The concept of NewSpace is a ‘new’ phenomena wherein a series of technological, legal, commercial and social model innovations have culminated in a significant decrease in the expenses related to the provision of new space products and services, and this in turn has served to widen the market. Some market expansion is can be seen in sub-sectors such as space mining, space tourism, on-orbit servicing and human and robotic spaceflight. Satellite mega-constellations also represent a rapidly growing niche within this market.
The changed context of satellite mega-constellations in particular provides the right opportunity to shift from competition to cooperation, being a capital intensive, lucrative and highly tenuous market segment. In order for outer space benefits to accrue, then, states and entities will require assurance of returns on their investments. This assuredness can only be brought about by legal provisions that protect property interests in outer space and create mechanisms for beneficiation.
To achieve this we need to investigate the growing demands in the underwriting space and the lack of adequate investment protection in the applicable space treaties. While Earth is governed by property rights, there is no parallel system in outer space. To secure investments made in satellite mega-constellations necessitates robust security rights pivotal for financing large infrastructure projects. These will include a variety of policy endeavors such as mandatory insurance policies.
Indeed, long gone are the days when outer space was accessible to all but financial behemoths. Space operations in past times took on a decidedly militaristic appeal and activities were often shrouded in secrecy. Thus, as commercialization of space products and services expands, we need to consider how to secure the use and revenue-generation potential of space hardware and software. With the rising concerns in space traffic management, space debris, cybersecurity and the threats of geopolitics tensions here on Earth, outer space should be treated as another ecosystem requiring a careful balancing of stakeholder’s rights, particularly economic rights and responsibilities.
We are essentially at the cusp of a revolution where actions, players and innovations are becoming increasingly diverse, and with this, the need for adaptation to the new competition, capabilities and interests. We do so because outer space is a valuable resource, and as such, it is bound to derive curiosity from all sectors of society, mostly governmental and private sector, but also educational institutions and even private individuals.