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LAW&SPACE: Which commercial activities are currently permitted in space?

Questions about Space Law

Space&Law: Which commercial activities are permitted in space according to Space Law?

Law is often seen as an instrument that halts instead of enables commercial endeavors. Certainly in the area of space, one tends to think that more things are forbidden than are permitted. This impression is false.

Because we want to help future entrepreneurs to nourish instead of kill their dream, I listed a series of activities that are currently allowed in space. This means one can organize a business around it, organize oneself into action, and still comply with the entire body of relevant national and international law.

All of the activities below have a legal and activity enabling solution.

Baseline Answers

Can a small private company or private individual (this includes students) born in a Western, Eastern, African or Middle and South American nation, on Earth:

  1. Get an insurance package for all the activities below in case of failure/damage? Yes
  2. Get a financing solution for all the activities below? Yes
  3. Offer a financing solution for all the activities below to others? Yes
    • banking service/Lending/Structuring an IPO
  4. Create a prospectus for all the activities below? Yes
  5. Get angel investment for all the activities below? Yes
  6. Organise angel investment for all the activities below? Yes
  7. Get some form of subsidy or tax cuts for all the activities below? Yes
  8. Get or organise institutional investment and/or pension fund investment for all the activities below? Yes
  9. Organise a stock exchange or IPO solution for a business doing all of the below activities? Yes
  10. create a stock or non-stock trading company for all the activities below? Yes
  11. Organise a stock exchange for all of the activities below? Yes
  12. Organise all of the activities below in a non-military peaceful context? Yes

And specifically:

  1. Put an experiment on the ISS? Yes
  2. Have a cubesat launched from the ISS? Yes
  3. Buy a seat on a rocket to the ISS? Yes
  4. Sell a seat on a rocket to the ISS? Yes
  5. Advertise from the ISS? Yes
  6. Buy an entire commercial rocket? Yes
  7. Buy part of the payload capacity of a rocket? Yes
  8. Buy part of a telecommunications platform or satellite? Yes
  9. Buy a small modular space  for a smaller payload on a rocket on a regular basis? Yes
  10. Launch off the shelve parts and equipment into space? Yes
  11. Recycle satellites and debris that is in space and turn it into a venture? Yes
  12. Use spent rocket stages that are circling in orbit and turn them into laboratories or crewed stations? Yes
  13. Organise refueling operations in space? Yes
  14. Set up a parts depot or propellant depot in space? Yes
  15. Do agriculture in space? Yes
  16. Rent a large piece of a space station today? Yes
  17. Rent a large piece of a space station today in LEO? Yes
  18. Rent a large piece of a space station today in Lunar Orbit? Yes
  19. Attach a commercial crew module to the ISS? Yes
  20. Organise tourist flights to the ISS? Yes
  21. Shoot a documentary or film with acting on the ISS? Yes
  22. Rent out modules of a space station? Yes
  23. Rent out modules of a base in Mars orbit? Yes
  24. Rent out modules of a Moon surface base? Yes
  25. Rent out modules of a base in Mars orbit? Yes
  26. Rent out modules of a Mars surface base? Yes
  27. Claim a piece of Land on the Moon or Mars as sovereign territory for my country? Answer: Do you desire war?
  28. Claim a piece of territory on the Moon or Mars? No. But you can use/modify/rent/sell the resources for your base operations, sell them on Mars or Moon as part of goods, semi-manufactured goods and services and export them off world.
  29. Operate a satellite in Low Earth Orbit? Yes
  30. Operate a satellite in Geostationary Orbit? Yes
  31. Operate a satellite in Lunar Orbit? Yes
  32. Operate a satellite in Mars Orbit? Yes
  33. Operate a satellite in Interplanetary Space? Yes
  34. Test a rocket engine? Yes
  35. Test a launch vehicle in your nation? Yes
  36. Test a launch vehicle in areas (like the EU) where nations are bound by a regional treaty? Yes
  37. Does Europe have all provisions to test engines/vehicles designed in other EU nations at the lowest possible cost? Yes
  38. Test and perform all launch vehicle activities before and post launch in international waters? Yes
  39. Launch a commercial rocket into space from a modified commercial airplane? Yes
  40. Send a balloon to the edge of space with commercial equipment (camera / experiment)? Yes
  41. Send a balloon to the edge of space to do a balloon assisted launch of a rocket? Yes
  42. Set up an asteroid mining business? Yes
  43. Land on Mars? Yes
  44. Set up a base around the moon? Yes
  45. Land on Mars? Yes
  46. Operate a rover on Mars? Yes
  47. Advertise products on and from Moon or Mars? Yes
  48. Set up a colony on Mars? Yes
  49. Set up tourism on Mars? Yes
  50. Bring back samples from Mars to the Earth surface on a sample return mission? Yes
  51. Operate a solar power station in space and provide energy to space stations, probes and satellites? Yes
  52. Operate a solar power station in space and provide energy to ground stations? Yes
  53. Operate a laser in space for peaceful reasons? Yes
  54. Mine resources on the Moon? Yes
  55. Mine resources on the Mars? Yes
  56. Sell resources mined on the Moon to a company on Earth? Yes
  57. Sell resources mined on the MARS to a company on Earth? Yes
  58. Can I use my rockets to launch payloads and crew from other nations? Yes
  59. Can I sell rocket technology or dual use technology freely to all other western or eastern nations? No. But you can sell them to a lot of nations. Just ask expert legal advice before you do. Countries are not yet prepared to allow this in all cases. But There are plenty of options to avoid this by buying locally or building parts in your national industry. You do have to plan for it by being careful about your suppliers and vendors and asking expert legal advice on the matter before you even consider that process. (example: ITAR regulations, etc.)

