Never Mind Balloon Boy, Here’s the Space Jockeys
Back in July, I had written a post about current issues in governmental space programs and I promised a follow-up on the private space industry. Well, that post never materialized. However, in lieu of that post I want to point to this post by author Brenda Cooper on Futurismic that has a quick and fun tour of the major U.S. players among the new space start-ups. She describes (and has links to) a few of the companies, as well as the new “spaceports,” and also has a link to the Rocket Racing League’s promo video that really should not be missed. By the way, Futurismic also had a post from around the time of the Apollo moon landing anniversary looking at the current state of private (and public) space programs.
The international legal issues generated by such these new space start-ups are as wide-ranging as the business models, which encompass topics such as private satellite launches, space tourism, private space stations/ hotels in space, energy generation, and moon landings. As more companies move into these areas, the basic framework of the Outer Space Treaty will probably need to be supplemented. It will e especially interesting to see how much of these relations among new space ventures will be circumscribed by new government regulations and international agreements or rather be defined primarily by contractual provisions of an industry that may grow and change faster than the regulators are able to keep up.
And, as incredible as the ventures listed above are, my favorite example is the story of some other balloon boys and girls, four Spanish teenagers and their high school teacher, who used a helium balloon to loft a camera 20 miles to the upper reaches of the atmosphere. (Check out these pictures.) Total cost: about 200 bucks. (Perhaps with some refinements this could provide super-cheap image intel.) When you have teen-aged hobbyists sending payloads as high as NASA research balloons, then you know the regulatory environment is about to undergo a basic change. Overall, the rise of private space ventures is part of the story of how individuals and other substate actors are pushing into areas that before could only be contemplated by governments.
Like I wrote back in July: it’s a fun time to be a space lawyer.