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RainDreamer

Legalities of space mining - SPACE act of 2015

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http://www.popsci.com/it-could-soon-be-legal-to-mine-asteroids

American laws time!

"Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015'' or the "SPACE Act of 2015'' (direct link to text of bill here for those who like to read legalese) is a bill that would give asteroid mining companies property rights to the minerals they extracted from asteroids in space. The House of Representative passed it in May, and now if a decision is not made by the Senate before the end of September, or soon after, an expiring moratorium would allow the Federal Aviation Administration to regulate commercial space flight. If the Senate pass it, then it will be up to President Obama to sign it or veto it.

However, this bill is most likely going to violate the Outer Space Treaty, which forbid states from extending their territorial sovereignty over outer space or any parts of it. Which means if this bill is passed, the US is giving to private companies rights it has no authority to give in the first place. There are also fears that other space power might consider this an US act of economic aggression going ahead of international law.

What do you think about all of this?

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I think it's great, I couldnt really see any reason for objection.

The free market is the most powerful driving force in history, and with this, itll launch us into space.

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The outer space treaty is pretty outdated in my opinion. Comercial space agencies and economics weren't rly a big concern back then as far as I know. It's a relic of the cold war (not a bad one though).

US companies and NASA are pretty much dominating that area of R&D and I can understand that they aren't rly interested in giving other nations and organisations room for a debate here. They will be the first to cut the pie. Why share it?

It seems like a strong message though. Pretty much like "we do what we want up there and don't care about the opinion of nations that don't have the capabilities to do it and can't prevent us from doing so".

I'm rly interested in other space agencie's reactions on this though. I wouldn't be surprised to see anouncements of new programs on mining asteroids from China, India or Russia (realistic or not).

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However, this bill is most likely going to violate the Outer Space Treaty, which forbid states from extending their territorial sovereignty over outer space or any parts of it. Which means if this bill is passed, the US is giving to private companies rights it has no authority to give in the first place. There are also fears that other space power might consider this an US act of economic aggression going ahead of international law.

What do you think about all of this?

This does not violate the Outer Space Treaty. In fact, it is an implementation of parts of it.

The treaty states that no government may claim property for itself. However, the treaty also stipulates that governments should create the legal framework for utilization of space by private parties. Oversight of rocket launches is one example of that. This new bill is another.

At no point does the government claim any property here. It just issues a statement saying that it is okay with private individuals going ahead with space development. The bill is necessary because in the absence of such regulation, a private enterprise seeking to profit from doing business in space has no security that it is allowed to keep these profits. For instance, the government could wait until an asteroid has been mined and the raw materials processed, and then take them away because the mining company never had rights to anything in the first place. This bill provides the legal insurance that the company has these rights. It's a formality, but an important one.

(Note: I am not a lawyer and don't know the details, but I've watched some videos / podcasts on the topic where it came up. Instead of believing me word for word, you should go and look up the thing I claimed, so you can get an actually qualified explanation! :P)

Edited by Streetwind

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This does not violate the Outer Space Treaty. In fact, it is an implementation of parts of it.

That was a claim in the article I linked:

But not everyone is enthusiastic about it. In an article in the journal Space Policy, Fabio Tronchetti, a lawyer at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, argues that the Space Act of 2015 would violate the Outer Space Treaty. He writes:

States are forbidden from extending their territorial sovereignty over outer space or any parts of it. Despite arguments claiming otherwise this prohibition also extends to private entities.

In essence, Tronchetti argues that if the U.S. passes this bill, it will confer rights to space companies that the U.S. doesn’t have the power to give.

It is perhaps just a concern of one lawyer. Either way, people have no idea whether it is legal or not right now.

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That was a claim in the article I linked:

It is perhaps just a concern of one lawyer. Either way, people have no idea whether it is legal or not right now.

The vague nature of the Outer Space Treaty has inspired many such discussions in the past, and I bet it won't be the last :P

What would happen if an other country tries to mine the asteroid?

If that country signed and ratified the Outer Space Treaty, which the majority of nations has done (including North Korea, believe it or not), then they would be in violation of the treaty and the UN would probably send them a sternly worded letter of concern or a similarly terrible punishment :P

And if another private entity were to try, it would probably be a case of "whoever sets up shop first has dibs".

Great, but congress will screw it up.

On the contrary, the 2-3 companies this directly applies to seem to be rather pleased with the legislation congress has come up with.

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Well...you know, the Outer Space Treat can simply be left behind. It does have clauses that allow for you to leave, though I think it mandates something like 9-12 months between you announcing this fact and you actually doing any of the proscribed activities.

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It is perhaps just a concern of one lawyer. Either way, people have no idea whether it is legal or not right now.

Given there was no UN objection to the sale of lunar samples collected by Lavochkin, there's legal precedent for this to be allowed.

Well...you know, the Outer Space Treat can simply be left behind. It does have clauses that allow for you to leave, though I think it mandates something like 9-12 months between you announcing this fact and you actually doing any of the proscribed activities.

