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Note - Not Because It Is Easy: Exploring National Incentives for Commercial Space Exploration Through a Geopolitical Lens


The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs defines “space law” as the international body of law governing space-related activities, comprising “international agreements, treaties, conventions, and United Nations General Assembly resolutions as well as [the] rules and regulations of international organizations.”[1] The concept has developed beyond its origins as an academic theory, prematurely enshrined in the provisions of a treaty intended to address the geopolitical concerns presented by the Cold War. Space law, however, has yet to evolve into a well-defined regulatory scheme required to protect the modern economic interests of private space companies in the United States.

Inspired by the limitless potential of a new frontier, a revolutionary commercial industry has emerged in the United States, despite the uncertain legal landscape. This industry has produced the world’s first reusable rocket, an innovative new engine domestically produced for deep space flight, and is focused on mining mineral-rich asteroids. The federal government has facilitated such accomplishments in a reduced role, and for the first time in history, the fiscal and logistical challenges that have limited our access to space may finally be resolved by the private sector. Unfortunately, the provisions of the nascent international agreements governing space exploration inhibit such progress. This administration asserts to prioritize the United States’ status as the world’s preeminent space exploring nation. Yet to fully unlock the resources awaiting us in space, this government needs to enable a transition from federally sponsored exploration to incentivized, commercial development. Additionally, the detriments of nationalism and private appropriation must be responsibly addressed both domestically and abroad.

This Note argues that such a strategy must involve a strategic extension of civil missions, a legislative overhaul to elucidate the obligations imposed by archaic treaties, and a series of regulatory revisions that eliminate barriers of entry for small entities while enhancing the safety of citizens. Furthermore, by reinventing the National Space Council, we can fortify our policies with bipartisan and international support to mitigate the risks of “space conquest.” This solution leverages the United States’ free-market economy to capitalize on the competitive advantage of space, while preserving the idealistic policy that its wonder remains “for all mankind.”

 *  J.D., 2018, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law; Member of the Pennsylvania Bar, 2018; Registered Patent Attorney at the Webb Law Firm of Pittsburgh; B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Villanova University; M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University; M.B.A., Drexel University. Many thanks to Professor Amy Montemarano and the entire membership of the Drexel Law Review for their advice and assistance throughout the writing process. I am especially grateful to my family, particularly my beautiful wife and daughter, for their steadfast support and encouragement.

[1].Space  Law,  United  Nations  Off.  Outer  Space  Aff., (last visited Apr. 16, 2019).