Skip to main content

Inaugural ASU bootcamp tackles space law and policy


A woman speaks in front of a seated group

Laura Cummings — regulatory affairs counsel for Astroscale U.S., which provides satellite life-extension and on-orbit services for commercial operators and governments — speaks on the role of telecommunications regulations in space travel and satellite use during the inaugural Navigating Space Law and Policy Bootcamp in September at ASU's Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center. Photo by Catherine Llamido/Hager Sharp

September 15, 2023

Future space lawyers and students, government contractors and federal employees gathered Sept. 6 to discuss space law and policy — including federal regulators, contracting processes and lobbying, among other topics — at Arizona State University’s Barbara Barrett and Sandra Day O’Connor Washington Center.

The first-ever Navigating Space Law and Policy Bootcamp was hosted by the Association of Commercial Space Professionals (ACSP), an organization founded by ASU alum Bryce Kennedy, a graduate of Thunderbird School of Global Management’s Executive Master of Global Management: Space Leadership, Business, and Policy inaugural degree program.

The goal of ACSP

Kennedy and Bailey Reichelt, co-founder of ACSP, kicked off the bootcamp by explaining the purpose of the event and ACSP’s goals. Reichelt emphasized promoting the understanding of federal regulations when navigating the space industry as one of the key goals of ACSP.

“We need everyone to have access to this basic regulatory information. They need to be able to grow their businesses with as few hurdles as possible coming from the government,” said Reichelt. “From that idea, we decided the way that we democratize access to space, and that is ASCP’s mission.”

She added that perceived hurdles should not prevent interested parties from pursuing activities in the industry.

“Especially in the space industry, there’s not always a clear path forward. And that’s why we’re here today having this bootcamp. Sometimes there’s not a path, and that doesn’t mean the answer is no. It means you have to create a path,” Reichelt said.

The roles of FCC, FAA, NOAA and others

Caryn Schenewerk — space law and policy expert and president of CS Consulting, a space law and policy consulting company — and Laura Cummings — regulatory affairs counsel for Astroscale U.S., which provides satellite life-extension and on-orbit services for commercial operators and governments — presented on the roles of federal regulators in space travel and activities. 

Schenewerk began with a summary of existing international laws used for regulating space, including the Outer Space Treaty; the Rescue of Astronauts Agreement, which applies to both astronauts and physical property; the Space Liability Convention; the Registration Convention; the Moon Agreement; and the International Telecommunication Union.

A man speaks at a lectern

ASU alum Bryce Kennedy, a graduate of the Thunderbird School’s Executive Master of Global Management: Space Leadership, Business, and Policy inaugural degree program, speaks at the space bootcamp in Washington, D.C. Kennedy was a co-founder of the Association of Commercial Space Professionals, which hosted the event. Photo by Catherine Llamido/Hager Sharp

She noted that many of these laws are difficult to enforce and have not been agreed to by all space-faring countries, but many of them have also not yet needed to be enforced.

“I think, so far, the challenge of getting to space has been its own enforcement mechanism. It certainly has managed to kind of keep a lid on some of these problems,” said Schenewerk. “There’s also a lot of visibility so far as to what happens in space and how it happens. So, there’s a lot of accountability by virtue of transparency.”

She then summarized the role of federal regulators in spaceflight activities, beginning with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates commercial spaceflight activities until a space vessel reaches orbit. She noted that the FAA is not responsible for regulating maritime vessels that support space activities, which are instead governed by the U.S. Coast Guard, and that once the vessel is in orbit, it is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Schenewerk said it's key to understand which regulators are needed to approve each step of spaceflight and the differences between the United States and other countries in this regard.

“One of the things that’s an interesting aspect of the way that we govern our space activities is, as you’ll see today, we have different agencies that do different aspects of the space activity. Other countries have it set up as a one-stop shop,” she said.

Cummings focused on the role of telecommunications regulations in space travel and satellite use. She described the role of the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) office within NOAA, which regulates remote sensing in space and licenses satellite imagery systems.

She noted an important exemption to this called the “mission assurance exemption,” which allows companies to take satellite images without a license if they are necessary to the mission.

“If you have a camera on board that you’re like, ‘I’m not trying to see the Rockies. I just want to make sure that my solar panel deploys,’ usually you fall under an exemption,” Cummings said. “You do not need an authorization from CRSRA.”

NASA and civil space

NASA Deputy Chief Financial Officer Steve Shinn presented on the role of the agency in space regulations. He described NASA’s acquisitions process and recent changes that have been made to streamline the process and promote accountability for projects.

