The Space Law Review: Editor's Preface

Over the past year, we have increasingly looked upwards – to consider the 'mega-constellations' being launched to bring us internet broadband in the remotest places; to reflect on the increasing issue of space debris; and to opine on news reports describing new space technology observing Earth, climate change and human activities, down to a couple of centimetres. Perhaps we are also seeking to track the International Space Station and other objects in space as more humans explore this final frontier. Whatever the reason, outer space is increasingly on our minds and in our conversations and news stories, and is used by us on Earth in more sophisticated ways – usually without us even realising.

During the continuing covid-19 pandemic, and stimulated by the growing concerns related to climate change on Earth, we have relied on satellite technology for communications, healthcare (including assistance for first responders), education, information and simple social interaction. The relevance of the space and satellite industry to our lives has rarely been greater.

The importance of The Space Law Review and its content written by experts across the world is growing each year as the value of the space domain and applications from space activities are understood to an enhanced level. New applications of satellite technology are brought into use and the commercial revenues from the industry are more widely recognised.

New and innovative technologies increasingly derive from private commercial activities rather than more traditional government-funded missions. States are liable and responsible for national activities in outer space and, therefore, seek to supervise and authorise such activities through national legislation and licensing mechanisms, which we see more of across the globe. New and more diverse space players are entering the market, including more state players.

New technology – such as constellations of several thousands of satellites (even hundreds of thousands), very high-resolution Earth observation data and new small-launcher technology – is testing regulatory and insurance frameworks. This, combined with greater risks from debris, in-orbit servicing, active debris removal and robotic missions, presents challenges to regulators that must work closely with industry to govern such activities, ideally by using anticipatory and outcome-focused regulation.

The dynamics of space are also changing with aspiring space nations joining the international space community, along with new categories of non-state actors, such as large industrial players, start-ups and universities. Space is mainstream now and part of everyone's lives.

Lawyers, such as the excellent contributors to this book, are not only required to understand the international treaties and how they are enforced and applied in national law, but are also being asked to look at the application of such laws, regulations and policies in innovative and challenging ways and at new applications, technologies (civil and military) and new business models.

Space law is not simply one practice area – it consists of layers of interrelated disciplines and dimensions that lawyers must apply and be alert to, such as: telecommunications; Earth observation; navigation; security and defence; data management; international relations; radio frequency spectrum; technology; national, regional and international laws and regulations; export controls; environmental laws; and corporate, finance and taxation. It requires bright, flexible, problem-solving and solutions-driven minds.

This year I am very pleased to say that The Space Law Review has expanded to include contributions from Lichtenberger Partner Attorneys-at-Law in Austria, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP in Canada, Bird & Bird in France, the International Institute of Air and Space Law in the Netherlands and Formichella & Sritawat Attorneys at Law in Thailand. It has been a pleasure to engage with these new contributors, who have all shared their expertise and knowledge in this book.

My thanks go to all the authors, who have contributed their time, expertise and enthusiasm to this edition. Their practical knowledge of the legal and regulatory frameworks, and the related challenges and solutions, makes this book unique.

The contributors' expertise will grow in importance as the economic benefits from the space sector are increasingly recognised by states. The global space economy is expected to be worth £40 billion by 2030.

Effective national regulation, enabling innovation and investment, is an increasingly important source of competitive advantage globally. We are witnessing increasing regulatory forum shopping in the space industry. The importance of effective national regulation as an enabler for new and innovative satellite technology and the ability to raise finance is increasingly recognised. This is especially the case when such national regulation embraces sustainability goals in relation to the mitigation of space debris and the protection of the outer space environment.

Thank you again to the contributors of The Space Law Review. I wish them success in the year ahead. I hope that readers find this edition valuable and recognise the benefit that the international space industry can bring us, especially during challenging times.

Joanne Wheeler MBE
Alden Legal Limited
November 2021

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