Is Space Law Really That Far Over Your Head?

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  Multimedia Essay By: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights  

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 Part 1 of 2 Editions  – To view an alternative graphic format see: 
Science Tech Tablet | A site dedicated to technology, science and learning.
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Look upwards toward the sky on the next clear day or cloudless night and behold the new legal frontier unfold before your eyes. A mere 65 miles above sea-level, our atmosphere and gravity dwindles into space, where satellites begin to glide silently over Earth’s thin atmosphere. Only a fraction of human history has passed since man-made satellites were far and few between — but that time has since slipped away, replaced by an ever tightening metal jacket of used and disregarded manufactured, celestial artifacts. Almost at the start of the space race, “Space Law” was launched and it’s had an uphill battle to catchup with the unforeseen consequences of humanity’s reach for the heavens.

The German V-2 rocket was a sophisticated liquid propellant rocket, which first entered outer-space in 1942.
The German V-2 rocket was a sophisticated liquid propellant rocket, which first entered outer-space in 1942.

At times, defining what Space Law is or does is a nebulous task. This new form of law can be so abstract and full of contradictions that it resembles an art, rather than a science. Like creating a massive sculpture, it’s often a process which involves slow progress — developing over time through stages of careful analysis and discernment. Space Law will continue to transform itself by maturing, developing refinements and taking on new dimensions as needed.

There are basically three forms of law, which make up Space Law: 1.) Regulatory Law – sets standards which must be met for securing authority to launch a rocket vehicle.  2.) Tort Law – concerns damages which occur as a result of debris from rocket launch accidents or space and terrestrial impacts from orbital debris. 3.) Common Law – could be applied to circumstances relating to a private entity’s negligence, which causes damage from its orbital debris.

Back To Rocket Science Basics.

The basic blueprint for all modern rockets used in today’s space programs originated from the American physicist, Dr. Robert Goddard, who is considered the father of modern rockets. By the late 1930s, Goddard had tested a liquid propellant rocket — the rocket used vanes or fins near the thrust nozzle to help initial launch guidance and a gyro control for flight over the desert in New Mexico. The German scientist, Wernher von Braun’s V-2 rocket borrowed Goddard’s basic design for refinement and increased its scale for later mass productionUsed by the German military towards the end of World War II, V-2 or Aggreat-4 ( A-4) was successfully launched in 1942, making it the first human made object to enter outer space.

The V-2 was a sophisticated liquid propellant, single stage rocket, which had a top speed of 5,760 km/h (3,580 mph) and could reach an altitude of 206km (128 miles.) At the end of the war, the Americans, British and Russians took possession of all remaining V-2 rockets, along with German engineers, technicians and scientists working on the program. A high priority was placed on researching its capabilities, re-engineering and developing it for national security.

— The Paul Allen Flying Heritage Museum, located at Paine Field, Everett, WA, recently added an authentic V2 rocket for display.

American scientists James Van Allen and Sydney Chapman were able to convince the U.S. Government of the scientific value for launching rockets carrying satellites into space. A scientific effort in the early 1950s was begun, with the plan to launch American satellites by 1957 or 1958. The Russians surprised the World by launching the first satellite into orbit in 1957 named Sputnik.

First photograph from space & of the Earth, from a V-2 rocket in 1946 byU.S scientist.
First photograph from space & of the Earth in 1946, from a V-2 rocket at an altitude of 65 miles, by U.S. scientist. Photo: courtesy of U.S. Army
A modified V-2 rocket being launch on July 24, 1950. General Electric Company was prime contractor for the launch, Douglas Aircraft Company manufactured the second stage of the rocket & Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) had major rocket design roles & test instrumentation. This was the first launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
A modified V-2 rocket being launch on July 24, 1950. General Electric Company was prime contractor for the launch, Douglas Aircraft Company manufactured the second stage of the rocket & the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) had major rocket design roles & test instrumentation. This was the first launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Photo: courtesy of NASA/U.S. Army
Most major space portals or rocket launch site are located next to oceans or remote location to limit legal liability in case of failed launch. It's estimated 10 % of rocket launches end in failure. Photo illustration: David Johanson Vasquez ©
Most major space portals and rocket launch sites are located next to oceans or remote locations to limit legal liability in case of a failed launch. It’s estimated 8 % of rocket launches end in failure. Photo illustration: David Johanson Vasquez ©
What Goes Up Must Come Down.

