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Review: The Laws of Spaceflight

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The Laws of Spaceflight: A Guidebook for New Space Lawyers
by Matthew J. Kleiman, Jenifer K. Lamie, and Maria-Vittoria “Giugi” Carminati
ABA, 2012
softcover, 408 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-61438-598-1

To many, space law seems like an esoteric concept, as unconnected from the rest of the legal word as the heavens are from the Earth. The fact that some lawyers specialize in space law can still raise an eyebrow: as the title of an article in Fast Company magazine last month put it: “Space Lawyers: They Exist”. (“Space lawyers even have their own legal journal and university programs,” the article notes, as if such proof that this is a bona fide, honest-to-goodness legal discipline is necessary.) However, as more countries and more companies become involved in space, and as new activities, from space tourism to asteroid mining, become established, there’s likely to become an increasing demand for the services of space lawyers to deal with the legal issues and disputes that are bound to arise.

The authors’ emphasis is not on legal theory but the practical applications of the treaties and laws that govern the various aspects of space.

Helping lawyers who find themselves dealing with space law issues is the goal of The Laws of Spaceflight, a book by Matthew J. Kleiman, Jenifer K. Lamie, and Maria-Vittoria “Giugi” Carminati, three lawyers with backgrounds in space law. They wrote the book, they explain in the introduction, to help lawyers that may be new to the space field understand the basics of both spaceflight and the laws that govern it, both internationally and in the United States. Their emphasis is not on legal theory but the practical applications of the treaties and laws that govern the various aspects of space.

The first part of the book introduces the reader to the basics of spaceflight itself, from orbital mechanics and launch vehicle technology to the history of spaceflight and the various applications of space. The book then dives into the development of the various international treaties regarding space, like the Outer Space Treaty, and the laws in the US that govern various space activities, including launches, communications and remote sensing satellite licensing, and export control. As the authors promised, the emphasis in these chapters is on practical applications: the chapter on launch licensing goes through the various steps needed to obtain a launch license from the FAA, while the export control chapter discusses the various types of export licenses and when they’re required.

The authors intend for The Laws of Spaceflight to be a guidebook not just for new space lawyers, but also those in the business and policy worlds seeking a practical introduction to the topic. The textbook-like price of the book is likely to deter the casual reader, especially someone already familiar with the technical aspects of space covered in the book’s first few chapters. (In addition, about the last third of the book is appendices, principally consisting of copies of the major space treaties and international agreements that are easily accessible online.) For those interested in the application of space law, or finding themselves dealing with such legal issues on a regular basis, the book can be a good guide to a field that is becoming more important as humanity’s activities in space grow.



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