocket launches, with each to carry two European Union (EU) Galileo satellites.
The missions are both contracted to use the Ariane 62 launcher, a lighter version of the standard Ariane 6 rocket equipped with two strap-on solid-fuel side-boosters. They are scheduled to launch from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana in late-2020 and mid-2021. To date, ESA has invested more than two billion Euros (€) to improve and develop the ground facilities at Guiana Space Centre. ESA owns the special infrastructure built for the Ariane, Soyuz and Vega launchers at "Europe’s Spaceport," including launcher and satellite preparation buildings, launch operation facilities and a plant for making solid propellant and integrating solid rocket motors.
ArianeGroup, formerly Airbus Safran Launchers, is building the Ariane 6 rocket with oversight by ESA and it should be noted that the first-ever demonstration flight of the Ariane 6 is currently scheduled for July 16, 2020.If the project is delayed for any amount of time, the launch will probably take place using an older proven launch technology.In fact, the ESA's launch contract provides that the Russian Soyuz launcher can be used instead of the Ariane 6 in case of a significant project delay, but that the decision is to be made by the end of 2018.
Arianespace has launched 14 of the 18 Galileo satellites currently in orbit using Soyuz rockets, with an Ariane 5 ES launching the most recent four Galileo satellites on a single mission in November 2016. Two more Ariane 5 ES missions are planned on December 12, 2017 and in the summer of 2018. If the Ariane 6 will not be ready in time for the new ESA contract launches, the Soyuz is the preferred back-up technology due to its proven use carrying Galileo satellites into orbit two-at-a-time.
Arianespace has carried out nine launches from the Guiana Space Center to date in 2017 (five by Ariane 5, two by Soyuz and two by Vega). Since the beginning of the year, Arianespace has launched 15 payloads – including 12 into geostationary transfer orbit – totaling 55,440 kg. Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket is expected to remain viable through at least 2021, particularly for heavy payloads, and Arianespace continues to receive launch contracts from its customers for the Arian 5. The Arian 5 rocket set its launch payload record of 9,969 kg in June 2017.
The Ariane 6 rocket represents the ESA's best effort to develop rocket technologies to compete with the great advancements currently being achieved by US private companies, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. Stéphane Israël, the 46-year old Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace is the driving force behind the company's continued success in launching satellites. Headquartered in Evry, France, Arianespace has successfully launched more than 550 satellites into orbit since its founding in 1980.
Speaking of the latest ESA contract to use Arianespace's new launcher, Mr. Israël said
Arianespace is especially proud to have won this first launch contract for the Ariane 6 from its loyal customers and partners, the European Commission (DG Growth) and ESA. We are very pleased to have earned this expression of trust from the European Commission; by choosing to continue the deployment of the Galileo constellation with two Ariane 62 launches, they become the first confirmed customer for our next-generation heavy launcher, which is slated to make its initial flight in the summer of 2020. Through this decision, which adds two additional launches to follow the already-scheduled Ariane 5 ES flights, the European Commission and ESA are clearly indicating a key commitment to Arianespace’s next generation of launchers, which reaffirms more than ever its mission to ensure Europe’s autonomous access to space.
Under development, Ariane 6 is Europe’s newest launcher, designed to extend guaranteed access to space for Europe at a competitive price. ESA’s Director of Space Transportation Daniel Neuenschwander remarked “This contract is a key step in the upcoming ramp-up phase of Ariane 6.” The next generation launcher is planned to operate in two configurations, depending on customer needs. The Ariane 62 will be fitted with two strap-on boosters and the Ariane 64 will have four strap-on boosters. ESA’s Director of Space Transportation Daniel Neuenschwander remarked “This contract is a key step in the upcoming ramp-up phase of Ariane 6.”
Galileo is Europe’s own GPS system under "civilian control" and is intended to eventually consist of more than 26 Galileo satellites. The European Union owns Galileo, which will be interoperable with GPS and Glonass, the US and Russian global satellite navigation systems. Galileo is the first joint infrastructure financed by the European Union. The system incorporates innovative technologies developed in Europe "for the greater benefit of citizens worldwide." Each Galileo satellite weighs about 750-kilograms and is intended to operate in a 23,000-kilometer medium-Earth orbit. To-date they have either been launched in pairs by a Soyuz launcher or in fours by an Ariane 5 launcher.
The launch contract with Arianespace was signed by ESA’s Director of the Galileo Programme and Navigation-related Activities, Paul Verhoef and by Arianespace’s CEO, Stéphane Israël. ESA signed the contract on behalf of the EU represented by the European Commission. The Commission and ESA have a delegation agreement by which ESA acts as design and procurement agent on behalf of the Commission.
Captain's Blog - September 2017
President Trump Nominates Jim Bridenstine to Lead Nasa
Today, President Donald J. Trump nominated Oklahoma Republican Congressman James "Jim" Bridenstine to serve as the next administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the $18 billion-dollar US agency leading the federal government's space exploration efforts. Bridenstine gained recognition during his three terms in Congress for pursuing legislation to enable the commercialization of space-based resources and other issues relating to the exploration and exploitation of the vast resources of outer space.
Representative Jim Bridenstine was the author and sponsor of the American Space Renaissance Act, H.R.4945 - 114th Congress (2015-2016), which is a comprehensive bill intended to broadly change US space policy to reflect new realities and national security priorities. The bill stalled in committee, but it is worth reading key sections. Even though the authorship was necessarily the result of the work of many subject matter experts, and not penned directly by Rep. Bridenstine, it likely is an accurate roadmap to his thinking on key issues.
The Act addresses NASA's troubles squarely, stating that it is the sense of Congress that the "lack of consistency in leadership along with budget uncertainty in out-years makes it extremely difficult for NASA to have a clear purpose or mission." In that spirit, the bill sought to reorganize NASA, change and clarify its mission, privatize as many of its functions as possible, and standardize its processes.In other words, reorganize and downsize NASA itself, and allow private industry to proceed with the broader mission.
It would appear that Rep. Bridenstine is convinced that the bureaucratic inefficiencies of NASA are strangling its potential.If NASA's devolving progress in pursuing space travel is any indication, Bridenstine may well be correct. This is particularly obvious when one considers the recent progress of private industry leaders like SpaceX and Blue Origin.
The nomination should be viewed in light of the recent announcement by President Trump's administration of the formation of a National Space Council led by Vice President Pence and Executive Director Scott Pace, and populated with selected representatives from the government agencies who will serve on Council.The Council originated under the first President Bush, but has been defunct since 1993.The Council is expected to meet promptly; sources say within the first two weeks of September.
