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Y Funatsu & Y Funatsu, April 21-23 1999, "Some Aspects of Space Navigation Law", Proceedings of 2nd International Symposium on Space Travel, Space Tours GmbH, in press..
Also downloadable from aspects of space navigation law.shtml

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Some Aspects of Space Navigation Law
Yoshi Funatsu

Space activities have been treated quite differently from such international transport industries as air and marine transport, which are governed by national laws and international treaties.

Most of the existing laws and regulations governing space activities were written to make it easier for government to function in space. It is recognized that it is time for us to make- it easier for the private sector to undertake the development of commercial space activities, by reforming the existing legal/regulatory framework mainly consisting of inter-governmental treaties negotiated during the cold war days.

The United States of America has now enacted the Commercial Space- Act of 1998 of which a key provision is to amend the earlier Commercial Space Launch Act to license commercial space transportation vehicles to reenter Earth's atmosphere and return space payloads to Earth.

It is gradually being accepted that the most appropriate regulatory framework for commercial space activities is to treat it as an extension of aviation. In 1995 the US government' s Office of Commercial Space Transportation was moved into the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Office of the Associate Administrator, Patricia Grace Smith is now actively working on developing a licensing procedure for commercially operated reusable space vehicles.

Today I am privileged to present to you a paper on some aspects of the space navigation law which is now taking shape as a result of the work of a research committee of the Japanese Rocket Society.

The Japanese Rocket Society, JRS, has 3 ad-hoc research committees, one of them being the Commercial Space Activities Legislation Research Committee which I chair. This committee is deeply related to two other committees, that is the Transportation Research Committee and the Space Travel Commercialization Research Committee in as much as these three committees are dedicated to the research of ways and means required for commercialization of space activities.

These two committees have already published three research reports, a report on the design of a typical passenger spaceship " Kankoh-maru", a report on the development and manufacturing costs of the " Kankoh-maru", and a report on commercialization of space travel, based on " Kankoh-maru" operating costs.

The Transportation Research Committee is expected to publish another report on the spaceworthiness of commercial spaceships in due course of time.

The Commercial Space Activities Legislation Research Committee (Legislation Committee, hereinafter) set up last fall, has the task to research important conditions applicable to the legislation required for commercial spate activities.

This committee is composed of a dozen or so members, about half representing the airline industry. This committee meets once a month, and by this time, some of the outstanding characteristics of the draft law are now in sight.

1. Premises

To dates no country which has promulgated a commercial space transportation law with regulations covering the requirements to ensure safety of operation and orderly growth of space-related enterprises, comparable to those for aircraft. However, it is encouraging to learn that the FAA is committed to issue a notice of rule-making for such regulations shortly, though NB this is not to cover passenger-carrying.

The proceeding of the Legislation Committee has reached a point where I can summarize some of the highlights of the result of the research. In order for me to present them to the audience in an orderly way, however, I think it is advisable to put forth some premises which follow:

  1. The law is intended to govern various commercial space activities conducted by the people of Japan.

  2. Usage of terms. In my presentation, in order to avoid confusion, I use the following terms as standards: space vehicle, spaceship, space structure, space activity, space activity specialist, space transportation enterpriser, space activity enterpriser, propellant

  3. Compatibility with existing aviation law should be pursued as much as possible.

  4. The identity of the space-navigation law should be independent, since space vehicles are quite different from aircraft, and the commercial activities under consideration are unique.

  5. Jurisdiction. Notwithstanding the above differentiation, both spaceships and aircraft share the same space above the ground at least for a part of the time. Therefore, the law should be enforced primarily by the Ministry of Transport.

  6. The proposed space laws should be drafted in such a manner that the current worldwide trends of-rule-making for space law are taken into consideration, so as to ensure that they may be in conformity as much as possible with international standards and recommendations to be established in future.

  7. Relationship with space treaties. The existing space treaties should be respected as much as possible. However, such aspects as government responsibility for damage caused by launch vehicles launched from their territory, the need to treat all space travelers as "envoys of mankind", and the need to register all launches with the United Nations, are not practical for commercial space travel, and are ripe for revision to provide appropriate commercial procedures.

