Space Agencies and Space Law

Let’s now focus on Space Agencies and Space Law. Space law is contributed to in other ways. First, national legislation is increasing. International obligations have had to be accommodated within domestic law, and national interests are protected. This body of space-related law is not entirely self-consistent, but it and its vagaries affect general space law. Second are the contributions of international institutions and agencies that engage in or are otherwise involved in space both at the policy and law-making levels.

Space Agencies and Space Law in Eurasia

Policy necessarily works out in law. Obviously, at its simplest level, the agents include the foreign offices, state departments or their equivalent, and the government departments that supervise or control technical matters. Precisely how this works depends on the constitutional arrangements of each state. Thus in China, space policy is set by the State Council and complied with by the relevant departments of government.

India has its own space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which operates under the Indian Government. In Russia, much is done through Roscosmos. In a variety of instances, however, governments and national agencies have come together co-operatively to engage in space activities with consequent effects on space law. Of these one obvious example is the European Space Agency (ESA).

Continuing on Space Agencies and Space Law, in Japan, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was born through the merger of three institutions, namely the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL), and the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA). It was designated as a core performance agency to support the Japanese government’s overall aerospace development and utilisation. JAXA, therefore, can conduct integrated operations from basic research and development, to utilisation.

Again, various operational national agencies have come together to establish more or less formal international fora to discuss matters of common concern and arrive at compatible procedures and ways of doing things. Such include the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS), the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG), and the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC).

In Europe

Within Europe, on Space Agencies and Space Law, many states have set up a space-related government department or agency. In Italy, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) promotes and co-ordinates space activities. In Spain, the Instituto National de Technico Aeroespacial (INTA) acts as the national space agency. The Danish National Space Center is a research centre within the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Technology.

The French Centre National d’Études Spatiales was founded in 1961 and plays a co-ordinating role in space matters. Its powers are extensive, including the implementation of policy and the execution of space programs in collaboration with academic and industrial partners, which may include military and defence programs. Under a contract with ESA, its Launch Directorate leads on all matters relating to the Ariane launchers and Arianespace, including the supervision of production, marketing and actual launch. CNES also interacts with ESA as a main channel of French interest in that body.

Its task is to invent the space systems of the future, bring space technologies to maturity and guarantee France’s independent access to space. CNES is a pivotal player in Europe’s space program, and a major source of initiatives and proposals that aim to maintain France and Europe’s competitive edge. It conceives and executes space programs with its partners in the scientific community and industry, and is closely involved in many international cooperation programs—the key to any far-reaching space policy.

The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) is the major entity involved in space activities at a governmental level. Acting under a Board of Directors, basically it is both a space research centre and the German Space Agency. In history, the West German Deutsche Forschungs- und Versuchsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DFVLR) was formed in 1969 from three related organisations to act as a testing and research institute. It was renamed the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) in 1989. Following the reuniting of East and West Germany, a new single space agency brought together the operational space interests of both former governments in DARA (Deutsche Agentur für Raumfahrtangelegenheiten).

Working through four technical directorates and several Advisory Committees, DARA both formed and executed German space policy, including the overall German Space Program. In a further reorganisation in 1997, DARA and DLR were brought together under the latter’s title. The DLR now conducts research, encourages industry and administers the German space budget as well as interacts with other national space agencies and industries. It is also active in aerospace matters.

In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK), responsibilities for space used to be dispersed among many government departments. A British National Space Centre (BNSC), established in 1985 and operational until 2010, sought to co-ordinate UK space efforts, the policy being to develop commercially attractive activities. BNSC was reorganised in 2005. A Space Advisory Council replaced a Space Strategy Council, and a Space Board was constituted to give advices on policy. Policy remained the attainment of clear scientific and commercial objectives for which space is effective rather than the development of technology as an end in itself.

Throughout the basic motivation remained commercially biased. On April 1, 2010, the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA), an executive agency sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, replaced BNSC. UKSA is now responsible for all strategic decisions on the UK civil space program, and co-operates with other departments including the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. UK space policy has now expanded to include human spaceflight.

In 2014, UKSA issued a paper on “National Space Security Policy” outlining how the UK is to be made more resilient as to disruption of its space activities both through natural and intentional occurrences. Although technically a UK space licence is granted by a Secretary of State, in fact the UKSA now deals with the licensing of UK space activities under the Outer Space Act, 1986.

The other main UK Government department of direct relevance for space is the Office of Communications established by the Office of Communications Act 2002, with functions and powers set out in the Communications Act 2003. Ofcom deals with all questions of radio – essential in virtually all space activities – and is the notifying administrative agency to the ITU for UK frequency assignments. This is what can be said concerning Space Agencies and Space Law.