The Law Behind the NOAA Open Letter to Google Lunar X PRIZE Participants

July 28, 2008 at 11:22 am | Posted in Remote Sensing Law, Remote Sensing Law Current Events | 2 Comments

by Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz with the blog faculty

Res Communis received 10,000+ hits for its post, NOAA Open Letter to Google Lunar X PRIZE Participants. There is enormous interest in the fact that, as the letter says, “if your [X Prize] team is based wholly or partially in the USA, you may need to apply for a license from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).” Along with the hits, Res Communis received numerous comments about why this is the case. With interest being so high, we’ve decided to provide a general response on the blog.
The primary reasons behind the law are to advance the principle of open access to data by implementing the nondiscriminatory access policy and for the U.S. to meet its international legal obligations. It also addresses national security and other interests.
The nondiscriminatory access policy began in 1972 with the launch of the Earth Resources Technology Satellite, later renamed Landsat 1. The policy was formulated to ensure open access to sensed data and to assuage the concerns of the rest of the world that the satellite would be used against them in the form of economic or other espionage. Not all nations agreed that openness of information was a good idea and others feared the satellites being used against them. The nondiscriminatory access policy stated that access to imagery would be available to all, on a nondiscriminatory basis, and any nation could directly download the data, if they also implemented the nondiscriminatory access policy. Canada was the first to do so, followed by numerous nations since then.

Over the years, the policy evolved and has been adopted by all remote sensing nations and is, arguably, the most important part of the U.N. The Principles Relating to Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space. The nondiscriminatory access policy still applies to the Landsat satellites and a modified version can apply to non-federal, civil satellites. How, and to what degree, is determined on a case-by-case basis.
The licensing process also serves as an interface mechanism between the U.S. and its obligations at international law. The United States, along with other spacefaring nations, is a State Party to the Outer Space Treaty. Under Article 6 of that Treaty, signatories, including the U.S., have the obligation to supervise and authorize all of their non-governmental space actors. Other signatories, including Canada, France, and Germany also have their own national analogs to the U.S. licensing process.
The entire subject of licensing, the application of the nondiscriminatory access policy, and related issues is much more complex than this post can address. Suffice it to say, it is a long-standing and widely applied practice.

Library: A Round-up of Reading

July 28, 2008 at 10:41 am | Posted in Library | Comments Off on Library: A Round-up of Reading

John L. Conway III, Strangers in a Strange Land: The Federalist Papers, the Air National Guard and Homeland Defense, Air University’s The Wright Stuff.

Jeff Foust, The COTS Conundrum, The Space Review

Taylor Dinerman, Europe’s space ambitions in context, The Space Review

John M. Scheib, Security in a Vacuum: Why TSA’s Proposed Rules on Rail Security Must be Reconsidered, 75 Journal of Transportation Law, Logistics and Policy 11 (2008).

SpaceX – Falcon Launch Vehicle Lunar Capability Guide (Rev. 2)


NASCIO – “Where’s the Data? Show Me” – Maximizing the Investment in State Geospatial Resources

Samuel Black – No Harmful Interference with Space Objects: The Key to Confidence-Building

Aviation Security: Transportation Security Administration Has Strengthened Planning to Guide Investments in Key Aviation Security Programs, but More Work Remains. GAO-08-1024T, July 24

CRS – Satellite Surveillance: Domestic Issues

CRS – U.S. Civilian Space Policy Priorities: Reflections 50 Years After Sputnik

NASA authorization bill progress – Space Politics

Backing Off – Space Politics

NGA: Intel Teams Key To GWOT Improvements – DoD Buzz

NOAA Regulations – The Launch Pad

International Lunar Agreement Signed at ARC – NASA Watch

Michael Levine Against Reregulation – Aviation Law Prof Blog

Classified Satellite System Cleared By GAO – DoD Buzz

U.S. Army – Aircraft Recovery Operations

Rosine Couchoud – EU proposal for a code of conduct for outer space activities

Rep. Brad Miller to FAA Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell

Speech by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin before the Parliamentary Group on Space, French National Assembly

Tracking information on Associated Press (AP) FOIA request to NASA for records associated with air safety survey, 2006-2007

FCC approves satellite radio merger

July 28, 2008 at 10:26 am | Posted in Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty reports:

