Market and technology developments in the context of “NewSpace” are also disruptive in legal terms. Among many others, NewSpace has a significant impact on how national space legislation is perceived, developed and implemented.
Traditionally, the purpose of national space laws was mainly restricted to assuring compliance with the obligation of States under Article VI Outer Space Treaty to authorize and supervise space activities of non-governmental entities, to setting up a national space object register and to establishing liability obligations of commercial operators in view of the State liability under the Outer Space Treaty and the Liability Convention.
Around 2000, only few States had enacted national space legislation, and, in many cases, the laws were short and focused on the above key elements.
Over the past 10 years or so, there was a visible increase in national space legislations. Many of these national space laws were driven by the rise of small satellite projects of universities or university spin-offs. The legislative and regulatory approaches were specifically designed for that purpose.
More recently, national space law is perceived as a tool for supporting the development and growth of a commercial space sector, for attracting companies, stimulating private investments, supporting job creation, and strengthening international competitiveness. Many countries with existing national space legislation have undertaken reforms, or are in the process of preparing them, towards this broader aim and focus. Emerging space nations adopt comprehensive legal and regulatory frameworks in the context of highly ambitious space policies and strategies.
Business decisions and regulatory initiatives are closely linked in this respect. In some cases, the establishment of a company planning to conduct space activities may result in corresponding national regulatory initiatives. On the other hand, regulatory initiatives may lead to the establishment of new companies or may provide incentives to foreign companies to move their headquarters to the respective jurisdiction.
The increasingly perception of national space law as a tool of economic policy however increases the risk of forum shopping result and may result in a regulatory race to the bottom. Specific national approaches to regulation may undermine the role of international fora in the further development of international space law and overall, they push the global State community even further towards a pure economic perception of the space industry. Where the primary aim of national legislation is economic and competitive advantage, light-weight regulation with minimal burden for industry risks to undermine progress towards the protection and long-term sustainability of the outer space environment.