I am honoured to introduce the first edition of The Space Law Review.

It seems appropriate to be writing this introduction in 2019, the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon on 20 July 1969 as part of NASA’s Apollo 11 lunar mission. This anniversary has further raised awareness of the value of space activities, whether from a scientific perspective, in a commercial context or simply to inspire the next generations.

I am hugely appreciative of the time and dedication of the lawyers who have contributed to this first edition, and more importantly for embracing space law as a practice area. The importance of The Space Law Review will grow each year as the value of space activities increases, further applications of satellite technology are brought into use and the commercial revenues from the industry are recognised. Lawyers will be required to understand the international treaties, how they are enforced and applied in national law and apply such laws, regulations and policies, potentially creatively, to new technologies and business models.

The economic benefits from the space sector are beginning to be recognised by states. The global space economy is expected to be worth £40 billion by 2030. The productivity of the space sector tends to be much larger than national averages.

New and innovative technologies increasingly derive from private commercial activities rather than the more traditional government-funded missions. States are responsible for national activities in outer space and therefore seek to supervise and authorise such activities through national legislation and licensing mechanisms.

New technology such as CubeSats, constellations of thousands of satellites, in-orbit servicing, high-resolution Earth observation data and new small-launcher technology are testing regulatory and insurance frameworks, and offer challenges to regulators that must work very closely with industry, using ideally anticipatory and outcome-focused regulation, to govern such activities. We are seeing new insurance models and financial security concepts being considered by regulators in the granting of launch and operations licences.

Efficient national regulation, which enables innovation effectively, is an increasingly important source of competitive advantage globally. We are witnessing more regulatory forum shopping than ever before in the space industry.

Regulators are required to achieve a balance between:

  1. managing government risk and liability, compliance with international obligations, safety, security and the sustainable use of and access to space; and
  2. encouraging commercialisation, innovation and growth, the benefits to society of new technology and attractiveness to foreign investment.

What is being recognised is that effective national regulation is an enabler to new and innovative satellite technology and the ability to raise finance.

On a personal note, this industry has been my passion for over 27 years. In that time, it has evolved from government-led telecommunications cooperatives to a competitive commercial innovative market, with applications that I would not have imagined in my lifetime. We are now seeing a paradigm shift in technology and opportunities in an industry that is growing with drive and determination; lawyers and regulators need to fully engage with the industry to keep up with it. It is a fascinating industry to engage with.

I thank my professor of space law, the lawyers and clients who supported me over the years, and most of all the contributors again, and hope that readers enjoy this edition and recognise the unique value that the international space industry can bring us on Earth.

Joanne Wheeler MBE
Alden Legal Limited
November 2019