Alden Orrery – Regulatory Briefing – May 2022
The UNOOSA Legal Subcommittee met for its 61st session
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Legal Subcommittee met on 28 March to 8 April 2022 to discuss legal questions related to the exploration and use of outer space. Notably focus was placed on sustainability as a key issue for the space sector, and also the need for legal models for activities in the exploration, exploitation and utilisation of space resources and the registration of space objects, including of large constellations.
Many member states noted their intention to review, strengthen, develop or draft national space laws or policies, as well as to reform or establish the governance of national space activities.
European Space Agency contracts Airbus for further development of LISA Mission
Airbus has been awarded a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to further develop the implementation of Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA). ESA plans to develop the first space-based observatory dedicated to studying gravitational waves. The project is currently underway and the detailed mission design is due to be completed by 2024, with launch planned for the late 2030s.
Belgium signs new Royal Decree implementing space law
After a four-year process, Belgium’s King signed a new Royal Decree implementing Belgian space law on 15 March 2022. The new decree is intended to facilitate the hosting of operational space activities while ensuring compliance with Belgium’s international obligations and commitments. The decree provides for objective criteria for the registration of non-governmental space objects and a procedure for the technical review of non-governmental activities. The decree also simplifies the process for authorisations and integrates the issues of natural resources use and exploitation into the environmental impact assessment.
Partnership between UK and US for future commercial spaceflight missions
On 11 May 2022, the US and UK signed a declaration to work together on future commercial spaceflight missions. The declaration aims to reduce the duplication in regulation and licencing requirements between the two countries for licensing of commercial space activities, reducing costs and streamlining procedures while maintaining robust safety standards.
The partnership reflects the collaboration between both countries on commercial spaceflight missions as the UK prepares for the first launch from UK soil later this year from Spaceport Cornwall. This will also support the UK space and launch industry more generally as it continues to thrive.
Independent review of Canada’s remote sensing legislation recommends significant reform
The 2022 Independent Review of the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act 2022 was published on 21 March 2022. The review found that the regulatory burden imposed on the Canadian remote sensing space industry and research development groups is hindering Canada’s competitiveness. The review recommended significant reform of its space regulations in general and the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act 2022 specifically.
Industry pushes for NASA authorisation in proposed competitiveness bills
A conference committee of more than 100 members of the US Congress met for the first time on 12 May 2022 to discuss reconciling the Senate’s United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) with the House’s America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength Act (COMPETES). Both bills are broad-ranging but have differences that the conference committee will seek to resolve. In particular the USICA includes a NASA authorisation bill which is absent from the COMPETES. Industry groups are strongly pushing for the legislation to include a NASA authorisation bill or for a standalone bill to be passed to provide NASA, stakeholders and the public with a common understanding and reaffirmation of NASA’s goals.
Australia consults on proposed changes to rules for space and high power rocket activities
The Australian Space Agency has sought feedback on proposed changes to the rules for space and high power rocket activities. The changes are intended to reduce barriers to participants and the regulatory burden on applicants, while maintaining safety standards. The proposed changes will remove requirements relating to the independence of suitably qualified experts for licence applications.
This will enable companies to develop and use in-house capability rather than requiring external expertise. This is the first amendment to the legislation following the Australian Government’s space package announcement on 3 March 2022. Further proposed amendments to the legislation are expected.
Australia establishes Defence Space Command
Australia has established the Defence Space Command which will include the Australian Navy, Army and Air Force personnel, as well as other public service members. The Command will further develop Australia’s military space capabilities and counter emerging threats, as well as enhance situational awareness and provide real-time communications in the geostrategic environment.
New Zealand releases three-year review of space legislation
The New Zealand Government has published a review of the operation and effectiveness of the law controlling commercial space activities and has signalled a further study on wider space policy issues to commence later in 2022. The review was mandated in the legislation following the first three years of the law being in place. The review concluded that the framework for commercial space activities has performed well and notably there have been no material safety or security issues. Recommendations were made to future-proof the regime (e.g. by addressing emerging technologies) and clarify potential ambiguities.