  8. Maturity of commercial space activities. The first typical transport airplane, DC-3 made its debut in 1935, 32 years after the first flight of a piloted powered airplane, while the first piloted space vehicle flew in 1961 and now we are talking about the start-up of the commercial space transport 38 years later. As the DC3s in the 1930s may be considered to have been in their infancy, so are the spaceships today.

  9. Effects on the space industry. It should be expected that the legal framework should pave the way for the start up of the private sector, ensuring safety and convenience to the public, and providing enterprisers, that is entrepreneurs, promising business environment.

  10. Arrangement of clauses. Existing aviation law should be taken as the paradigm for the required commercial space law.

  11. Related enforcement regulations Considering that commercial space activities are still in the-cradle, the number of such regulations at the beginning should be kept to a minimum.

  12. Border of space and atmosphere. The problem pertaining to terrestrial airspace should be resolved through dialogue on an international level. In the meantime, the over-flight" situation should be negotiated as a commercial agreement.

  13. Objects for ruling. Vehicles, personnel and enterprisers involved in the commercial space activities should be governed by the proposed law system, but colonies to be established on heavenly bodies should not.

  14. Unmanned vehicles. Unmanned space vehicles used for commercial purposes should be governed by the law system.
2. Outline of Commercial Space Law

  1. General

    1. Purpose of the law

      "To promote the growth of commercial space activities by establishing means to ensure the safety of space vehicles, preventing damage due to their operation, and maintaining order between enterprises utilizing space vehicles."

      In the aviation law of Japan, it is stipulated that the processes, standards, methods- and procedures of the ICAO are to be respected, but there is neither organization corresponding to the ICAO nor guidelines such as those mentioned above for commercial space activities. Therefore this part of the clause should be kept blank till such an institution and guiding materials-come into existence. However, it is noteworthy that FAA seems to be envisioning "International Space Flight Organization

    2. Definitions

      It is desirable to define such terms as the following:

      space vehicle, spaceship, space structure, space activity enterprise, space activity enterpriser, spaceship pilot, spaceship mechanic, space structure mechanic, space structure pilot, space transportation operator

  2. Registration

    According to an existing space treaty, all launches of space vehicles to or beyond Earth orbit are required to be registered with the United Nations. In case of commercial spaceships which are repeatedly launched (or which can be described more appropriately by saying "flown") and space structures which are not launched but built and operated in orbit, this requirement seems impractical and should not be applicable to these vehicles.

    The nature of registration for commercial space vehicles should be the same as that for aircraft, the purpose being for the establishment of their ownership and identification. It is administered nationally according to ICAO procedures.

  3. Safety of space vehicles

    Space vehicles should not be operated without adequate certificates for safety. To meet this requirement, the operator of the following space vehicles can apply for spaceworthiness certificates which are issued when the competent authorities determine that they have met the spaceworthiness requirements which have taken into consideration such factors as high vacuum in orbit, high heat loading - during reentry, cryogenic conditions of propellants, space radiation, space debris etc.

    Space VehiclesSpaceships those which ply between Earth and points in space

    those which ply between space objects
    Space Structuresthose which are constructed in space and travel in Earth orbit such as space stations, space terminals, space hotels, space plants

    The term of validity of the spaceworthiness certificate should be treated in the same way as for aircraft. The operators are not necessarily required to obtain the design type certificate, but they may apply for it in order to facilitate the issuance of spaceworthiness certificates for space vehicles manufactured in quantity.

    Likewise, the production certificate system used in aviation may be adopted. In Japan, however, this certification comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, making things a little complicated.

    In the case of space structures, a finite life should be specified for each space structure, in order to oblige the operators not to leave the life-expired structures left unattended.

  4. Space activities specialists

    In order to ensure safety of operation, those who are engaged in various space activities should be required to possess the proficiency certificates applicable to their jobs which are issued when the competent authorities have determined that they are qualified for them.

    The operation of these vehicles should be done in accordance with the operating limitations attached to the spaceworthiness certificates.

    The types of work which specialists are engaged in, are classified as follows:

    1. Spaceship pilot
    2. Space structure pilot
    3. Spaceship mechanic
    4. Space structure mechanic

    When an applicant for a license has successfully passed the appropriate proficiency test, a license is issued. Pilots are required to renew their licenses every 6 months. In addition, they are required to pass a physical examination successfully twice a year.