The National Space Council led by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Executive Director Scott Pace will focus on defense and economic policy rather than science and exploration, Autry said at the Space Technology and Investment Forum here.
Many believe that Bridenstine will favor a return to the Moon before we try to send humans to Mars, as President Obama pressed.Since the Moon is a logical candidate for a base of operations from which to launch exploratory missions to Mars, as well as a more achievable goal, it makes sense to return to the Moon before we attempt a mission to Mars.
Before running for Congress, Jim Bridenstine served as the executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium. During that time, the White House described his activities as flying "counter-drug missions in Central and South America in the Navy Reserve." Prior to that, Bridenstine was on active duty with the Navy and flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is currently serving in the 137th Special Operations Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard. Rep. Bridenstine graduated from Rice University with a triple major in business, economics, and psychology, and from Cornell University with an M.B.A.
Congressman Bridenstine's nomination was almost immediately criticized by Florida's two Senators, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, as an attempt to politicize NASA. The true core of their criticism would appear to be the possible political fallout they might expect from supporting Rep. Bridenstine's nomination given his repeated comments questioning the reality of global warming. The nomination is being portrayed in some contexts as an attempt to put politics over science. This interpretation assumes the worst of all parties involved.
Instead, the nomination appears in line with President Trump's efforts to move towards a more laissez-faire governing regime in many areas, and away from bureaucrats controlling an all-encompassing regulatory state. President Trump has demonstrated repeated successes in his business career and appears to be applying a CEO mindset of exiting inefficient and unprofitable endeavors. Frankly, the enormous capital and human risk and technical uncertainty involved in attempting space exploitation means that private investors will be unlikely to be able to calculate and accept the risk unless the governing legal regime operates with a high degree of certainty and is focused on enforcing private property rights with minimal regulation.
Jim Bridenstine will need to be confirmed by the US Senate, and hearings should be expected before the end of the year.
Captain's Blog - August 2017
Luxembourg Allows Commercialization of Space for Profit
As astute readers would expect, Luxembourg has become the first European state to follow America's lead and codify a legal framework to bypass the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Moon Treaty of 1979 and allow the commercialization of the resources in outer space. On July 13, 2017, Luxembourg's Parliament adopted the Draft Law on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources. With it, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg says it "aims to be at the forefront of the next stage of [space industry] development." Space is becoming big business.
Until just a couple of years ago, space law was fairly simplified. It was governed by the aforementioned treaties and could be summarized as disallowing ownership of space resources and the non-peaceful use of outer space. In November 2015, the US enacted the monumental Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, allowing American companies for the first time the legal authority to claim private ownership of space resources. For several years now, American-based companies have been working hard to research, develop, plan, test, and re-test technologies allowing the extraction and use of the rich resources available in outer space.
While the Grand Duchy and the US claim the commercialization of space is consistent with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, it is plainly not. Private ownership claims are only enforceable by nation-states. The spirit of the Outer Space Treaty was that space was a "commons" for all of humankind. The treaty established the framework that no nation, and by logical extension no citizens or legal entities of that nation, could take ownership of the resources of outer space. For a useful analogy, the reader may wish to consider the regime of intellectual property rights and treaties that govern international enforcement, or non-enforcement. Simply put, all legal claims of the magnitude of space resources will require enforcement by a nation state.
The purpose here is not to criticize the changes in the legal framework governing space. In fact, the changes were necessary in order to incentivize further private investment in the research and development of the technologies to effectively exploit the vast resources available to all humankind in outer space. Instead, the goal is to draw the reader's attention to the radical changes of law taking place right before the reader's eyes, and the rapidly developing legal framework for the private exploitation of space resources
Asteroids orbiting our Sun are believed to contain vast resources, dwarfing what we can find or extract here on Earth. As we have reported, companies such as Deep Space Industries are spending billions of dollars to pursue asteroid mining, recognizing that "C-group and related classes of asteroids contain high abundances of water and important elements — including organic carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, and phosphorus — as well as ferrous metals. "The companies intend to rely heavily on robots and artificial intelligence to target, capture, and process Near Earth Asteroids within the next decade.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg's Draft Law on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources will take effect on August 1, 2017, and represents the primary European effort to allow European firms to compete with American businesses with confidence in their rights to resources extracted in space.
Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have estimated that the riches of certain asteroids may be hard to fathom. For instance, a single platinum rich asteroid that is half-a-kilometer wide would be estimated to contain nearly 175 times the annual global platinum output, which exceeds by half the total estimated resources of Platinum group metals on Earth. At current Platinum prices, the value of the extraction could come close to one trillion dollars. Pairing that knowledge with a CalTech study that estimated the cost of such a project in the range of several billion dollars, the margins involved in space mining become apparent. Though the cap-ex estimate is likely to be proven optimistic, if history is any guide, the anticipated margins of space mining will still dwarf those of Earth-based mining.
Space is becoming big business.In the next decade, the reader should expect to see actual attempts at capturing and exploiting small near-Earth asteroids. There will be many, many legal issues arising from these operations, and it is important for lawyers who want a thriving practice to be prepared for the space economy. Our goal at the Intergalactic Bar Association is to help you do just that.
Captain's Blog - July 2017
NASA Partners for Spacecraft Development with NextSTEP
NASA Partners for Spacecraft Development with NextSTEP
If you are like most Americans, at some point in your life you may have dreamed of space travel. The allure of traversing the heavens or planting a flag on the moon in an astronaut suit have danced in the visions of many children although only a chosen few have realized a trip to space. Today, there are companies that are working towards the goal of making space travel accessible to anyone who can afford a ticket. And a few companies are thinking in even broader terms… by developing vehicles that can travel from bases to planets or even housing of sorts, making life in outer space a very real possibility.
Last year, NASA started working with six companies to develop space vehicles as part of its NextSTEP program. NextSTEP, or Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, is NASA’s foray into a marriage between public and private partners to foster “commercial development of deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human spaceflight missions in the Proving Ground around and beyond cislunar space – the space near Earth that extends just beyond the moon.” (1) Or, in other words, NextSTEP wants to further NASA’s human space exploration goals while adding a commercial factor, one that would expand our knowledge, capabilities and opportunities in space. Incredibly exciting in theory and in scope, it is of little surprise that renowned companies such as Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada and Boeing would jump at the chance to get in on the action.
So what would developing suitable habitats for future space travelers look like? Well, to find out what it takes to create a place where humans could theoretically live outside of their own planet, the companies working with the NextSTEP program are building and experimenting with prototypes here on Earth. While Boeing is testing a design based on its’ modular habitat system, Lockheed Martin is transforming one of its multi-purpose modules into a habitat complete with Environmental Controls and a Life Support System. Not entirely new to space travel, these multi-purpose modules are currently used to carry supplies to the International Space Station.