FCC approves satellite radio merger
Posted: Sat, Jul 26, 2008, 8:17 AM ET (1217 GMT)
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally approved the merger of the two satellite radio providers in the United States late Friday, ending an effort started 17 months ago. On a 3-2 vote, the five FCC commissioners approved the merger of Sirius Satellite Radio with XM Satellite Radio. The approval comes with conditions, including a three-year freeze on subscriber rates and nearly $20 million in fines for failing to create interoperable radios and violating FCC rules for signal-boosting terrestrial equipment. Those conditions are not expected to derail the merger. The two companies, which combined have approximately 18 million subscribers, announced plans to merge in February 2007, but ran into extensive delays winning regulatory approval. The Justice Department’s antitrust unit approved the merger plans earlier this year, leaving the FCC as the final hurdle to completing the deal. How the two companies will combine the infrastructure over the long term, including their fleets of satellites, has yet to be determined.

There is nothing on the FCC website yet on the matter.

S. Res. 625: A resolution designating August 16, 2006, as National Airborne Day

July 28, 2008 at 10:20 am | Posted in Aviation Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

S. Res. 625: A resolution designating August 16, 2006, as National Airborne Day was introduced on July 25, 2008 by Sen. Charles Hagel (R-NE). The text of the resolution is not yet available from Thomas.

Multinational Agreement Signed To Carry Out Lunar Exploration

July 28, 2008 at 10:17 am | Posted in Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

Multinational Agreement Signed To Carry Out Lunar Exploration

Representatives of the space and science agencies of all members spent Thursday at Moffett Field working on a plan to launch lunar spacecrafts and orbiters, establishing a network to monitor the moon’s seismic activity,the paper said.
by Staff Writers
Silicon Valley CA (PTI) Jul 28, 2008
India, along with seven other countries, has signed a landmark agreement with the United States to carry out lunar exploration. The agreement was signed at American space agency NASA’s Ames Research Centre here this week and it would be formally announced on Tuesday.

Apart from India, the countries which signed the pact with the US are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and South Korea.

The agreement, which lays the groundwork for a new generation of lunar exploration, will see a multinational fleet of robot spacecraft returning to the moon in coming years, with countries like India, Germany and South Korea playing key roles, the San Jose Mercury News has reported. . . .

Disasters Charter Activated: Floods in Romania

July 28, 2008 at 10:13 am | Posted in Remote Sensing Law Current Events | Leave a comment

by Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz with the blog faculty

Source: International Charter “Space and Major Disasters”

Floods in Northern / North-Eastern Romania

Type of Event: Floods
Location of Event: Northern / North-Eastern Romania
Date of Charter Activation: 28/07/2008
Charter Requestor: Romanian Space Agency (ROSA)
Project Management: CNES

Description of Event

Thousands of people were evacuated in northeastern Romania after heavy rains caused massive flooding that swept away homes, cut off electricity and damaged roads. At least four people died and two people are still missing.

Images and/or Image Products Delivered Under the Charter

Images and/or image products delivered under the Charter will be published here as soon as they become available.

The Air Navigation (Dangerous Goods) (Amendment) Regulations 2008

July 28, 2008 at 10:02 am | Posted in Aviation Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty
The United Kingdom’s Air Navigation (Dangerous Goods) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (PDF version) was made on July 21, 2008 and will come into force on August 15, 2008:

Statutory Instruments
2008 No. 1943

Civil Aviation
The Air Navigation (Dangerous Goods) (Amendment) Regulations 2008

Made – 21st July 2008

Coming into force – 15th August 2008

The Secretary of State for Transport, in exercise of the powers conferred by article 70(1) of the Air Navigation Order 2005(1), makes the following Regulations:
Citation and commencement

1. These Regulations may be cited as the Air Navigation (Dangerous Goods) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 and come into force on 15th August 2008.
Amendment of the Air Navigation (Dangerous Goods) Regulations 2002

2. The Air Navigation (Dangerous Goods) Regulations 2002(2) are amended by substituting for the definition of “Technical Instructions” in regulation 3(1)—

“Technical Instructions” means the 2007-2008 English language edition of Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, as amended by the Addenda and Corrigenda dated 1st August 2007 and 13th June 2008 respectively, approved and published by decision of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation;”

Signed by authority of the Secretary of State for Transport

Jim Fitzpatrick

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

Department for Transport

21st July 2008

1st Symposium on Astrosociology

July 28, 2008 at 8:56 am | Posted in Space Law Current Events | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty:

Upcoming Event:

Symposium Chair

Update: SPESIF 2009 Call for Papers – Deadlines Extended!

