With the signing into law of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, the U.S. prepares for a new age of resource extracting. However, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act may contravene international space law, already convened since 1967.
The recently passed and signed bill is ambitious without a doubt. While it sets the foreground of the new age of space exploration, it also introduces a controversial provision related to the exploration of minerals in outer space.
Experts tout this particular provision as controversial due to the apparent infringement on international space law, as well as due to the tinting of a pristine environment that should belong to all for scientific purposes.
The strong points of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act relate to reaffirming commitment for the scientific missions deployed to the International Space Station for the following decade. Extra budgetary provisions for the U.S. space agency, NASA are deemed as the salvation window from the Russian spacecraft dependency when it comes to transporting U.S. astronauts and provisions to the International Space Station.
Another provision relates to space startups receiving a regulatory relaxation over the following decade as well. With this provision, the thorny issue of space resource mining comes into the limelight. And here, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act may contravene international space law.
The framework is set for space resource mining. Celestial bodies cannot be claimed by any and all states or companies on Earth. However, through the new framework, companies have property rights over resources extracted from the celestial bodies in case. Space startups have the potential to be at the forefront of conflicts potentially arising from this one provision of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act.
SpaceX or Virgin Galactic are crucial actors on the U.S. space exploration scene. The new age of space exploration depends on such space startups for new means of transportation, innovation and groundbreaking technology to be deployed to space. Planetary Resources is another such example of a space startup focused on space resource mining.
Which comes in conflict with the Moon Agreement of 1979, as well as the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The latter states:
“Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”.
130 states are committed to the 1967 treaty, including the space powers of our days, the U.S., China and Russia.
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