Still other companies have taken different directions. Orbital ATK is working on a spacecraft designed to stay between earth and the moon. Sierra Nevada’s prototype will combine its Dream Chaser vehicle, a commercial space shuttle, with an inflatable component and propulsion system. Yet another company, Bigelow Aerospace, is building their prototype based on an add-on to the International Space Station, also currently in development.
Which one of these ideas will create the perfect environment to host and house humans in outer space remains to be seen. One day, one or more of these may serve as a stopover for astronauts headed to Mars, serve as a docking station for other space vehicles or house critical research facilities for human space exploration. What was once thought of as unrealistic could be a reality as early as the 2020’s. Whatever shape the prototypes take will certainly usher in an exciting time for space travel, and perhaps a renewed passion for children’s cosmic dreams of ascending into space.
Captain's Blog - June 2017
The Rescue Agreement: What Happens if Things go Wrong in Space
Astronauts… the lure of becoming an astronaut has long been the dream of many a child, boy and girl, with visions of space dancing in their heads. For the few who do follow that path, only 339 have been chosen for the intensive training program through the years, and achieve the dream of becoming an astronaut, the reality of a trip to space must be absolutely amazing! But what happens if an astronaut in space becomes in need of rescue? We have a treaty for that! And it covers more than just the rescue of our astronauts, although we think that’s a pretty important part.
The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space, or the Rescue Agreement for short, was created in 1967 and became official in December of 1968 to elaborate on rescue provisions that were set forth in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The Rescue Agreement basically states that any state that becomes aware that the personnel of a spacecraft is in distress must notify the launching authority and the Secretary General of the United Nations. In addition, any state that is party to the agreement must provide assistance or rescue to spacecraft personnel that has landed in their territory regardless of whether it is because of accident, distress, emergency or unintended landing. If the distress occurs in areas beyond the territory of a nation, then any state party that can, is required to extend assistance and the search and rescue mission. (1)
An interesting caveat to the Rescue Agreement is that is does not define the term “astronaut”, leaving some question as to who is actually covered. With the proposition of space travel and tourism being talked about more and more, for example, would someone on board a Virgin Galactic (a spaceflight company developing commercial spacecrafts) flight be included in the agreement? We sure hope so!
Although when the treaty came into existence, the prospect of rescuing space travelers was unlikely, that too has become more realistic. For example, both the Russian Space Station Mir and the International Space Station have maintained docked spacecraft to be used in an in-orbit emergency or to assist in a rescue. (2)
The final part of the Rescue Agreement tackles the issue of found space objects and their return. Should any space objects land, either in whole or in part, somewhere on earth, the obligation to notify the launching authority (the state who sent the object into outer space) and the Secretary General of the United Nations applies. While the goal is to return the item to the original launching authority, provisions can be made for anything that might present danger or if the object is hazardous. The Agreement goes on to mandate that the original launching authority is responsible for the cost associated with the recovery and return of the item, a detail that is conspicuously missing from the articles regarding rescue and return of our astronauts.
With new tests and exploration efforts continuing around the globe, keeping track of these space objects is imperative. In an effort to identify and maintain which States bear responsibility and liability for space objects, the United Nations has maintained a Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space since 1962. The information, which is also maintained by the UN Secretary General, is available to the public through United Nation documentation that can be found on the United Nations website (3). And the States do a great job of tracking this information. To date, more than 92% of objects launched into Earth’s orbit or beyond have been registered!
(4) Virgin Galactic link: http://www.virgingalactic.com/
Social Media Posts
- What happens if an astronaut in space becomes in need of rescue? We have a treaty for that! And it covers more than just the rescue of our astronauts!
- The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space, or the Rescue Agreement for short, was created in 1967and became official in December of 1968 to elaborate on rescue provisions that were set forth in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
- The Rescue Agreement basically states that any state that becomes aware that the personnel of a spacecraft is in distress must notify the launching authority and the Secretary General of the United Nations.
- Any state that is party to the Rescue Agreement must provide assistance or rescue to spacecraft personnel that has landed in their territory regardless of whether it is because of accident, distress, emergency or unintended landing.
- An interesting caveat to the Rescue Agreement is that is does not define the term “astronaut”, leaving some question as to who is actually covered. With the proposition of space travel and tourism being talked about more and more, for example, would someone on board a Virgin Galactic (a spaceflight company developing commercial spacecrafts) flight be included in the agreement?
- Although when the Rescue Agreement treaty came into existence, the prospect of rescuing space travelers was unlikely, that too has become more realistic. For example, both the Russian Space Station Mir and the International Space Station have maintained docked spacecraft to be used in an in-orbit emergency or to assist in a rescue.
- The final part of the Rescue Agreement tackles the issue of found space objects and their return. Should any space objects land, either in whole or in part, somewhere on earth, the obligation to notify the launching authority (the state who sent the object into outer space) and the Secretary General of the United Nations applies.
- Agreement goes on to mandate that the original launching authority is responsible for the cost associated with the recovery and return of the item, a detail that is conspicuously missing from the articles regarding rescue and return of our astronauts.
- With new tests and exploration efforts continuing around the globe, keeping track of these space objects is imperative. In an effort to identify and maintain which States bear responsibility and liability for space objects, the United Nations has maintained a Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space since 1962.
- The information in the Register of Oblects, which is also maintained by the UN Secretary General, is available to the public through United Nation documentation that can be found on the United Nations website. To date, more than 92% of objects launched into Earth’s orbit or beyond have been registered!
Captain's Blog - May 2017
Three Star Space Position
In our world where things seemingly change as quickly as the wind blows, and indeed more changes are coming! This time, the changes are coming to the Air Force’s space enterprise in the form of a newly created position to help enhance the visibility of space issues in the Pentagon. This new position, Deputy Chief of Staff for Space, will be a three-star rank, which is a very important senior commander the likes of Vice Admirals, Lieutenant Generals and Air Marshals.
So why the need for this new position? Air Force Space Command head General John Raymond explained in a recent speech at the Space Symposium. “Just like we have a deputy chief of staff for operations, and a deputy chief of staff for intel, we’re going to have a deputy chief of staff for space,” he said Tuesday. The new position will work each day focused on organizing, training and equipping our forces to meet new challenges in the domain of space. Serving as an advocate for space and the needs of the team members, this person will be instrumental in helping to further cultural change.
Although there is no current timeline as to when this position will be filled, some of the details of what they will oversee are emerging with defense of US space missions and assuring space superiority in the increasingly contested space domain will get high priority. A Raymond explains, “the U.S. finds itself “at this uncomfortable intersection of being very heavily reliant on space capabilities, but at the same time being extremely vulnerable.” He goes on to say that although we are not interested in getting to that fight, which is largely believed unwinnable, we do see the importance and need to prepare for it. This new position will allow us to do just that.
