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US Space Laws: Policies And Regulations Governing Space Exploration

| December 20, 2023

The United States is one of the nations in the world that has an elaborate space program dating back to the 1950s. The nation first indulged in its space program during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. With a well-established space program. Moreover, the US is also a nation that has the presence of a well-structured legal framework governing its space travel and explorations. In this article, we will be discussing the various US Space Laws and policies within the United States. 

The United States of America was one of the first nations to have developed a legal structure for its aim of exploring space. The US has the most definitive and authoritative public space laws and regulations relating to its space operations. 

The United States is also a part of four international treaties relating to space exploration. These treaties are as follows: 

  1. The Treaty On Principles Governing The Activities Of States In Exploration And Use Of Outer Space, Including The Moon And Other Celestial Bodies 1967, 
  2. The Agreement On The Rescue Of Astronauts, The Return Of Astronauts, And The Return Of Objects Launched Into Outer Space 1968, 
  3. The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects 1972, and 
  4. The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space 1975 (the Registration Convention)

The US Space Laws That Exist To Date Regarding Space Exploration And Travel 

The legislation of the United States tends to have space-related regulations that are assembled within Title 51 of the United States Code. Moreover, some of the vital laws and regulations related to space in the US are as follows: 

Communications Act Of 1934

The Commercial Act was implemented for the purpose of governing the requirements of commercial satellite operations, licensing, and collaboration in the usage of radio signals and spectrums. 

National Aeronautics & Space Act of 1958

This Act was signed by President Eisenhower in 1958 that gave birth to NASA along with the objectives for space by the US. Moreover, these include expanding knowledge about space, creation and improvement of space vehicles. Similarly, studying the benefit of space operations, and preserving the United States’ position as the leader of space operations.  Additionally, the act also intended for NASA to share its discoveries with the defense of the US. 

The Commercial Space Launch Act 

This law grants authorization to the US Department of Transportation regulatory to have management of commercial spaceflight. Moreover, due to this, it indemnifies organizations for larger third-party damages, and it states regulations related to commercial space flight.  

Land Remote-Sensing Commercialization Act 

This law was passed in 1984. Moreover, it is primarily concerned with transferring the US government-owned “Landsat” satellite program to private organizations and industries.  Moreover, This will allow companies to take over operations of imaging the Earth’s satellite constellations.  

Land Remote-Sensing Policy Act 

This law came into enforcement in 1992 that repealed the Land Remote-Sensing Commercialization Act. Moreover, this was regarding the way it has been problematic for the US government to transfer its satellite programs to private organizations. 

This new law gave the Department of Commerce the power to effectively license and regulate a US commercial remote-sensing drive. Moreover, it also allows outsourcing of the development of new Landsat features for private industries. 

US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 

This law was created to encourage commercial spaceflight and innovation by delaying vital regulatory supervision of private spaceflight companies till the year 2023. Moreover, This has extended the period that the government indemnifies commercial spaceflight organizations for third-party damages. 

Weather Research And Forecasting Innovation Act, 1958 

This allows commercial weather satellites and enables the NOAA to purchase weather data from commercial weather satellites and constellations. 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017

NASA’s authorization act focuses on long-term deep space exploration for humans, investments in science, technology, and aeronautics portfolio, and growth of the commercial space industry. 

Moreover, the law is existent for the purpose of maintaining NASA’s continuity of presidential administrations and also includes the TREAT Astronaut’s Act.

National Defense Authorization Act Of 2020

This act establishes the US Space Force within the US Air Force.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Why is not NASA not responsible for the safety of commercial space flights and transportation? 

A: NASA is considered a civil research and development agency with authorization from the federal government. Due to this, it neither operates nor administers the commercial space transportation industry. 
The regulatory aspect of the commercial space industry falls under the administration of the FAA, which is a regulatory establishment.

Q: Does the US commercial space travel industry acquire subsidies from the US government? 

A: No, the US government does not provide direct subsidies to the commercial space industry. On the other hand, the government does recognize the importance of commercial space activities to the military, defense, and communications. Along with the positive effect on the US economy. 
Moreover, the US government provides support for the growth of new vehicles and technologies associated with the launch infrastructure. 

Final Thoughts 

Now you have a better idea regarding the laws and policies that govern the United States’ space program and explorations.

Hope you have found this article useful and informative. Moreover, stay tuned with to learn more about various laws and policies.

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nilanjana basu
nilanjana basu

Nilanjana is a lawyer with a flair for writing. She has a certification in American Laws from Penn Law (Pennsylvania University). Along with this, she has been known to write legal articles that allow the audience to know about American laws and regulations at ease.


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