  5. Spaceports and navigational aid facilities

    Requirements for these facilities should be established. Categorization of spaceports may become necessary as the performance of spaceships diversifies.

    The function of traffic control for spaceships and aircraft should be integrated. The responsibilities of the traffic controllers and dispatchers should be clearly differentiated.

  6. Operation

    The operation of the space vehicles described in (c) of this chapter should be regulated appropriately. The principal mission of spaceships is transportation of personnel and/or cargo, and they fly with their own power plant. On the other hand, space structures are used as terminals for spaceships, or house facilities for re-fueling, storage and supply of commodities, hotels, plant and equipment, mining of natural resources etc. Their operation should be subject to appropriate regulations in order to ensure their safety and to meet the requirements for environmental protection.

    In case of accidents, the recovery of such devices as flight data recorders may prove difficult. Therefore, instead of such units, continuous automatic transmission of such data to their ground station for recording should be required.

  7. Space activities enterprisers

    The enterprisers of space activities include those who are engaged in the following activities:

    • Transportation
      • between Earth and space
      • within space
      • ballistic flight between points on Earth
    • Terminal (station) business (excluding tenants)
    • Refueling (replenishing propellants)
    • Hotel
    • Debris/waste disposal

    In order to assist commercial space activities to grow soundly, licenses should be issued to applicants promptly when it is determined that their entry into the business community will not result in excessive competition in their field.

    However, enterprisers should be required to pass successfully pass inspection under regulations prescribed to ensure their accountability for their enterprises before they can start their business. They should also be required to comply with the operation manual which describes how to operate, and the maintenance manual which describes how to maintain the spaceships or space structures, both of which are to be approved by the competent authorities.

    Enterprisers should also be required to maintain discipline in handling waste for the protection of the environment, and held responsible for any damage caused by waste mishandled by them.

    It should be a responsibility of enterprisers to establish the physical fitness check rules applied to those who board the space vehicles.

    In case extravehicular activities are conducted, enterprisers should see to it that appropriate measures for safety are incorporated.

3. Enforcement Regulations

  1. Spaceworthiness Requirements

    As for the spaceworthiness requirements for spaceships, we shall be able to learn a lot from the report which the Transportation Research Committee of the Japanese Rocket Society is due to issue during 1999.

    As for the spaceworthiness requirements for space structures; some of them will be unique as compared with those for spaceships. They include the following:

    • Performance requirements - In addition to the requirements for flight performance, emergency and recovery characteristics, division of authority between pilot and autonomous control, flight manual etc. should be taken into consideration.

    • Strength requirements Space structures should be required to cope with stresses caused by various reasons present -in loaded areas, in particular, stresses caused by the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the cabin, and the temperature difference between the sunny side and the shady sides of the structure wall.

      The outer surfaces should be protected against atomic oxygen. The sensitive electrical units should also be required to be protected against collision of high energy charged particles of space radiation.

    • Structural requirements - The requirements for s-pace structures are analogous to those for submarines. Airtightness and fail-safe design are the key words. Structures should be provided with cabin partitions, hatches/shutters for isolation of damaged area, fire protection facilities, shelters, docking facilities for evacuation/rescue spaceships, airlocks etc.

    Good operability and maintainability should be required.

  2. Requirements for life-preservation, living environment protection

    • Living environment protection - Cabin air should be controlled in such a way that all occupants can jive in the cabin without difficulties during the entire period of their stay.

    • Life sustenance - Accommodations for eating, sleep and individual hygiene should be provided.

    • Extravehicular activities (EVA) - In case extravehicular activities are included in the space activities program, enterprisers should be required to provide space suits and other EVA support units.

  3. Regulations subject to frequent revisions

    Some regulations covering details of spaceworthiness, noise, emissions etc. should be included in the attachments to the regulations which can be revised comparatively speedily as the environment for commercial space activities changes.


    The development of reusable spaceships is making remarkable progress, and the door is opening for the private sector to participate in the international space station project. It is my sincere desire to see such pioneering private sector groups participate in their adventure under the cover of proper legislation, which seems most promising as an extension of existing aviation rules or similar idea.

Y Funatsu & Y Funatsu, April 21-23 1999, "Some Aspects of Space Navigation Law", Proceedings of 2nd International Symposium on Space Travel, Space Tours GmbH, in press..
Also downloadable from aspects of space navigation law.shtml

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