Pushing toward normalizing and simplifying issues related to space domain is not a new endeavor, but it is becoming an increasingly more important one. In related matters, the sometimes incredibly long names for space committees and the like is also getting a bit of a facelift. Gen. John Hyten, leader of U.S. Strategic Command, announced Tuesday that the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC, will now be called the National Space Defense Center (NSDC). The NSDC is focused on bringing together the Defense Department, intelligence community and commercial sector to address threats in space, and unify plans and efforts in orbit.
Social Media Posts
- Changes are coming to the Air Force’s space enterprise in the form of a newly created position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Space to help enhance the visibility of space issues in the Pentagon.
- The newly created position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Space will be a three-star rank, and a very important senior commander, the likes of Vice Admirals, Lieutenant Generals and Air Marshals.
- Air Force Space Command Head General John Raymond explains the need for the new positions as, “Just like we have a deputy chief of staff for operations, and a deputy chief of staff or intel, we’re going to have a deputy chief of staff for space.”
- The new Deputy Chief of Staff for Space position will work each day focused on organizing, training and equipping our forces to meet new challenges in the domain of space. Serving as an advocate for space and the needs of the team members, this person will be instrumental in helping to further cultural change.
- Although there is no current timeline as to when the Deputy Chief of Staff for Space will be filled, some of the details of what they will oversee are emerging with defense of US space missions and assuring space superiority in the increasingly contested space domain gets high priority.
- A Raymond explains, “the U.S. finds itself, “at this uncomfortable intersection of being very heavily reliant on space capabilities, but at the same time being extremely vulnerable.”
- Pushing toward normalizing and simplifying issues related to space domain is not a new endeavor, but it is becoming an increasingly more important one. And the newly created Deputy Chief of Staff for Space is an indication of that.
- Even more changes in the Space community: Gen. John Hyten, leader of U.S. Strategic Command, announced Tuesday that the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC, will now be called the National Space Defense Center (NSDC). The NSDC is focused on bringing together the Defense Department, intelligence community and commercial sector to address threats in space, and unify plans and efforts in orbit.
Captain's Blog - April 2017
2017 NASA Transition Authority Act
With a new President at the helm, things are quickly changing in Washington and those changes are reverberating across the nation, the globe and even into space. As key members of the administration and the media continue to focus on all the buzzwords that we heard throughout the campaign season, a few events have been happening in a bit quieter, yet no less important, fashion.
One such action was the signing of the 2017 NASA Transition Authority Act, which President Trump signed into law on March 21st. During the signing ceremony, Vice President Mike Pence also said that there is a plan to reactivate the White House National Space Council with none other than VP Pence as the leader. Circling back around to his campaign promises, President Trump said that the key provisions of the new legislation will be to create jobs and reaffirm NASA’s core missions including “human space exploration, space science and technology.” In a not-so-surprising boastful moment, he surmised that he “will be remembered as creating the interplanetary highway system.” While that might take some time to play out the way he hopes, there are effects of the bill that should become visible in the near future.
The new bill, which is the first NASA authorization bill since 2010, will set policy and funding levels for fiscal year 2017 although it does not provide funding to NASA. And although the details of the plan are not yet widely known, one key piece that is central to human space exploration is a proposed crewed mission to Mars. Seemingly committed to making that mission happen, it has been scheduled to take place by 2033.
In addition, the new Act also expressed continued commitment to the International Space Station, the utilization of Low Earth Orbit and related space ventures. Section 431, subtitle C – Journey to Mars, specifically states: “The administration shall develop a human exploration roadmap, including a critical decision plan, to expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit to the surface of Mars and beyond, considering potential interim destinations such as cis-lunar space and the moons of Mars.” Interesting and impressive stuff!
Also included in the new Act are provisions for human space flight’s long-term goals, advanced space suit capability, asteroid robotic missions, astrobiology strategies, the medical monitoring and research related to human space flight and much more. While the future of our nation, and our foray into advancing space travel and science continue to evolve, one thing is certain… we are on the precipice of exciting times! We can rest assured knowing that critics will continue to closely monitor the future of the Act and those who favor the new endeavors can take comfort in knowing the programs are safe for another year.
For more information about the 2017 NASA Transition Authority Act, or to read it in its’ entirety, please visit https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/442/text.
Captain's Blog - March 2017
On January 13, 2012, the Quebec City courthouse heard a case brought by a man named Sylvio Langevin. Mr. Langevin filed not one, but several, lawsuits claiming to be the owner of the moon, planets Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, as well as the four larger moons of Jupiter. In addition, he asked the court to extend ownership rights to Neptune and Pluto and the space between each planet to the end of the galaxy. Mr Langevin, after finding some newspaper articles about Mercury and Jupiter, as well as some technical information from NASA, saw an opportunity to seek the titles of the heavenly bodies as there was no registered owner. After additional rounds of much added information that he believed to bolster his case, a judgement was rendered as follows. “In regards to Mr. Sylvio Langevin's two applications presently before the court, nothing more need be said of it except to repeat the words of my brother Mr. Justice Etienne Parent who, disposing of the application regarding the planet Mars and the moon, wrote: "Relying strictly on the pleadings, the application of the plaintiff has no legal basis and must be dismissed." The claim made by Mr. Langevin in regards to Earth is on that same basis dismissed as is all those regards to other planets in the solar system.”
The strange case of Mr. Langevin was so outrageous that the official legal name of the decision was dubbed Langevin.Although this is a strange case indeed, it is far from the only lawsuit of its’ kind that our legal system has seen. In fact, the US Supreme Court has seen many strange cases. Nix v Hedden sought to categorize the tomato as a fruit rather than a vegetable for tax purposes. In the case of Coates v Cincinnati, the court was asked to define what could be construed as “annoying”. And Rowan v US Post Office, the appellants claimed that the Postal Revenue and Federal Salary Act of 1967, which required businesses to allow people to opt out of receiving erotic mail, infringed on their free speech.
No doubt, some of the strangest cases have come to the court have been to solve matters of space law. Mr. Langevin’s case is certainly not without precedent. “Every now and then, someone thinks no one has claimed the moon before, and then rushes to claim it,” wrote Virgiliu Pop, a space law researcher at the Romanian Space Agency, in an email to Wired. “Humankind has a short collective memory, so the claimant is able to create some buzz before the story dies out — to be followed by a similar story, years later.”
