Space Law: Low Earth Orbit is the New Wild West

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Our Current Laws Regarding Space Are Terribly Out of Date

I wrote earlier today about Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and their plans for space exploration. We’ve discussed anti-satellite missiles on this site as well. I’ve even lampooned President Trump Beeblebrox for not understanding even the basic principles of a Space Force. What we haven’t done yet, is talk seriously about space law.

Wait… Space Law Is a Thing?

Yep. It certainly is. In fact, it all starts with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. You know, from the good ol’ Cold War days. That treaty, and subsequent ones, are all about how nobody can make claims of state sovereignty in space, and about how Chinese astronauts have to help Canadian ones if they’re in distress and stuff. The problem, as this article in the Australian points out, lies in the fact that those laws all concern states in space. They say nothing about private corporations with more spending power than the GDP of many small states.  

It’s true: Amazon brings in ten times the GDP of Uganda every year.

Last year, Amazon brought in over 232 billion dollars in revenue.  The GDP of Uganda last year was around 28 billion. Okay, so not quite a factor of ten, but what’s six billion between friends? Even more developed countries like Denmark, Ireland, Egypt, and Finland have problems keeping their GDPs up with what Amazon makes each year. 

So What Happens When a Corporation Can Outspend Developed Nations?

We can only speculate and regulate accordingly, to be frank. Corporations began sending things into space a long time ago. The difference is, they can get it there themselves now. 

Space junk orbiting earth

Image credit: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120518-danger-space-junk-alert

Of particular note is the over half a million pieces of space junk floating around in low Earth orbit. And that’s just the number NASA says it’s tracking.  If Elon Musk wants to put 12,000 satellites into orbit, is it his responsibility to clean up all of that junk first? What about another entrepreneur who wants to build a startup designed specifically for space junk cleanup? Would that be okay? Who would pay for it, though? The corporations? The governments? The Klingons?

This piece isn’t meant to answer all of those questions. Instead, I merely wanted to point out that we need to start looking at space law. Including the serious revision of existing treaties and the creation of new ones.

What do you think the first new space law should be? Let me know in the comments below!


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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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2 Responses

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