Space law: Uni’s final frontier
Some students thought they’d learn about Star Wars – but instead their lessons are boldly going where no lessons have gone before. By Gerald Piddock.
The final frontier of law has arrived in the form of a Waikato University class in space law.
The six-week class is part of the university’s summer school programme, aimed at providing students with an understanding of issues such as manned spaceflight, space station operations, space tourism, space transportation, satellite communications, international trade in space services and dispute resolution regarding space activities.
Senior lecturer Anna Marie Brennan said it had generated a lot of interest – 27 students enrolled.
‘‘Students did think initially that they would be studying aliens and Darth Vader and Star Wars issues. We do kind of touch on those particular topics because we do look at military uses in outer space and the weaponisation of satellites and whatnot.’’
Brennan has plans to establish a year-long post-graduate degree in space law, which would make Waikato University only the second university in the world to offer that qualification, after another in the Netherlands.
The paper’s aim is to respond to New Zealand’s burgeoning space industry, she said.
‘‘Space law as an area is rapidly developing and Waikato University foresees this as a potentially growing area and that the industry needs lawyers that can practice in this area.’’
New Zealand had been slow to recognise the need for this type of study but was catching up, largely thanks to the growth of companies such as US company Rocket Lab, she said.
‘‘They foresee that New Zealand will be launching more rockets into space in the future than the United States and there is a very important opportunity here for New Zealand to develop a technologically advanced, savvy space industry that would have a knock-on effect for the economy.’’
Rocket Lab chief executive, New Zealander Peter Beck, said the global space economy was evolving rapidly.
‘‘New Zealand can play an important role in this growth. It’s great to see more opportunities like this for young Kiwis to enter the space economy. As the small launch industry grows, and thousands more satellites need to reach orbit, we will likely see a natural evolution of this process to enable fast and frequent launches.’’
Rocket Lab’s next launch window is today at 4pm.
An MBIE spokesman said New Zealand’s emerging space industry meant it was important its legal obligations were understood.
‘‘It is great to see interest from universities and other educational institutions in making space law accessible to New Zealanders.’’
Waikato University senior lecturer Anna Marie Brennan is teaching New Zealand’s first ever class in space law.