Not limited to today’s courts, these cases can be found through the far reaches of history. In one of the earliest such cases, Frederick the Great, who ruled Prussia in the 1700’s, was said to have sought help from a healer and in return for the cures he received, Frederick the Great bequeathed the moon to the healer’s family until the end of time. This may be one story that would not have seen the light of day if it were not for one of the healer’s descendants, who attempted to claim the ownership of the moon in 1996. That case was also dismissed.
Perhaps one of the most interesting stories is that of James Thomas Mangan, who in 1949 founded the Nation of Celestial Space in Evergreen Park, Illinois and laid claim to everything in space. After sending letters to 74 nations inviting them to give him official recognition, he applied for membership with the UN in 1948. The international organization rejected his application. Over the years, Mangan needed to defend his nation’s sovereignty over space from several other contestants, including a student from Tennessee who registered the “southern half of outer space”, an inmate in Alcatraz who claimed his grandfather had been charged rent for sunlight by Austrian Emperor Franz Josef and even the USSR. Mr. Manganbelieved that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 was trespassing on his territory. But he was also generous with his powers, issuing a license for banking on the moon to the president of Chicago’s Beverly Bank and presenting official moon passports to the Apollo astronauts.
Though Mangan died in 1970, he passed control of Celestia to his son, James, and his daughter, Ruth. His grandchildren currently oversee the nation.
As we know, legally and matter-of-factly speaking, no one owns the moon or other celestial bodies. Although the laws that govern space are evolving, the ownership of space is not likely to change anytime soon. So with an eye toward the future, and the laws of space, we will surely see more strange cases headed to our courts keeping judges, lawyers and the press very busy. After all, who doesn’t love a good story?
Quebec lawsuit: http://www.duhaime.org/LawFun/LawArticle-1613/Quebec-Man-Claims-Solar-System-Loses-in-Court.aspx
Quote and story about Mr Mangan: https://www.wired.com/2012/06/space-cases/
Captain's Blog - February 2017
While we have been focusing on our practices for the last couple of years, monumental changes have been made in the law. These changes will affect us; our clients will want to know about them, and we need to be ready.
Until just over a year ago, the entire body of the law governing outer space was only a few pages long. It employed hopeful and utopian concepts. The seminal Outer Space Treaty of 1967
by the great prospects opening up before mankind as a result of man's entry
into outer space,
the common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use
of outer space for peaceful purposes,
that the exploration and use of outer space should be carried on for the
benefit of all peoples irrespective of the degree of their economic or
to contribute to broad international co-operation in the scientific as well as
the legal aspects of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful
BELIEVING that such
co-operation will contribute to the development of mutual understanding and to
the strengthening of friendly relations between States and peoples, . . .
The Outer Space Treaty and subsequent corollaries, such as the Moon Treaty of 1979, are easily summarized to their essence. Essentially, the governing law of outer space did not allow ownership of any space resources and did not allow the non-peaceful use of space. There was not a lot to learn, legally speaking. And almost no one needed to learn space law because no one was really exploring and utilizing outer space. That era has come to an end.
Everything changed in November 2015, when President Obama signed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act
into law with very little media attention. The Act is monumental in scope and importance, but almost no one noticed it. The Act allows companies for the first time in history to claim ownership of resources extracted from space, such as water, ice and even gold from asteroids. Google-backed asteroid mining company Planetary Resources lobbied hard for the legislation and celebrated, saying “the market in space is ripe to bloom.”
Not to be left behind, just a couple of months ago, on November 11, 2016, Luxembourg became the first European country to pass a law allowing the taking of space resources by private companies
. Deep Space Industries, another major player in the asteroid mining industry, congratulated Luxembourg - the country where DSI maintains its headquarters - on the new law. DSI's Chairman of the Board, Rick Tumlinson said "We applaud Luxembourg
for taking this bold and visionary step to create the needed framework for private citizens and companies to operate in space.” It is no coincidence that Luxembourg both is the home of DSI and was quick to follow the U.S. in completely reversing the principles of outer space law existing since the 1960s.
The rest of Europe can be expected to follow suit, so as not to fall behind the curve. Planetary Resources says “A hundred years from now
, humanity will look at this period in time as the point in which we were able to establish a permanent foothold in space. In history, there has never been a more rapid rate of progress than right now.”
Recognizing that the monumental changes to outer space law were made at the request of the private industries that the laws will enable, we can conclude that the time to master space law is now. A complete reversal of the philosophical basis of outer space law has taken place right under our noses. The politicians did not just one day decide to abandon utopian ideals and commercialize space; the politicians are changing the laws because private companies are now ready to commercialize space and are demanding the changes.
The monumental legal changes are the strongest indicators we have that the commercialization and colonization of space can now be expected to proceed with all due speed. The future is now. Are you prepared?
Captain's Blog - January 2017
Politics… Love it or hate it, politics is an important part of life and living in the days of the 24-hour news cycle has placed politics at the forefront of nearly everything. From water cooler conversations to dinner parties and everything in between, it seems that political talk is king. And although sometimes these conversations may feel otherworldly, the typical political talk is about the things that affect, or have the potential to affect us in our own little corner of the world. However, politics is definitely not just local or even national in scope. Politics and government extend far beyond our reach into the depths of outer space. Political issues such as spending and budgets, policy regarding exports, mining and exploration and even traffic are on the minds of scientists, lawyers and lawmakers across the globe.
Perhaps the number one hottest debated topic in the world of politics has been around the recent election and new President-elect. And as with any changing of the guard, many questions and concerns arise as to how the transition will affect us. For scientists, congressional members, space lawyers or anyone involved in the business of minding outer space, that is no different. While some representatives have promised to reorganize how the government manages space activities in a “disruptive manner”, others are focusing on growth in the areas of space policy. With talk of new members being added to the NASA Landing Team, government insiders are keeping a close eye on what that could mean for our space program. So far, the outlook seems favorable with members of the landing team looking to stay the course and protect NASA.
In addition, commercial space exploration may get a boost from the new administration. With the President-elect’s business acumen being widely known, it is really no surprise that commercial activities would be on the table. In fact, one of the new appointees to the landing team, Charles Miller, previously worked for NASA serving as Senior Advisor for commercial space from 2009 to 2012 when NASA was in the beginning stages of launching commercial space initiatives. The addition of Miller, coupled with the resumes of the other members of the landing team, has led some to consider if the US might be headed back to the moon, albeit in a more commercial way.
Shifting to another issue of great national concern, the military is looking to space with consideration of our next missile defense systems. Long relying on the Space-Based Infrared System to warn of missile launches, leaders at the Missile Defense Agency are turningfrom the terrestrial-based system to a space based system. With major world powers like China and Russia investing in hypersonic missiles that are very hard to track and destroy, the development of space-based interceptors that could track and target beyond the range of radar would be a huge step forward for our missile defense program. As Major General Roger Teague, director of space programs for the US Air Force acquisition office says, "It starts in space, our ability to detect those missile threats that might be posed against the US or our allies."