Event: SPESIF 2009 Conference

Dates: February 24-27, 2009

Location: Von Braun Center; Huntsville, Alabama

Track: First Symposium on Astrosociology

New Abstract Deadline: August 15, 2008

Additional Deadlines

August 20, 2008 — Authors Notified of Acceptance

September 15, 2008 — Draft Papers Due *

October 30, 2008 — Formal Acceptance of Papers *

December 1, 2008 — Camera Ready Papers Due *

December 15, 2008 — Accepted Authors Must Register for Conference

December 26, 2009 — Completed Proceedings Sent to Publisher

March 20, 2009 — Published Proceedings Released by Publisher (Will be mailed)

*– does not apply to “presentation only” option

Conference Link:

Symposium Link:

(Note: the SPESIF conference replaces the STAIF conference held in the past).

The “1st Symposium on Astrosociology” has its first formal session. Douglas Comstock, the Director of Innovative Partnerships Program at NASA Headquarters, has agreed to chair a session focusing on technology transfers and spinoffs. This topic is a prominent component of the often-neglected causal direction between space and society; that is, how space affects society. Is this really of secondary importance as many suggest?

A session exists called “The Relationship between Astrosociology and astrobiology (and SETI).” The main focus is to put the findings and implications of astrobiology and SETI in a social-scientific context. This where astrosociology becomes relevant.

We have added a “Medical Astrosociology” session. This subfield combines space medicine with social-scientific issues for a more comprehensive understanding by taking advantage of both branches of science. It incorporates behavioral health and psychological phenomena, but it also includes sociology, anthropology, and the humanities.

The Astrosociology Research Institute (ARI) will become a cooperative organization with the SPESIF conference. ARI is a California nonprofit public benefit corporation that seeks to support astrosociological research, including promoting student participation in astrosociology sessions and providing funding assistance for them when this becomes possible in the near future. See the ARI website ( for a complete definition of astrosociology and description of ARI’s mission.

Important Note: participants are not required to write formal papers, so a PowerPoint presentation is adequate to become part of the program. For those who do not have enough time to write a paper, participation is still a possibility. An abstract must be submitted for both papers and presentations, the latter of which summarizes the major theme/purpose of the slideshow presentation.

Together, we can put the human dimension in its rightful place as a complementary component to the traditional STEM subjects common in space research and practice. This is a perfect opportunity to start a tradition at SPESIF in which astrosociology becomes a mainstream topic.

We require additional abstracts. Faculty and students welcome. I strongly urge you to participate!


Jim Pass, Ph.D. (sociology)

Chair, 1st Symposium on Astrosociology

Chief Executive Officer, Astrosociology Research Institute (ARI)

Vice Chair, AIAA Astrosociology Working Group (AWG)

Disasters Charter Activated for Hurricane Dolly On Behalf of the State of Texas

July 25, 2008 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Remote Sensing Law, Remote Sensing Law Current Events | Leave a comment

by Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz with the blog faculty

Source: International Charter Space and Major Disasters

Type of Event: Hurricane
Location of Event: Southern Texas, USA
Date of Charter Activation: 23/07/2008
Charter Requestor: USGS on behalf of State of Texas
Project Management: Center for Space Research – University of Texas at Austin

Description of Event

Hurricane Dolly – the second hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season and classified as Category 2 – made landfall just northeast of the border town of Brownsville and left thousands of Texas residents without power. Officials feared the intense rain caused by the hurricane would cause flooding problems in the coming days.

Images and/or Image Products Delivered Under the Charter

Images and/or image products delivered under the Charter will be published here as soon as they become available.

New CRS Reports on Space Available

July 25, 2008 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Library, Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

Secrecy News points to two new CRS reports on Space.

The first is Satellite Surveillance: Domestic Issues, which includes an analysis of legal issues:

Reconnaissance satellites, first deployed in the early 1960s to peer into denied regions of the Soviet Union and other secretive enemy states, have from time to time been used by civilian agencies of the federal government to assist with mapping, disaster relief, and environmental concerns. These uses have been coordinated by the Civil Applications Office at the U.S. Geological Survey, a component of the Interior Department. Post 9/11, the Bush Administration has sought to encourage use of satellite-derived data for homeland security and law enforcement purposes, in addition to the civil applications that have been supported for years. In 2007, it moved to transfer responsibility for coordinating civilian use of satellites to the Department of Homeland Security. The initiative was launched, however, apparently without notification of key congressional oversight committees.