None of the nuclear powers are going to just leave the outer space treaty, because that also invalidates the ban on WMDs in earth orbit, along with a few other arms control clauses. They'd have to draw up a replacement first.

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http://www.popsci.com/it-could-soon-be-legal-to-mine-asteroids

However, this bill is most likely going to violate the Outer Space Treaty, which forbid states from extending their territorial sovereignty over outer space or any parts of it. Which means if this bill is passed, the US is giving to private companies rights it has no authority to give in the first place. There are also fears that other space power might consider this an US act of economic aggression going ahead of international law.

What do you think about all of this?

It has been a minute since I looked, but I believe the OST makes it so anything acquired in space needs to be evenly distributed to other member nations. This is why countries aren't jumping up and saying they want to spend billions to mine (even though private companies located in a country are counted as that country for these purposes).

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None of the nuclear powers are going to just leave the outer space treaty, because that also invalidates the ban on WMDs in earth orbit, along with a few other arms control clauses. They'd have to draw up a replacement first.

Doesn't necessarily invalidate the ban. The remaining countries would still enforce it, just as is the consideration with North Korea's speculated programs. (just read above, didn't know North Korea signed the treaty; interesting)

Also, if I remember, the weapon ban is on all weapons that make a minimum of one orbit around the earth. While ballistic missiles are most commonly found in space (and do not qualify because they do not make a full orbit), the misconception forgets that any weapon cannot make an orbit. This is why you will not find a pistol on the ISS.

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It has been a minute since I looked, but I believe the OST makes it so anything acquired in space needs to be evenly distributed to other member nations. This is why countries aren't jumping up and saying they want to spend billions to mine (even though private companies located in a country are counted as that country for these purposes).

No it doesn't. Look at NASA's lunar samples; apart from some symbolic bits of a single rock, they've been retained by NASA. Same for Russian robotically-retained samples that remained in state ownership.

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No it doesn't. Look at NASA's lunar samples; apart from some symbolic bits of a single rock, they've been retained by NASA. Same for Russian robotically-retained samples that remained in state ownership.

But the difference is scientific study versus resource acquisition, which that portion I mention does. Again, as I said, it has been a minute and for all I know it was speculation on the part of the person I was in touch with (Airforce JAG who works in aerospace for the US and deals with the UN). However, there is certainly a difference between resource acquisition and scientific study.

Member or no, no nation can interfere with another's use, exploitation, and exploration of space. BUT exploitation is subject to rules once returned to Earth. Again, been a minute. The thing I am certain of is the scientific study being unimpeded.

---

So really, it comes down to collection of samples versus drilling for gold.

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Also, if I remember, the weapon ban is on all weapons that make a minimum of one orbit around the earth. While ballistic missiles are most commonly found in space (and do not qualify because they do not make a full orbit), the misconception forgets that any weapon cannot make an orbit. This is why you will not find a pistol on the ISS.

You don't remember. Not only does the ban not apply to conventional weapons, there sometimes is a pistol on the ISS as part of the survival package on Soyuz. A specific crew decides whether to take it or not, completely unrestrained by international treaties.

But the difference is scientific study versus resource acquisition, which that portion I mention does. Again, as I said, it has been a minute and for all I know it was speculation on the part of the person I was in touch with (Airforce JAG who works in aerospace for the US and deals with the UN). However, there is certainly a difference between resource acquisition and scientific study.

Lavochkin ended up with some samples taken from the monn with one of their probes after the USSR fell, and sold them at auction, without any UN complaint.

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You don't remember. Not only does the ban not apply to conventional weapons, there sometimes is a pistol on the ISS as part of the survival package on Soyuz. A specific crew decides whether to take it or not, completely unrestrained by international treaties.

No I don't, and very interesting. Is it that the pod never orbits? Maybe it is the pod that delivers and returns astronauts in a single journey...But doubtful knowing the time it takes to get to ISS and the likely orbit it would attain.

Lavochkin ended up with some samples taken from the monn with one of their probes after the USSR fell, and sold them at auction, without any UN complaint.

But this is still scientific study with transfer made to another nation, I believe. Even if not, the purpose was different. But good argument against scientific acquisition when issue arises with, say, extraction of a core of palladium or something of greater value.

Plus, you know the UN. It would just be a strongly worded letter to the selling state, which in this case is un-locatable.

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No I don't, and very interesting. Is it that the pod never orbits? Maybe it is the pod that delivers and returns astronauts in a single journey...But doubtful knowing the time it takes to get to ISS and the likely orbit it would attain.

It's that it's not banned.

States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.

The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited.

So no WMD's in orbit, and no weapons on the moon, but conventional weapons in earth orbit are a-ok.

But this is still scientific study with transfer made to another nation, I believe. Even if not, the purpose was different. But good argument against scientific acquisition when issue arises with, say, extraction of a core of palladium or something of greater value.

This is the sole article of the outer space treaty concerned here;

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.

This does not apply to parts of said bodies that have been removed, as per the precedent in the Lavochkin case. Your friend is probably confusing it with the much more stringent moon treaty, which was intended as an extension of it;

The moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind, which finds its expression in the provisions of this Agreement, in particular in paragraph 5 of this article.