While the political landscape is filled with uncertainties, one thing is certain and that is the old saying that “the only thing that is constant is change.” And when it comes to space and the vast opportunities that lie in front of us, change can be an exciting prospect.
Captain's Blog - December 2016
Greatest Lawyers in the Galaxy
The NEW plaques have been released for the "Greatest Lawyers in the Galaxy." A hand picked group of attorneys have been selected to join the Intergalactic Bar Association and receive this recognition.
Recognition as Greatest Lawyers in the Galaxy indicates that the lawyer has the skill, legal acumen, and fortitude to have earned the title.
Many have already contacted the Intergalactic Bar Association to be considered. If you are a lawyer licensed as an attorney and wish to join the Intergalactic Bar Association and be considered call (321) 821-6873 or email Imperator@IntergalacticBar.org.
The Intergalactic Bar is planet Earth’s premier community of attorneys dedicated to developing and improving the law of outer space. Benefits of membership currently include:
- Custom Profile with the Intergalactic Bar's Online Worldwide Directory
- Link-Back to Your Website
- Exclusive Quarterly Report on Key Developments in the Law and Business of Outer Space
- Potential Referrals from Intergalactic Colleagues
- Beautiful “Greatest Lawyers in the Galaxy” Recognition Plaque
Captain's Blog - November 2016
The Future of Space Law
Dreaming of exploring the wonders of space has long been part of the human condition. With space exploration never far from a scientist’s mind, post-World War II saw the creation of the first missile programs by the US and the Soviet Union. By 1957, the Soviets had launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, into outer space. Man would follow four years later when the Soviets sent Russian Lt Yuro Gagerin into space and he became the first human to orbit the earth. But the United States wasn’t far behind and our first satellite, Explorer 1, made its’ maiden voyage in 1957. Three years later in 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to travel into space and just a year later, on February 20, 1962, John Glenn made history as the first American to orbit the earth. Neil Armstrong’s historic landing on the moon would follow in July of 1969 and we have never looked back.
Today, as space exploration continues and goals evolve from a walk on the moon to the notion that there may come a time when human beings can actually travel to, and perhaps someday establish habitats on, other planets such as the moon and mars, the legal landscape is evolving as well.
International Space Laws have been around nearly since we began exploring outer space; the first space laws were implemented in 1967 to provide the necessary regulations and customs that govern our activities in outer space. And when it comes to contemplating space law, since no one owns the moon or outer space, the biggest questions seem to lie in jurisdiction. Typically, the state that owns or governs the spacecraft would be responsible for it and the astronauts aboard. But what if the day actually comes when man can build a habitat on Mars? This begs the question of ownership rights and while the government has always been responsible for space activity, residences and other developed properties would move into the realm of the private sector… with the need for relevant laws to follow.
While currently it is quite expensive to make a trip into space, there are many scientists and engineers working toward making space flight accessible to everyday individuals, companies and organizations. When the day comes that space travel is inexpensive enough to accommodate such flights, the aerospace industry will be just one of the industries involved in putting together these amazing trips. Construction, interior design, food and beverage, entertainment and advertising are a few of the industries that will surely be important components of future space travel. Each and every industry has legalities to consider.
Another interesting thing to examine is the law of salvage. A long-standing concept of maritime law, known as the law of salvage, allows someone who recovers another’s ship or cargo after peril or loss at sea to earn a reward commensurate with the value of the property that they recovered. With space debris becoming a growing problem in Earth’s orbit, could such a law extend to outer space? Introducing a law like that would allow businesses to collect some of the objects floating in space. Because of the high cost of any space launch, anything collected would be very valuable…. at a launch cost of $100/kg, scrap metal could theoretically be worth $100,000 a ton in low orbit! That’s a lot of money! And with lots of money comes some problems, certainly an area that lawmakers would need to take a closer look at. Could outer space ever “go green”? Recycling, and the laws that govern it, could also potentially come into play here.
With so many things to think of down the road, it is also important to note that some new space laws are already happening. Just last year, in March of 2015, The Space Resource and Utilization Act of 2015, or SPACE Act for short, was introduced into the House of Representatives. This bill, which passed the House, allows companies that mine on asteroids to keep whatever they dig up. The bill also seeks to clarify what private property rights would look like in outer space but doesn’t specifically address the FAA’s role in said rights, leaving out a potentially big piece of the puzzle and adding to the growing list of things that laws must adapt to define.
These are just a few of the expanding concerns that lie on our horizon. As our foray into space, the imagining of commercial space travel, and even property development in outer space continues to grow, space laws are evolving as well. As mankind’s dreams of space travel are seemingly limitless in scope, it is an exciting time to ponder the future and having the knowledge and reassurance of our space laws, and those who practice and implement them, lends an air of confidence and safety to the growing space community.
Captain's Blog - October 2016
6 Myths debunked About Space Law
International Space Laws were developed in the 1960’s as a way to govern human activities in space. Although air laws had been in place since as early as 1919, prior to the launch of Sputnik 1, Russia’s first satellite, little thought was given to who governed outer space. Conventional thinking was that a nation’s sovereignty extended from the ground upward. However, if this held true during a satellite flight, which crossed the airspace of many countries without permission, the country with the satellite would be in direct violation of air laws. President Eisenhower accepted the Soviet Union’s right to operate Sputnik 1 over US air space as he looked to the future with the desire to launch US satellites that would fly over Soviet air space. It was quickly understood that the laws that would govern spacecraft flights would be different from the laws that governed our air space, thus birthing the need for Space Law came.
Since that time, the majority of operations in outer space have been conducted by government agencies. Today, the idea of private and commercial spaceflight has become a reality and states are making new laws to prepare for such spaceflights. As we get ready to enter a new era with regard to outer space, there are many things to consider when it comes to space laws. Companies are being born to sell real estate in outer space and other companies are building spacecraft to send us into orbit. The International Space Station adds another very complicated layer to space law concerns due to its’ unique, international cooperative nature. Though current space laws have been effective in maintaining peace in outer space, there is much to think about for the future. With many different scenarios becoming a possibility, it is easy to see how certain laws could be misunderstood. Here are some common myths associated with today’s space laws and what they really mean to us.
