#SpaceWatchGL Opinion: German space policy: the need for a strategy and a corresponding legislation – SpaceWatch.Global

by K.-P. Ludwig, Sonay Sarac, Dr. Christian Langenbach DGLR-Space Science & Application

In view of Germanys specific role in the international markets for space products and services, in which national organisations have long been active as well-positioned providers and diverse users -, consideration has been given for years to the question of whether there is a need for national space legislation that goes beyond the national implementation of UN treaties. In addition to the globally applicable economic and trade agreements (e.g. the WTO) and in compliance with other sets of rules like export controls, new space policy legislation should cover all topics that should, in particular, regulate the operation of private space activities today, and in the foreseeable future.

Nowadays, space is notably an economic sector which physically has no territorial boundaries. Any national legislation therefore can primarily only regulate business activities that are carried out by German operators. This includes, for example, launch services from rocket launch sites or the control of individual satellites or fleets from ground control stations. In view of emerging developments (e.g. congested orbits and stationing of space weapons) it should at least be considered whether laws also cover the technical development or manufacturering of space systems and their components as well as the development or sale of services in earth observation, telecommunications, and navigation.

When taking a closer look at all market segments, it quickly becomes clear that before any regulation can be introduced, it would first be necessary to gain clarity about what intention or rather what strategy German policymakers are pursuing with their legislation. In view of the comprehensive technology funding of space travel since the mid-1960s, primarily by BMBF and BMWi, many things are conceivable, but perhaps not everything is intended. For example, a rocket launch in the Northern Hemisphere (i.e. > 90%) usually takes place in a N-NE-E direction, which for safety reasons requires flying over uninhabited territories or water, so that a possible accident in the flight direction would not cause or at least limit damage. In addition, High-Energy-Fuels are extremely toxic and the question of a development or production site (see German Environmental constitutional law) will be as difficult to answer as the search for a final repository for nuclear waste is difficult to accomplish.

This strategy development should also include, among other things, the political question in which technological sectors the exporting nation Germany wants to act autonomously or wants to license private space operations. The current COVID-19 pandemic has made it painfully clear to us that we are suddenly becoming frighteningly dependent on global suppliers as a result of cost-cutting and production relocations to other regions of the world. Even if they wanted to or were allowed to supply us, it should be possible to do so via functioning transport routes. After more than 50 years of active space history in Germany, the key question is: In which technology, product, or system fields should national competence be maintained, built up, expanded, or newly developed? This question can be applied above all to the national demand for scientific, commercial and military applications where Germany is bound by international agreements and partnerships (e.g. with the European Space Agency ESA and NATO). Here, the desired structures are gradually being formed and expanded in terms of industrial policy by means of appropriate sovereign contract awards. With regard to the prospects in the commercial markets, the national development and production priorities are rather determined by the involved companies.

Finally, it is necessary to determine which state structures should represent German space interests on the international stage or accompany and control the corresponding developments on the national level. For example, research policy interests could continue to be represented by experts from the German Aerospace Center (DLR). With regard to security policy interests and military space applications, competencies will be gradually built up in the German Army. Whether an umbrella organisation in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is needed for commercial business certainly requires further political consideration.

The content of legislation based on this must ultimately translate the political and strategic guidelines into operational rules, for example for private activities. Based on a first draft, which was developed a few years ago in the BMWi, following regulations should be laid down, among other things:

The final question of whether and if how far a set of facts require national, proactive and pro-competitive legislation is a political decision and will also depend on the respective legislation of other space-faring nations and their understanding of the necessity for some of the issues mentioned to require supranational agreement (e.g. at UN/ITU/EU/NATO level).

In view of current military armaments by individual states and the complex geopolitical dynamics, the latter will certainly be a real diplomatic challenge, especially since the major space faring nations, USA, Russia and China, either make no secret of their attitude towards multilateral agreements or try to embed their geopolitical self-interests into resolutions.

German original version named: Deutsche Weltraumpolitik: ihre Strategiefindung und Gesetzgebungon LinkedIn here.

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#SpaceWatchGL Opinion: German space policy: the need for a strategy and a corresponding legislation - SpaceWatch.Global

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