First Amendment and Satellite Remote Sensing

(by Galen Marston Pospisil, Colorado Law 3L) 

Private companies like SpaceX have dramatically changed the market for space launch services, bringing prices down and flexibility up. New satellite operators, both commercial and non-commercial have begun to take advantage of lower costs to orbit. From multi-ton telecommunications satellites to cubesats weighing only a few pounds, growth in non-governmental satellite missions has exploded. However, satellite operators must deal with a maze of regulatory oversight dating back to the earliest days of spaceflight. 

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Orbital Debris Mitigation and University Research

(By Freddy Steimling, Colorado Law 2L)

University of Colorado aerospace engineering Professor Scott Palo and the TLPC have filed comments before the Federal Communication Commission regarding the Commission’s orbital debris mitigation policies. The TLPC asked the Commission to adopt regulations that effectively mitigate the buildup of orbital debris in coveted orbits while preserving access to orbits that are important to university-led missions.

Update (May 6, 2019): Prof. Palo and the TLPC have filed an additional set of reply comments.

Small Satellites and University Research

(by Blake E. Reid, TLPC Director)

In collaboration with the University of Colorado aerospace engineering Professor Scott Palo and a coalition of other researchers, the TLPC filed comments before the Federal Communications Commission on a variety of issues in the Commission’s proposed new streamlined process for small satellites.

Update (August 7, 2018): we’ve also filed reply comments in the same proceeding.

Last Week in Tech Law & Policy, Vol. 38: Colonizing Mars—Fact or Fantasy?

(by Jodi Wallace, Colorado Law 2L)

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong proclaimed, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Buzz Aldrin followed, describing the moon’s surface with the words “magnificent desolation.” For a few short hours, the two men explored the lunar surface, gathered samples, and then climbed back aboard the lunar modular to come back to Earth.

47 years after Apollo 11 was launched to take the first astronauts to the moon, Elon Musk  (chief executive of SpaceX) has announced his plans to create a permanent human settlement on the surface of Mars. But Elon Musk is not alone in this ambition—his announcement is only the most recent, and perhaps the broadest in scope.

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Last Week In Tech Law & Policy, Vol. 33: Space Junk, A Growing Threat to the Future of Space Access

In 2007 China tested an anti-satellite missile against one of its decommissioned weather satellites 800km above the earth in an explosion, creating 100,000 new pieces of orbital debris in a single instant. In 2009 a commercial Iridium communications satellite and a defunct Russian satellite collided over Siberia creating over 2,000 of pieces of debris capable of being tracked and even more that we cannot yet see. In 2015 the ISS performed a Red Conjunction where the crew evacuated to the Soyuz escape craft while a piece of debris passed close to the station without enough warning for a debris avoidance maneuver.

Even higher in orbit, there are many more defunct spacecraft posing risks to geostationary satellites. Since Sputnik first blasted its way into space in 1957, thousands of satellites have been sent into orbit around the Earth. But what happens to these satellites once they are no longer used?

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