This Comment explores the deficiencies of the legal framework governing commercial space with the advent of satellite mega-constellations. The scope and size of these so-called constellations are completely unlike anything the space industry has contemplated since the first rocket was launched into orbit. Moreover, these constellations are an extremely new phenomenon—the prime movers in the industry are just beginning to create these massive man-made wonders in space. As such, the legal framework was designed around space operations that are much smaller in scope. That framework has struggled to keep pace with the rapidly growing commercial space industry generally and the constellation industry specifically.
This Comment begins by explaining some of the pressing concerns regarding space exploration and specifically addresses the growing concerns roused by the addition of tens of thousands of small satellites primarily within Earth’s lower orbit. It then lays out the relevant regulatory framework. It discusses how that framework has operated in the past, how it has been applied to commercial satellite constellations so far, and how it has changed over the past few years. Finally, this Comment discusses the reality of satellite constellation regulation—that it is being largely self-regulated by the industry. It analyzes the benefits and negative aspects of that reality, and it concludes with a proposal on how to move forward with space regulation such that the continued viability of space exploration and the protection of relevant stakeholders will be assured well into the future.
H. Austin Simpson, Regulating Science Fiction: The Regulatory Deficiencies in a Rapidly Growing Commercial Space Industry,
J. Air L. & Com.