NEW SPACE LAWS

From as early as 2010, Dr Maria A Pozza has been ad­vo­cat­ing for New Zealand to i mple­ment i ts own space l aw frame­work. Now, the l aws have been made as a new i ndus­try has blos­somed – but as with Uber and Airbnb, reg­u­la­tion can some­times strug­gle to kee

Idealog - - OPINION -

New Zealand has fi­nally en­acted a leg­isla­tive frame­work that gov­erns ac­tiv­i­ties which are linked to New Zealand in outer space, with the new Outer Space and Highalti­tude Ac­tiv­i­ties Act (Space Act) com­ing into force on 21 De­cem­ber 2017.

This is recog­ni­tion of the fact that New Zealand is now en route to the sta­tus of an emerg­ing space-far­ing na­tion.

The new frame­work es­tab­lishes a li­cens­ing agency known as the New Zealand Space Agency, which will over­see New Zealand ap­pli­ca­tions made by en­ti­ties that wish to con­duct ac­tiv­i­ties in space.

There has been a rise in the re­search over the pos­si­bil­ity of pro­vid­ing more com­mer­cially led space-based ser­vices from New Zealand, given its unique geo-lo­ca­tion on the planet that makes it ideal for Low Earth Or­bit (LEO) ser­vices. These are usu­ally based at an al­ti­tude of ap­prox­i­mately 2,000km and an or­bital pe­riod of ap­prox­i­mately 90 to 100 min­utes.

LEO is fast be­com­ing an or­bit of in­ter­est to a wide range of space ser­vice providers as a re­sult of the lower costs as­so­ci­ated with launch and fuel con­sump­tion, which in of-it­self, is a ba­sis to pro­vide lower-cost space­based so­lu­tions to the end con­sumer.

The process will in­volve the pre­sen­ta­tion of a wide range of in­for­ma­tion by the ap­pli­cant in or­der to sat­isfy the li­cens­ing agency re­quire­ments in its con­sid­er­a­tion to grant a par­tic­u­lar li­cense or per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion.

How­ever, there is still much work to do on the new li­cens­ing regime and this in­cludes whether or not the li­cens­ing agency will de­velop a pub­licly avail­able reg­is­ter that out­lines which en­ti­ties have ap­plied for a li­cense, the progress of their li­cense ap­pli­ca­tion and de­tails of the in­tended space­based ser­vice.

Fur­ther, the act re­quires that an ap­pli­cant pro­vides a space-de­bris mit­i­ga­tion plan, how­ever there is presently lit­tle, if any, guid­ance on this. One fun­da­men­tal is­sue is that the Space Act does not de­fine what con­sti­tutes space-de­bris. For ex­am­ple, is the launch ve­hi­cle that has been dis­carded dur­ing the launch phase con­sid­ered de­bris? Would de­bris also in­clude an out-of-con­trol satel­lite, or is it some­thing else?

An­other ex­am­ple is the lack of clear guid­ance as to what may or may not con­sti­tute a pay­load – or put an­other way, what can an ap­pli­cant put into space?

The Space Act re­quires that ap­pli­cants not un­der­take any ac­tiv­ity which would put New Zealand in breach of its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions. How­ever, not only is in­ter­na­tional law around space ac­tiv­i­ties com­plex, wide and var­ied, but there is a call by many space ex­perts that in­ter­na­tional space law is in need of ma­jor re­de­vel­op­ment. The in­ter­na­tional law per­tain­ing to obli­ga­tions in space, is scat­tered among many in­stru­ments and will re­quire ex­pert re­view over the spe­cific obli­ga­tions that New Zealand owes at the in­ter­na­tional level in or­der to en­sure that ap­pli­cants are con­sis­tent with them dur­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion stage.

The Space Act is the first step in es­tab­lish­ing a space-based li­cens­ing frame­work gov­ern­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of en­ti­ties wish­ing to un­der­take space-based ac­tiv­i­ties. But as the space in­dus­try grows in New Zealand, the space li­cens­ing frame­work will also re­quire more at­ten­tion. Clearer guide­lines and reg­u­la­tions will need to be de­vel­oped.

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