[...]

Neither the surface nor the subsurface of the moon, nor any part thereof or natural resources in place, shall become property of any State, international intergovernmental or non-governmental organization, national organization or non-governmental entity or of any natural person.

but no nations that have crewed spaceflight ratified it, so it has little real effect.

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Legislation only has a point if you can enforce the law, and if you are willing to do so. Without derailing this thread into a political discussion, I think we can all agree on the fact that there are many examples of companies, either with or without national support, who'll go ahead against international treaties and get away with it, because we do not have the means to stop them, or we're not willing to face the economic consequences of doing so.

It would show of realpolitik to say “really, do whatever you want, we cannot stop you anyway†but “politicians are level headed, sane and full of common sense†has no one said EVER.

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It's that it's not banned.

So no WMD's in orbit, and no weapons on the moon, but conventional weapons in earth orbit are a-ok.

OOh yeah I think you are right. It is no weapons of any sort on celestial bodies, no WMD's in orbit (which made the Star Wars program unseekable ... unless it is actually up there).

This does not apply to parts of said bodies that have been removed, as per the precedent in the Lavochkin case. Your friend is probably confusing it with the much more stringent moon treaty, which was intended as an extension of it;

He isn't, I am. But I do remember the moon treaty was signed by like...2 nations. I don't even think the US signed it?

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Legislation only has a point if you can enforce the law, and if you are willing to do so. Without derailing this thread into a political discussion, I think we can all agree on the fact that there are many examples of companies, either with or without national support, who'll go ahead against international treaties and get away with it, because we do not have the means to stop them, or we're not willing to face the economic consequences of doing so.

It would show of realpolitik to say “really, do whatever you want, we cannot stop you anyway†but “politicians are level headed, sane and full of common sense†has no one said EVER.

But the beauty of the OST is that it puts liability on the launching nation. SapceX launches from the US and blows up the Chinese station...the US is on the hook. The US can then seek collateral proceedings against SpaceX, but as far as the UN is concerned, the US is the baddie.

This limits these possibilities. Plus, companies tend to not have the sway they do in the US, worldwide. While they do in some nations, there are others willing to combat it; Spain and Germany for example. But it is a threat, sure.

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Really though, attempting to enforce sanctions or similar against the US for violating any such space treaty would likely not go terribly far. If you go the "correct" route, you go through the UN, and the US vetos. If you go on your own, then the US can bring up in the UN how you are waging economic warfare against it "without probable cause" (IE: Without the UN backing that the US vetoed) and thus are now able to have sanctions applied against you (unless of course, you have a veto as well). That said, China is the most likely to particularly care if the US starts "selling" mining rights and similar to its corporations, and they are not likely to do TOO much in the way of sanctioning the US atm. After all, their economy is shaky enough as it is without starting to attack the country attached to their hip.

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Yeah, you're right. Nothing bad can possibly come of the US openly ignoring both a nuclear arms control treaty and the very idea of being held to international treaties.

EDIT: And it's own constitution to boot;

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Edited by Kryten

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There is a good reason for this to happen, speaking from the Gov point of view.

Now they can tax it.

If company A mines an asteroid for resources and hauls those to LEO, it can't really sell them to company B, since they are not legally owners of those resources and if no sale is happening there is no tax.

If, however, the resources are acknowledged as owned by company A, then they can legally sell them to B and the trade tax can be easily processed without any complicated paperwork.

Without this, company A would need to find some creative ways to take the money from company B in return for the access to the resources. Without a legal framework to operate in, the term money laundering comes to mind.

That being said OST is a joke, anyway.

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By the time resource extraction from celestial bodies occurs regularly, we probably won't even be using money anymore >.<

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But the beauty of the OST is that it puts liability on the launching nation. SapceX launches from the US and blows up the Chinese station...the US is on the hook. The US can then seek collateral proceedings against SpaceX, but as far as the UN is concerned, the US is the baddie.
  • We didn't do it. Prove it!
  • It was them, not us.
  • That was “scientific researchâ€Â
  • That was an action by rogue rebels that are out of our control
  • Actually, those were rogue Russian|Chinese|North Korean|Syrian rebels, trying to frame us
  • We have the proof that Saddam Hussein was behind all this. We can't show you but trust us, we have 100% intel on this.
  • Veto!

The possibilities are endless. Whenever these kind of treaties come out you know that the janitorial staff of the UN Building in New York simply forgot to buy toilet paper, so they're making these treaties instead.

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What would really help space development is a treaty that says something like, "Any party which creates a base on a extraterrestrial body with x permanent residents controls all land within f(x) distance of the base". Everyone talks about how European colonization was horrible, but it drove the industrial revolution and the modern age, and guess what the moon doesn't have natives! So there is really no reason not to authorize an ET land grab, even looking at who can do it, SpaceX is a launch provider, a private company, you bring the bucks, you get stuff in space, if other countries are interested, they can get their piece of the pie.

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