The global space economy is today approaching $400 billion. By 2040 it is expected to reach the $1 trillion mark. The chart (prepared by Bryce for the World Economic Forum) illustrates the budgets, the areas as well as the most significant trends, constituting the global space economy. Governments, traditional space manufacturers and services companies together with NewSpace companies and start-ups plus billionaires thus constitute an ever-growing sector taking advantage from the free use of outer space for economic purposes.
While space law has established half a century ago the still working framework for the status of outer space and its actors and while the next step in space law developments is currently underway to regulate the behaviour in our space through Space Traffic Management, there is so far no clear understanding about what would constitute the law of the global space economy. This entry in the IISL Space Law Knowledge Constellation is intended to launch a discussion on how to scope the laws and regulations for the global space economy.
The German EU Council Presidency of 2021 brought forward a concept entitled “Establishing key principles for the global space economy”. It was a comprehensive attempt to identify the elements constituting the governance and regulation of the global space economy. They ranged from market-related issues (trade and export legislation, goods and services, public procurement) to financing issues (public and private sector investments, co-funding models, business incubation, assets-based financing) to regulatory and economic issues related to space safety and sustainability (STM), cyber-security and resiliency as well as intellectual property rights.
In practically none of these fields, globally accepted principles, rules or regimes exist, even less for the overall issue area of the global space economy. Questions arise on what the regulation of the global space economy shall encompass, what approaches to take and where to elaborate dedicated frameworks or a single framework. While the multilateral, inclusive approach for such elaboration is proposed – also in view of the status of outer space as a global common to be used for the benefit of all – there are trends of extraterritorial application of national regulations and also the open disregard of binding international law. Therefore, it is timely to discuss on how to develop the global space economy further under the principles of the rule of law and a level-playing field in order to share the benefits on an equitable basis.