“We’re not afraid to put in the real cost to do some of these missions,” Shinn said. “And if it does run into issues, we do have real confirmation reviews (and) confirmation hearings, to ultimately lead to cancellation if necessary.”

He added that NASA’s contracts now feature milestone trigger points to help recognize when a contract is struggling or succeeding.

Shinn explained how federal agencies do business with each other through the Economy Act and the Space Act, and various roles in NASA’s acquisitions and integrations.

“You get into all kinds of appropriations laws that one agency is prohibited from augmenting the appropriate of another agency,” he said. “Within that, there are times when it makes sense for two government agencies to collaborate or for one to help build something for one another.”

As an example, he added that NASA does business with the U.S. Department of Commerce through the Economy Act building NOAA weather satellites.

On the Space Act, which allows NASA to do business with private, local and educational institutions, Shinn said, “The Space Act is a set of legally enforceable promises between NASA and whomever that partner is that your goods and services will be exchanged. It can be performed by NASA, for that entity. Government officials can again commit those Space Act resources, and again, this Space Act must be consistent with our NASA policy.”

Shinn later discussed how NASA obtains federal funding, describing the importance and flow of NASA’s funding through the federal government. 

“Now what matters are two things. One is we don’t spend any money that’s not appropriated for this agency. And then how it gets there is really a testimony to the efficiency of our government. But, again, we cannot perform any work without appropriated funds.”

A man gestures at a screen while speaking into a mic

NASA Deputy Chief Financial Officer Steve Shinn speaks about the agency's processes during the space bootcamp. Photo by Catherine Llamido/Hager Sharp

Scale or fail: Practical advice to help you succeed

Michael Mineiro — senior counsel at Akin, a global law firm — presented his advice on how to effectively lobby or petition a government official. He emphasized the importance of understanding an official’s perspective.

“You need to petition from the perspective of the government official and within the scope of their duties and responsibilities,” said Mineiro. “Easy to say, hard to do. That requires you to really understand who you’re talking to and where they are in the U.S. government.”

Mineiro advised companies to work with nonprofits, coalitions and trade associations when petitioning government officials to bolster the legitimacy of their petition; to think holistically about how their petition might be perceived; and to understand the nuances of how government offices decide which petitions to take under consideration.

When working with congressional offices, Mineiro said building relationships with the district office where a company is headquartered is key.

“Start with where you’re headquartered and get to know everyone in your delegation, including the senators, and then begin to identify — either through jobs that you have in other districts, through contracts you’ve led, through agencies you serve or through public policy issues you address — other members and their districts in Congress that care about what you’re doing,” he said.

When asked about implementing this strategy for small companies, Mineiro advised that small businesses get to know their local offices rather than lobbying in Washington, D.C., and work with trade associations to get more information.

Mineiro ended with cautions for companies in the space industry interested in working with the federal government: “It’s going to take you longer than you think. I’ll repeat that. If the government’s your customer, it’s going to take you longer than you think. If the government’s your regulator, it’s going to take you longer than you think. Plan for that.”

The space economy and the fifth industrial revolution

As the final speaker, George Pullen, chief economist of the MilkyWayEconomy, discussed the future of the space industry. Because of the funding that the government has to put toward space projects, he emphasized the importance of working with the federal government.

“The U.S. government spends more money on space than all of the venture capitalists and private people put together,” said Pullen. “And that’s why, remember, it is a long game in space.”

The ACSP provides continuing education to professionals in the commercial space industry and recognizes competence through examination and credentialing. The ACSP’s flagship credential is the Commercial Space Regulatory Professional, which started in March 2023. To learn more about ASCP and its upcoming events, please visit www.acsp.space for more information.

Written by Hager Sharp

More Science and technology

 

A gila monster is perched next to a cactus with its mouth open.

ASU researchers first to fully sequence Gila monster genome, thanks to crowd-funding campaign

The Sonoran Desert is full of wild creatures, from sharp-tailed scorpions that glow under black light to desert toads that…

February 28, 2024
Assistant Professor Zhe Xu with students and their robots outside in a grassy area.

Sparking an evolution in robotics

Thinking about swarms of robots might conjure up images from old sci-fi movies in which Earth is invaded by armies of…

February 28, 2024
The International Space Station in space.

Interplanetary Initiative wins ISS National Laboratory grant

The Interplanetary Initiative at Arizona State University has won a grant from the International Space Station (ISS) National…

February 28, 2024