Members of Congress and outside groups have raised concerns that using satellites for law enforcement purposes may infringe on the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. persons. Other commentators have questioned whether the proposed surveillance will violate the Posse Comitatus Act or other restrictions on military involvement in civilian law enforcement, or would otherwise exceed the statutory mandates of the agencies involved. Such concerns led Congress to preclude any funds in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (H.R. 2764, P.L. 110-161), from being used to “commence operations of the National Applications Office … until the Secretary [of the Department of Homeland Security] certifies that these programs comply with all existing laws, including all applicable privacy and civil liberties standards, and that certification is reviewed by the Government Accountability Office.” (Section 525.) Similar language has been included in FY2009 homeland security appropriations bills.

This report provides background on the development of intelligence satellites and identifies the roles various agencies play in their management and use. Issues surrounding the current policy and proposed changes are discussed, including the findings of an Independent Study Group (ISG) with respect to the increased sharing of satellite intelligence data. There follows a discussion of legal considerations, including whether satellite reconnaissance might constitute a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment; an overview of statutory authorities, as well as restrictions that might apply; and a brief description of executive branch authorities and Department of Defense directives that might apply. The report concludes by suggesting policy issues Congress may consider as it deliberates the potential advantages and pitfalls that may be encountered in expanding the role of satellite intelligence for homeland security purposes.

The report will be updated as new information becomes available.


Current Policies
The Independent Study Group
National Applications Office (NAO)

Legal Considerations
Constitutional Rights
Searches and Non-searches Distinguished
Reasonable Warrantless Searches
Statutory Authorities and Restrictions
The National Security Act
The Posse Comitatus Act and Statutory Exceptions
Executive Branch Authorities
Executive Order 12333
DOD Directives


The second is U.S. Civilian Space Policy Priorities: Reflections 50 Years After Sputnik:

The “space age” began on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union (USSR) launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. Some U.S. policymakers, concerned about the USSR’s ability to launch a satellite, thought Sputnik might be an indication that the United States was trailing behind the USSR in science and technology. The Cold War also led some U.S. policymakers to perceive the Sputnik launch as a possible precursor to nuclear attack. In response to this “Sputnik moment,” the U.S. government undertook several policy actions, including the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), enhancement of research funding, and reformation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education policy.

Following the “Sputnik moment,” a set of fundamental factors gave “importance, urgency, and inevitability to the advancement of space technology,” according to an Eisenhower presidential committee. These four factors include the compelling need to explore and discover; national defense; prestige and confidence in the U.S. scientific, technological, industrial, and military systems; and scientific observation and experimentation to add to our knowledge and understanding of the Earth, solar system, and universe. They are still part of current policy discussions and influence the nation’s civilian space policy priorities — both in terms of what actions NASA is authorized to undertake and the appropriations each activity within NASA receives.

Further, the United States faces a far different world today. No Sputnik moment, Cold War, or space race exists to help policymakers clarify the goals of the nation’s civilian space program. The Hubble telescope, Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, and Mars exploration rovers frame the experience of current generations, in contrast to the Sputnik launch and the U.S. Moon landings. As a result, some experts have called for new 21st century space policy objectives and priorities to replace those developed 50 years ago. The authorization of NASA funding in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-55) extends through FY2008. Congress may decide to maintain or shift NASA’s priorities on such issues as national prestige, scientific knowledge, international relations, spinoff effects such as new job and market creation, and STEM education during the next reauthorization.

In the 110th Congress, several congressional resolutions honoring the 50th anniversary of Sputnik and the importance of the resulting agencies and activities to the United States have been introduced, with some passing the House or Senate. The House passed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 6063) on June 18, 2008. In §2, Findings, the House approved a series of findings that reflects on NASA’s 50th anniversary, and identifies a number of priorities for NASA.

Sputnik and America’s “Sputnik Moment”

Why Was Sputnik So Influential?

Why Is Sputnik Important to Today’s Policies?

What Are the Activities of Other Nations and the Commercial Sector in Space Exploration?

What Is the Nation’s Current Civilian Space Policy?

Why Invest in Space Exploration?

What Is the Public’s Attitude Toward Space Exploration?

What Are the Nation’s Priorities for Civilian Space Exploration and Its Implications for Future Space Policy?

Activities in the 110th Congress

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