A detailed assessment

You might wonder whether these activities are possible in your jurisdiction. In fact, in all cases there are legal solutions in the Western world and most are being used by more than one companies. If necessary you can have your main company seat in a different country where the activity you desire to organize can take place and even is part of a special law that enables and frames the activity. For this reason, if you have the ambition to start a peaceful venture in space, do not assume there is a law that makes it impossible for you to do so. When you run into obstacles there are plenty of legal ways to operate your business in other countries more open to space entrepreneurship. One thing you have to accept, is that a legal adviser will have to help you deal with the legal administration involved. It is good to get them on-board early in the life of your start-up.

Be sure to find legal advisers with an enabling mindset, instead of limiting. There are those with a passion for space and aviation and these can always see the forest for the trees.

The big picture is, that all these activities are possible for your commercial venture if you jump through the right hoops at the right time.

Allowed but regulated

A company wanting to be active in space or aerospace does this by obtaining the correct licences and permits in the applicable regime and regulatory framework. Governments want to have a very clear picture about your intentions and respect for the necessary and adequate safety requirements, which requires them to obtain a lot of information about your operation, procedures and product.

In very special cases, ‘some’ of these activities can only be organised in another legal jurisdiction than the one you are currently in, usually because of an inadequate regulatory framework. However, from that other jurisdiction you can sell your services internationally and usually to all other Western countries. Moving a part of your business to another country to enable an activity, under the best conditions, is just a small price to pay by people with an international, or even interplanetary mindset. The competitive space market is globalized. Your legal team also has to think globally and be aware of legal solutions for particular space activities in other jurisdictions.

If you have remarks about the above, or want to share concerning space activities you were involved in, and which ended good or bad because of legal advice, do not hesitate to contact and share with us.

Our in-depth knowledge of and experience on the legal and global insurance market can help you get the space activities coverage you need. If you want the value of paid legal advise, need an insurance solution or a relevant referral, do not hesitate to contact us. Detailed analysis is a paid service.

Treaties/regulatory frameworks covered:

  • The five Space Treaties
  • The Moon Treaty
  • COSPAR legislation on forward and backward contamination
  • Dual use legislation and WMD
  • ITAR
  • Other export/import regulatory frameworks
  • National Asteroid mining legislation, internationally
  • National Space Resource extraction legislation, internationally

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