The term “New Space” signifies the innovation of space tourism and efforts to privatize space launch and space flight as a commercial industry. But it is far broader than just launch. New Space includes commercial communication satellites, satellite television, sub-orbital operations, large constellations of small satellites and many other commercial space ventures.
New Space is not old space. New Space is old space on steroids. It is transformative. It is synergistic. It is taking us from slow moving government space programs to warp speed commercialization of everything from launch to space applications.
From the beginning, space activities were conducted largely by nation states. Later, defense contractors began to develop and operate launch systems largely based on government rockets. In the 2000s, entrepreneurs started designing and in the 2010s began deploying space systems competitive with government systems. New commercial launch systems fostered competition in space launch services through cost reduction and more launch capacity. Along with more capacity came the opportunity for rideshares and hosted payloads. Advancing technology brought about miniaturization of components, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence to analyze the Big Data received from space assets. With small satellites came large constellations to provide broad band and other services to all areas of the globe so people everywhere could enjoy benefits of commercial space activities.
While there were many technical achievements that enabled New Space, the impact of billionaires can’t be ignored. Billionaires have poured money into SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and other companies. Another factor enabling New Space is the emergence of less government regulation. In the U.S., the cumbersome Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and associated regulations have given way to NASA Space Act Agreements and Department of Defense Other Transactional Authority (OTA) agreements that are commercial contracts which have led to faster and simpler procurement of space assets by the government. The government has become less of a doer and more of an enabler.
New Space is full of opportunities for all, including space lawyers. A challenge for lawyers in the New Space era is to adapt the space treaties of the 60s and 70s to the new opportunities available in the commercial space sector. Fortunately for our young space lawyers, New Space has opened doors for many more lawyers to participate in the space industry. Space is a major growth industry thanks to New Space – and lawyers get to share in that growth.