Myth #1: Extraterrestrial property sales is an actual thing, but no, you cannot buy a summer house on the Moon. There are companies that will “sell” you land on the moon, Mars or other planets and natural satellites. However, ownership of extraterrestrial real estate is not recognized by any governing authority. Though some private companies have claimed ownership of the celestial bodies and are actively selling part of them through “lunar deeds”, “Martian deeds” or similar certificates, these deeds have no legal standing. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 established the moon and other celestial bodies as a “province for all mankind” and explicitly forbid nations from claiming ownership. The Outer Space Treaty explains extraterrestrial real estate as the “exploitation of the moon and other celestial bodies for profit” rather than actual ownership.
Myth #2: The Moon Agreement was developed in 1979 to expand the detail of the Outer Space Treaty in regards to property rights and the usage of the moon and other celestial bodies. The Moon Treaty is in fact, one of four additional treaties that were put into place in the 1960’s and 1970’s to support the Outer Space Treaty and peaceful space exploration. However, since the Moon Treaty has only been signed by 15 countries, and none of them are major players in space exploration, this treaty is widely regarded by many as a failed treaty.
Myth #3: US citizens can launch unmanned spacecraft or rockets as recreation. No, we cannot launch a rocket into space from our backyard. At least, not yet. Regulated by the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984, rockets with no crew that are headed for space or high altitude must receive special permission from the FAA. As space tourism becomes more and more likely, the FAA is actively developing guidelines to protect passengers that want to take a trip into space.
Myth #4: Each astronaut or cosmonaut on the International Space Station is governed by their home country and any crime committed in space is handled by that nation. Well, sometimes. The International Space Station is the largest international project and as such, has its own international treaty (along with many provisions) that govern the goings on of the members aboard. In most cases, the nations from which the members hale do handle situations that arise from proprietary rights to criminal charges. However, there are times when jurisdictions may cross, making the legal landscape a bit tricky.
Myth #5: In 1976, eight States challenged the Outer Space Treaty, asserting that their rights to control their natural resources had been breached by the treaty, and won. While it is true that these States, Colombia, Ecuador, Congo, Indonesia, Kenya, Uganda and Zaire, did indeed challenge the treaty by seeking to extend ownership of space over their respective countries through the Bogota Declaration, their attempts went largely ignored and the current Outer Space Treaty remained in place.
Myth #6: Private companies may now make claims to space and celestial bodies. The US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act does not allow for territorial claims. However, as we progress and some nations look toward landing on Mars and other bodies, it is unclear how property rights might change. Some have suggested that Antarctica would be a good model to use, as they are owned by no nation and are used mainly for scientific purposes although whether that will happen remains to be seen.
As you can see, the changing landscape of space exploration is happening at a rapid pace and there is much ambiguity as to how the current laws will continue to apply and the need for development of new laws in this rather unchartered territory. One thing is certain, man’s foray into space is going to continue, and in bigger and more exciting ways, and the lawmakers and officials in the rapidly expanding space community are at the forefront of these exciting times.
Captain's Blog - September 2016
8 Facts You Didn’t Know About Space Law
Did you know that there was a time when land owners owned the vertical space that extended from their property all the way up into space! With the advent of air travel, the laws had to change. Governments then decided that land owners would own their land up to 500 feet above ground level and anything above that, going up infinitely, would be owned by the government. This helped to govern air space for the airlines… until the space program was introduced and a whole new set of concerns were born.
Since spacecraft now travel around the earth, they traverse the orbits of many countries. It was ultimately decided that a country’s laws end somewhere between where the highest airplane can fly and where the lowest satellite orbits, approximately 19 to 99 miles above the Earth. In accordance with the space laws, no country can claim the sovereignty of the moon or other celestial body. That is to say that no country can enforce its’ laws on the moon or in outer space. This gave way to what is known as Extraterritorial Jurisdiction, or the legal ability of a government to exercise authority beyond its normal borders, and into space.
The advent of Space Laws, which have been around since the 1960’s, led to more questions about the governing of space. Some questions are quite simple to answer. “What would happen if someone committed a crime on a spacecraft?” If an astronaut committed a crime on a spacecraft, they would be subject to prosecution by the country of their spacecraft. While others are a bit more vague. ‘What if that person committed a crime on the surface of the moon?” Since no single governing body owns the moon, the answer is less clear cut. However, Space Laws are instrumental in the effective functioning of today’s space community. Here, we examine a few space law facts.
Fact #1: The term “space law” refers to the national and international laws and customs that govern our activities in outer space. The basis for today’s space laws began with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. This treaty established several principles that have since been broadened in subsequent treaties and laws that define the outer space legal landscape today.
Fact #2: “The exploration and use of outer space shall be carried on for the benefit, and in the interest of, all mankind.” This holds true for everyone, regardless of economic or scientific development. All celestial bodies and outer space are free for exploration and use by all States and freedom of scientific investigation id encouraged.
Fact #3: “The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and no weapons of mass destruction are permitted in outer space.” Part of the original Outer Space Treaty, this article assures that no nuclear, or other mass destruction weapons may be carried or installed on any celestial body or space station. While scientific research is encouraged, including military missions that are used for peaceful purposes, the testing of weapons or the practice of military maneuvers on celestial bodies is forbidden. In space, peace rules!
Fact #4: “States shall retain jurisdiction and control of their space objects and any personnel thereon.” This refers back to the question of what would happen to someone who commits a crime in space. While crime in space has not been much of a problem, astronauts are pretty amazing people after all who take pride in their work, it is important to know that should a crime be committed, the State who governs the spacecraft would be responsible for the prosecution of the crime.
Fact #5: “States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects.” This one is pretty simple. It’s the basic “you break it, you bought it” philosophy. Well, maybe not quite that simple but the basis applies. States are responsible for fixing any damage that they cause while in outer space.
Fact #6: “States shall avoid harmful contamination of outer space.” This one is just bit more complicated. While the Outer Space Treaty encourages scientific exploration in outer space, this article was written to help avoid harmful contaminations or adverse changes to the environment while pursuing those scientific endeavors. As outer space is a delicate environment, introducing matter from our world can be a detriment to the moon or other celestial bodies. We want to keep space pristine and clean!
Fact #7: The International Space Station is a cooperative program between Europe, the United States, Russia, Canada, and Japan. Home to crews of astronauts and cosmonauts from several nations, the International Space Station’s laws are governed by three levels of the International Space Station Agreement, or IGA. Typically, those aboard the ISS are governed by the laws of their respective countries. So, in layman’s terms, if a US astronaut commits a crime on the ISS, they are subject to punishment by the US. However, as with other laws, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if a US astronaut were to commit a crime against a Canadian counterpart on the ISS, they may be subject to prosecution by Canada.
