Nov 282015

This would appear to be a rare bit of good news:

National Space Society Applauds Presidential Signing of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act


U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act does a number of things, including limiting US Government regulations meddling and recognizing that materials mined from asteroids and comets are the property of the companies that mined them (although not going to far as recognizing the private ownership of said comets or asteroids).

So I’m considering how to game the system. You can’t own the rock, but you can own the stuff you dig out of the rock. So, how to use this to own the rock? Well, presumably “stuff mined from the rock” means anything that’s a minority of the rock that you remove from the rock. So… break the rock into two halves of about 49%, and a handful of gravel. Now, the entire mass of the rock is somethign you’ve mined from the rock.

For a rock a few meters in diameter, this would be easy enough. But how about something like Vesta? Breaking apart a rock miles wide is impractical. But there’s this: grind up a portion of the rock into dust. Scatter the dust across the entire surface of the rock, anything from a light dusting to a few cm  thick, blanketing the entire surface. Now… you don’t own the rock, but you own a shell that entirely encompasses the rock. For someone else to attempt to access the rock, they would have to breach your property.

A lot of this won’t matter for a good long while, of course. For this to be relevant, you’ll need to have both Space Cops *and* Space Robbers. If next year Disney-SpaceX announced that they had taken possession of Eros and were busy turning it into ErosWorld, The Happiest Place In Heliocentric Space, it’s not like there’s a whole lot that the Russians or the UN could do to stop it except to complain and push for economic sanctions. At some point, the Russians or Chinese or somebody might be able to mount an armed expedition to go take Eros fro Disney-SpaceX; and at *that* point some definition of private property rights in space would be handy to have.

 Posted by at 6:36 pm
  • sferrin

    Only thing that’ll happen is China will use it to justify their claim to the moon. (While we continue to beg rides to space from the Russians and engines for launching our military satellites from them as well.)

  • Michel Van

    U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act is only valid for US citizen.
    means for China, India, russia and Germany
    we can ram our national Flag into this space rocks and claimed it, exploit it…

    • Herp McDerp

      Please refer to the Outer Space Treaty, to which the U.S. and the countries you named subscribe …

      The treaty explicitly forbids any government from claiming a celestial
      resource such as the Moon or a planet, claiming that they are the common heritage of mankind. Art. II
      of the Treaty states that “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”.
      However, the State that launches a space object retains jurisdiction and
      control over that object. The State is also liable for damages caused by their space object.

      Fortunately, hardly anyone ratified the Moon Treaty, which:

      * Bans all exploration and uses of celestial bodies without the approval or benefit of other states under the common heritage of mankind principle (article 11).
      * Requires that the Secretary-General must be notified of all celestial activities (and discoveries developed thanks to those activities).

      * Bans any state from claiming sovereignty over any territory of celestial bodies.
      * Bans any ownership of any extraterrestrial property by any
      organization or person, unless that organization is international and
      * Requires all resource extraction and allocation be made by an international regime.

      (Belgium signed it!)

      • Michel Van

        i have to look, if german Parlament ratified the Outer Space Treaty.
        if yes, then the German Industry can go privatly exploit space
        as GmbH (means “company with limited liability”)

        • Herp McDerp

          According to the Wikipedia article, Germany signed the Outer Space Treaty on January 27, 1967 and deposited the ratified treaty on February 10, 1971.

          Happy prospecting!

  • mzungu

    Complete waste of ink, considering how between now and whenever this happens, it’ll get repealed, rewritten just as many times as there are Road Maps to Mars publications from NASA.

    Nevermind the delta-Vs wasted transporting the goods to anywhere useful is often more than just bring it up from the Earth..