June 12, 2017

Global space experts discuss progress of industry at ABA space meeting

International leaders in space exploration shared their perspective on the industry and updates on space activity in Europe, Luxembourg, Japan and Australia during the American Bar Association Forum on Air and Space Law Symposium, “State of Space 2017,” held June 8, in Washington, D.C. 

The panelists agreed that there is a surge in space-related opportunities for investors and a rise in space-related policy and legislation around the world.

Atsushi Mizushima, a partner at Nishimura & Asahi in Tokyo, said the landscape for space activity and exploration has changed in Japan from where there was not any money invested in space activity in 2014 to an estimated $40 million in 2016.

“We have a gigantic number of eyeballs on space,” Mizushima said about the increased interest in space-related businesses and exploration in his country. As an example, Mizushima pointed to Mitsubishi recently launching a rocket carrying a satellite to help improve Japan’s global positioning system. Prior to 2016, Mizushima said there was no mention of commercial space activity.

Mizushima added that there is a significant increase in the private sector as well. The fundraising for space-related startups in areas of satellite service, entertainment and educational resources has also increased.

The Japanese government is “serious” about the space sector and is more committed to building an “ecosystem” to encourage and support space exploration, Mizushima said.

Space exploration has also taken off in Luxembourg and Australia.

Bob Calmes, partner at Arendt & Medernach Luxembourg Law Firm based in New York, said Luxembourg officials believe they have, “added value” in the space industry. He said there is a push for greater opportunities in the development of space mining.

Kim Ellis, the director at International Earth & Space Technology Pty Ltd, said although Australia was one of the first countries to launch a satellite, space research and activity there has been slow to get off the ground. But she sees change.

Ellis said there is an increase in the number of private citizens interested in space activity in Australia. She shared on the legislative framework and research that is underway, which would help support private industry in taking the risks necessary to consider space related business opportunities.

She encouraged space lawyers to visit Australia to, “broaden” their perspective of opportunities in space.

“It’s far, but not as long as a trip to mars,” Ellis said jokingly.

Other panelists included Micheline Tabache, head of the European Space Agency’s, Washington, D.C., office, and moderator Christopher Johnson, space law adviser at Secure World Foundation in Washington, D.C.