Private Commercialization of Space in an International Regime: A Proposal for a Space District

Meyer, Zach | January 1, 2010

The Soviet Union inaugurated the Space Age in 1957 with the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, into the Earth’s orbit. Human activity in space, once only a dream, had become reality. The hope for human advancement was immense. However, over the past five decades, the progress of the Space Age has not matched the measure of that hope. National space agencies have slowly and inefficiently explored and developed the space frontier. But, the success of a recent private competition suggests a better channel for facilitating space exploration and development: private commercial enterprise. However, certain problems are holding private commercial space enterprise back, including the current structure of space law, which leaves too much uncertainty for a private commercial space enterprise, in particular regarding property rights and profitability. Some commentators have suggested reforms to space law to remove that uncertainty, but most of these suggestions bend, dismiss, or call for wholesale abandonment of clearly applicable international law. This comment suggests a seed of a very different sort of reform that works within the confines of established international law: the international community could organize a space district tailored to encourage private commercial space enterprise, but exclusively regulated by international authority and consensus.