Fact #8: Human beings will soon be able to travel into outer space on spacecraft operated by private companies. The first of these flights are being researched now and are expected to begin by taking passengers on orbital spaceflights to the International Space Station. Of course, commercial spaceflights for humans will open up a whole new world of legal issues. The FAA is already working on licensing and safety criteria for private spacecraft and four states, Florida, New Mexico, Texas, and Virginia have already passed laws limiting space tourism under state laws.
With advances in technology continue to thrive, and more and more work is done to expand space travel and exploration, Space Laws continue to take on greater importance today. While the space law community will surely face challenges, Spaceflight laws and lawyers will be at the forefront of helping the space community. Very exciting times indeed!
Captain's Blog - August 2016
The Problem of Jurisdiction in Outer Space
Mankind has been exploring outer space since the late 1950s, which is to say about 60 years at the time of this writing. The Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, into orbit on October 4, 1957. Shortly thereafter, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin because the first human to travel into space on April 12, 1961. Not to be outpaced by the Soviet Union, the United States launched the Apollo 11 mission and, on July 20, 1969, successfully landed American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon. These remarkable accomplishments were all carried out by and at the direction of terrestrial governments.
Despite the significant length of time that humans that have been launching themselves beyond earth's stratosphere, the international legal framework for space exploration and exploitation that was adopted in the 1960s has not changed very significantly. The Outer Space Treaty, also known as the "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies," was signed in Washington, Moscow, and London on January 27, 1967. Its greatest flaw is glaringly apparent, namely that it fails to address how crimes should be prosecuted against individuals or how private legal disputes will be settled in space. The underlying assumption of the Outer Space Treaty seems to be that activities in outer space will be primarily carried out by or at the direction of government entities. This assumption is becoming more baseless with every passing day. The captains of the space industry are advancing their progress toward the realization of private, profitable commercial activity in space at a meteoric rate. Unfortunately, the world's governments are all but ignoring this inevitability.
The 21st Century promises to be a new era of activity in outer space where private actors play a far more prominent role than in the past. However, international law currently prohibits nation-states from claiming sovereignty over outer space or over objects in space, such as asteroids or planets. The problem is that jurisdiction and sovereignty usually go hand-in-hand. When the first crime is committed in space, or when the first civil cause of action arises in space, questions of jurisdiction alone will undoubtedly stymie even the best legal experts. Consider the following scenario:
Suppose X-Corp, a multinational corporation based in China, establishes a lunar mining outpost on Earth's moon for the purpose of harvesting Helium-3 ("H3"). Y-Corp, another multinational corporation based in Germany, establishes another lunar mining outpost for harvesting H3 that is fairly close to X-Corp's. The employees working at both outposts are citizens of a wide variety of countries. Both corporations regularly employ survey teams that scour the moon's surface in order to search for new deposits of H3. Survey teams from X-Corp and Y-Corp simultaneously discover a "mother lode" of H3. A lead surveyor from X-Corp's team gets into a heated argument with a lead surveyor from Y-Corp's team about which team discovered the H3 deposit first. The altercation between the lead surveyors becomes a mutual affray. During the scuffle, the X-Corp surveyor accidentally damages the respiration system of Y-Corp surveyor's spacesuit, resulting in the Y-Corp surveyor's death by suffocation. The X-Corp surveyor is a citizen of Brazil. The deceased Y-Corp surveyor is, or was, a citizen of Australia.
Under the current legal international regime, the preceding situation would result in a legal catastrophe. There would be calls for the criminal prosecution of the X-Corp employee, who would likely claim self-defense. X-Corp and Y-Corp would sue each other over the rights to harvest the disputed H3 deposit. The Y-Corp employee's family would likely want to file a wrongful death lawsuit against X-Corp, Y-Corp, and the individual X-Corp employee. Worst of all, no one would have any clear idea as to where any of these cases should be filed or what
bodies of law should apply.
It should not be necessary to create an entirely new body of law, or an entirely new court system for that matter, to settle civil disputes and criminal matters in space. What is necessary, however, is a clear international agreement as to how jurisdiction will be decided when legal matters involving private individuals and entities arise in outer space or on the surfaces of celestial bodies. Ideally, this should be done ahead of time and with a great deal of forethought. And it should be done soon. The second Space Age is imminent, and the governments of the world cannot afford to wait much longer.
Captain's Blog - July 2016
Asteroid Mining—A Brief Introduction
As the world’s population continues to grow, vital minerals such as phosphorus, zinc, tin, gold, platinum, and lead will inevitably be exhausted on Earth due to overconsumption. In order to meet the future demand for these resources, it has been suggested that asteroids might be mined for human use on Earth. While such an idea would have been dismissible as mere fantasy in the past, two companies, Deep Space Industries (DSI) and Planetary Resources, have started developing unmanned asteroid mining craft using new technology that will soon make asteroid mining profitable. Several near-earth asteroids have been identified as suitable prospects for asteroid mining.
The key to this new industry is the knowledge that water contained within some asteroids can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be used as rocket propellant. This makes it possible for advanced, unmanned spacecraft to continuously operate in space after leaving the earth. Additionally, by harvesting and using metals from these “low hanging fruit,” asteroid mining robots will also be able to construct new fleets of unmanned vehicles in space. This will be possible thanks to another revolutionary technology: the 3-D printer. This will be far less expensive than constructing new spacecraft on earth and launching them into space, and the energy needed to complete this construction will come from solar power.
The question that every lawyer who reads this should be asking is: “How does a person or business entity claim ownership of an asteroid?” During the Age of Sail, terrae nullius was claimed on a first-come, first-served basis. Whoever landed upon the shore of an unclaimed island and declared ownership could immediately exercise sovereignty over the new discovery. However, dominion could also be lost if a nation-state failed to continually exercise control over claimed land. Exercising constant dominion over asteroids seems like a daunting task. There are so many of them and they are constantly in motion.
One legal solution could involve attaching some form of beacon to the asteroid that will cement the claimant’s domain over the asteroid. That way, as the asteroid continues to orbit the sun, its resources will not be extracted by one who has no claim of title to it. Any entity, such as an unmanned mining craft, that approaches the asteroid will instantly receive some form of notice via radio transmission that the asteroid is private property. Naturally, this will also require some form of monitoring system to be installed on the beacon so that a title holder can, say, institute an action in replevin if someone else’s unmanned mining drone ignores the warning and continues to mine the asteroid.
Another possibility is that the asteroids themselves, which are virtually useless space flotsam aside from their water and mineral content, will not be held in any sort of title. Instead, the minerals themselves will be treated in a manner that is similar to abandoned property. In other words, whoever gets to the mineral resources or water first gets to keep it, no matter what asteroid they are found in or when they are obtained. This approach would be simpler because there would be no need to enforce any property rights, but it would also likely result in space mining becoming the new “Wild West.”