When we think of space, it seems to be an entity open to all. And while there is room for the entire world to access space, there must be a sense of regulation and responsibility to ensure that no space activity negatively impacts life on earth. For this reason, there is an entire sector dedicated to ensuring that this does not happen: this is the role of a space lawyer.
There are a variety of roles available in space law, depending on whether or not someone wants to focus on a public international law emphasis or domestic space lawyers, who focus on either government agencies or commercial companies. This blog will discuss the variety of roles available, what each role consists of, and the general level of experience required to work in these positions. Continue reading to learn more about the space law industry.
Why is Space Law Necessary?
As mentioned above, there are certain activities that, if unregulated, can negatively impact life on Earth. Space law is a necessary entity that can help protect not only humanity but the space ecosystem. You might be curious about what types of unregulated activities might cause issues — one issue is unregulated satellite systems.
Many people do not know how many satellites are in space today. When we think of satellites, we sometimes imagine that there are only a few orbiting Earth. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, as of 2022, there are an estimated 5,465 satellites orbiting Earth.
With this being said, there are risks that can come from a lack of regulation. If these satellites become derelict (where they no longer work), they can become debris and get in the way of other satellites leading to collisions. This is the reason why there is a large demand for regulations, to prevent this from becoming a growing issue that can add to debris in Earth’s lower orbit.
Public International Space Law
Thanks to International Space Law, we are able to have guiding rules for space activity, like the Outer Space Treaty. The Outer Space Treaty was written by a group within the United Nations, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). This treaty established rules, such as that space activities are open to any country, and that no one country “owns” any aspect of space, such as the Moon.
In order to establish treaties such as this, this area of the United Nations is supported by a subcommittee of lawyers who can help navigate these agreements.
How does one become a public international space lawyer? For starters, that person needs to obtain a law degree. Law schools require four years of study prior to attendance, and there are a variety of degrees that can work for admittance.
What type of study would benefit someone trying to work in public international space law? Degrees such as political science are great for this objective. After someone obtains their four-year undergraduate degree, they will attend law school. There are many programs surrounding air and space law, one offered by the University of Mississippi.
Domestic Space Law
Domestic space law focuses on laws and regulations established by or within one country. For example, the United States has a wide range of laws and regulations that have been enacted over the years. Some of these legislative pieces include the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020, which established the Space Force. Domestic space lawyers help defend and ensure compliance with both international laws and domestic laws.
Domestic space lawyers work with both government entities and commercial companies or organizations to maintain the regulations set in place. The commercial space sector has seen growth like none other before.
With this being said, there are many reasons why companies are fighting for the chance to release satellites into space, establish a lunar presence, or to even bring civilians into space. With this rapid growth and the desire to develop these projects, the need for domestic space lawyers is crucial.
Many of these commercial projects are firsts, and it can be challenging to interpret laws and regulations correctly, especially if they were drafted with only government agencies in mind. Domestic space lawyers can help these companies interpret the law in order to follow them to the best of their ability.
What Does It Take to Be A Good Space Lawyer?
Space lawyers share many of the same responsibilities as other types of lawyers. When it comes to practicing law, there are some qualities that are essential to the role. One of these is the ability to speak and write proficiently. Much of a lawyer’s work is done outside of the courtroom, and often people disregard how much writing goes into the job.
Another essential aspect of being a lawyer is possessing research and analytical skills. Law is very often about interpretation and a good lawyer must be able to understand the law and its entirety and how it applies to a certain situation.
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