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Global Aerospace Summit 2016 to discuss space law, policy and regs

Posted 23 June 2015 · Add Comment

International aerospace and space experts will convene in Abu Dhabi next March at the third Global Aerospace Summit to discuss the rapidly changing shape of space policy and regulation

“Today, there are approximately 700 companies dedicated to commercial space exploration worldwide - up from 100 in 2011 – who build rockets, offer mission planning services and monitor planetary risks. Investors have ploughed $10 billion into the private space industry over the past ten years, of which 75% has come from venture capital funds and private equity firms. As the international space industry continues to grow, questions on space regulation and policy also increase; the Summit will be looking to unearth some of the answers,” said Oisin Commane, Group Director, Streamline Marketing Group (SMG), which organises the invitation-only, thought leadership forum.

The international space law framework consists of five UN treaties and five main sets of principles. The foundational instrument governing all space activities is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (the Treaty signed by the United States, Russia, China, and more than 100 other countries – including the UAE that established the basic legal precepts and principles for the utilization of outer space

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), a UN body, serves to foster inter-state cooperation, manages adherence to the five UN treaties on space, and provides a forum for law and policy issues in respect to outer space. UNOOSA in Vienna is home to the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (or COPUOS) which holds frequent Legal Sub-committee meetings each year to discuss and address policy and regulatory issues related to the peaceful uses of outer space. The UAE actively participated in the latest Legal Sub-committee meetings in April as an official observer.

The Treaty specifically prohibits nations from deploying or stationing nuclear weapons in outer space or on celestial bodies, or even claiming real estate on them (i.e. the Moon or Mars). In addition, it establishes national responsibility for private space ventures, i.e. those activities conducted by private parties as opposed to governmental agencies. While there has not been much consensus on how private business in outer space should be regulated, this has recently become more of a focus for the industry. While at the Canadian Institute of Mining’s annual convention, NASA scientists said exploration and prospecting of celestial bodies is still years away, but they agreed regulations should be established.

The increase of investment and interest within the industry has prompted the US Congress to lay the foundation for the new surge of space-based industries. The House recently passed the Space Resource Exploration and Utilisation Act (the Asteroids Act) to allow for companies to sell any resources extracted from asteroids in space and provide some legal measure of assurance for noninterference in these activities. The bill is the first national attempt at regulating nongovernmental commercial activities directed at space resources. The Asteroids Act is undergoing legislative review with the Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology to ensure compliance with international law. While the space industry is eager to move forward with proprietary regulation in the US, the Asteroids Act has yet to be enacted.

Regulation of private enterprise has traditionally been the province of national governments. Some have suggested that a United Nations panel be set up to regulate space mining. An alternative model might consist of a consortium of space-faring countries, or even non-governmental stakeholders, establishing a celestial authority for governing and coordinating international endeavours in space. This alliance could regulate private business and otherwise perform administrative functions for space mining outposts while coordinating activities for non-interference and foster a space resource utilisation industry in the commercial sector.

Sara Langston, an Aerospace lawyer and CEO of Senmurv Consulting LLC said: “These structural concepts are not without their legal difficulties, and whether an inter-state alliance or private commercial consortium is established, any prospective entity must comply with the principles and obligations of the international space legal framework which holds space access and use open to all countries for peaceful purposes—under the principle that space is the ‘province of all mankind. On the other hand, States Parties to the Moon Agreement (the Agreement), such as Australia and a dozen other states, face restrictions on space mining and resource utilisation as the Agreement prohibits unbridled exploitation activities holding space and celestial bodies to be the ‘cultural heritage’ of mankind. A fine legal and political distinction.”

The UAE Space Agency recently announced it began developing the country’s space policy, regulation and legislation.

Naser Al Rashdi, Director of Space Policy and Regulations, UAE Space Agency commented: “The UAE recognises the importance of the space sector for social, and economic development as well as in strengthening the nation’s security and crisis management. As part of the mandate, the UAE Space Agency has begun work on developing the UAE space policy, regulation and legislation. The key objectives of the space policies and regulations are to support transparency, stability and sustainable development in the space sector; to leverage the contribution of the space industry and the role it can play towards diversification of economy as well as towards the growth of other critical sectors. Moreover the space policies and regulations aim to enhance robustness and competiveness of the commercial space sector in the UAE; strengthen security and international collaboration in space, and ensure conformity with international space related treaties, agreements and regulations.”

Carol Anderson from the International Institute of Air and Space Law, Leiden University said: “As a pioneer for the Arab world in space exploration and under the forward thinking government of the leaders of the UAE, it would be logical to expect that the UAE’s space policy and regulatory systems adopted will definitely be forward thinking. It will endeavour to create the optimum business and legal environment for fledgling space exploration businesses and private enterprise to flourish in the UAE whilst remaining mindful and respectful of the progress achieved by its fellow space-faring nations over the last 50 years.”

The Global Aerospace Summit, an exclusive, invitation-only thought leadership forum for the international aerospace industry, will identify and discuss the rapid changes in space policy and their impact on the industry and the world. It will be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre from 7-8 March, 2016.

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