U.S. Making Changes to Support its Commercial Space Industry

AS11-40-5875HRedit.jpgBy Talia Loucks

Remember last year’s blog article about Asteroid Mining? Well, late last month, President Obama signed into law what was then titled the SPACE Act of 2015, which has since been renamed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. This Act lays the groundwork for property rights in space, a big point of contention in international law. As a quick refresher: the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to which the US is a signatory, provides in Article II that: “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” Some worry that the new Act is in opposition of this portion of the Treaty. Continue reading

Space, the Final (Capitalist) Frontier

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 2.03.38 PMBy Doug Logan

Thanks to William Shatner and the popular TV show and movie franchise Star Trek, many think of outer space as the final frontier. That sentiment has recently been fully adopted by some of the most powerful companies in the world that are interested in the nearly limitless potential that space offers. Given that most law in this area is based on international law principles, it remains unknown how U.S. courts will handle disputes in commercial space law. Issues range from colonizing Mars, to more common and immediate concerns, such as contractual disputes and telecommunications progress.

In 2014, SpaceX filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force claiming that the Air Force improperly awarded a contract to the United Launch Alliance (“ULA”), a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The complaint alleges that the Air Force did not take competing bids from other private contractors such as SpaceX. The contract guaranteed the purchase of 36 rocket cores from ULA for national defense. Founder Elon Musk of SpaceX claims that if allowed to bid, SpaceX would save the government over one billion dollars. (SpaceX already has a 1.6 billion-dollar contract with NASA to deliver resupply materials to the international space station.) Recently, federal district court Judge Susan Bradon denied ULA’s motion that the lawsuit should be dismissed based on supposed congressional ratification of the contract. In two recent spending bills, Congress passed language stating that the money should be paid to ULA. The court was not persuaded by ULA’s argument because all of the court proceedings have been under seal, and therefore Congress could not have had knowledge of the specifics of the lawsuit and would not be in a position to ratify the contract. Continue reading