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Regulating a Revolution: Small Satellites and the Law of Outer Space

On 18 June 2019, Neta Palkovitz Menashy defended her thesis 'Regulating a Revolution: Small Satellites and the Law of Outer Space'. The doctoral research was supervised by Prof. dr. P.M.J. Mendes de Leon and Prof. dr. G. Molier.

Neta Palkovitz Menashy
18 June 2019
Leiden Repository

Small satellites and especially nano-satellites and standardized CubeSats are believed to be the future of space exploration. The standardized CubeSats triggered a revolution in the perception of space activities. Today, they mark a new age of affordable small scaled private space missions or simply “NewSpace” activities. They are easy and fast to build, use “off the shelf” standardized components; enjoy a great number of launching opportunities at a fraction of the cost of launching a “normal” size satellite; their operations are simple due to the fact that most of these satellites cannot be manoeuvred; and their operational life in orbit is usually short. These characteristics distinguish small satellites missions from “traditional” satellite missions.

The above means that more actors, and especially private entities and developing countries can afford launching small satellites, as opposed to traditional satellites; and the process of building and launching a small satellite is significantly shorter in time compared to executing a traditional satellite mission. How should these new space activities be defined and regulated within the framework of the international space law treaty regime, originating in the 1960’s? Considering that some practices relating to small satellites missions challenge the traditional legal framework by juxtaposing it with new legal needs. Is there justification for special treatment for small satellites missions under international space law? The study offers an answer to this question, as well as a concrete solution to deal with the legal challenges identified in the study’s chapters.

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