Rocket launch programs have always had to contend with Newton’s law of gravity, today, these programs face new challenges with liability laws, to protect individuals and property from unexpected accidents.

Case Study:  The first time a major issue of liability occurred was in 1962, on a street within Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Apparently, a three-kilogram metal artifact from the Russian’s 1960, Sputnik 4 satellite launch, reentered the atmosphere unannounced, over an unsuspecting Midwest. The Russian’s denied it was theirs, fearing liability under international law. This event, helped set in motion, the 1963 Declaration on Legal Principals Governing the Activities of State in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space. As an international agreement, it puts forth the responsibility to the State which launches or engages the launching of objects into space as internationally responsible for damages caused on Earth. In 1967, the agreement was slightly modified and was titled “Outer Space Treaty 1967.” 

A photo illustration of space debris from a low Earth orbit reentering the atmosphere over a city. Earth has water covering 70% of its surface — when attempts fail to guide space debris towards open oceans, the chance for these falling objects to hit a populated area increase. Space Law sets the liability for damages caused by the space debris to the nation or agency responsible responsible to its original rocket launch.
A photo illustration of space debris from a low Earth orbit reentering the atmosphere over a city. Earth has water covering 70% of its surface — when attempts fail to guide space debris towards open oceans, the chance for these falling objects to hit a populated area increase. Space Law sets the liability for damages caused by the space debris to the nation or agency responsible for its original rocket launch.

By 1984, the United Nations General Assembly, had adopted five sets of legal principles governing international law and cooperation in space activities. The principles include the following agreements and conventions.“Outer Space Treaty” – the use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies (1967 – resolution 2222.) “Rescue Agreement” – the  agreement to rescue Astronauts/Cosmonauts, the Return of Astronauts/Cosmonauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Space (1968 – resolution 2345.) “Liability Convention” – the Convention on International Liability for Damaged Caused by Space Objects (1972 – resolution 2777.) “Registration Convention” – the registration of  Objects Launched into Outer Space (1975 – resolution 3235.) “Moon Agreement” – the agreement Governing the Activities of  States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (1979 – resolution 34/68.)

Because so many languages are involved with these international agreements, terms used in Space Law, often gets lost in translation. There are linguistic limitations and general lack of necessary definitions to adequately cover specific space concepts and activities using Space Law. Each Nation has its own agenda and vision concerning the development of space — then throw in multinational companies and things get really diluted when it comes to working out agreements regarding laws governing space.

Although most large "space junk" is monitored and efforts are made for reentry over uninhabited areas, satellites or sections of rockets can potentially fall anywhere.
Although most large “space debris” is monitored and great efforts are made for reentry to take place over uninhabited areas – satellites or sections of rockets can potentially fall anywhere.
Cuba Gives A New Meaning To A Cash Cow.

Case Study:  In November of 1960, the second stage of a U.S. A Thor rocket fell back to Earth and killed a cow grazing in Eastern Cuba. The final settlement required the U.S. Government to pay Cuba $2 million dollars in compensation — creating the world’s first “Cuban Cash Cow.”

Dramatic Rocket Launch Failures Associated With Space Exploration.

It’s estimated since the 1950s, of the nearly 8,000 rockets launched for space related missions, 8 % of rocket launches ended in failure (2012 spacelaunchreport.com.) The resulting anomalies have cost the lives of hundreds of astronauts, cosmonauts and civilians along with billions of dollars in losses. Here’s an abbreviated list of dramatic and tragic events associated with rocket launch failures. WA Okang SatDshBP_e1103

Vanguard TV3, December 9, 1957 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida (U.S.) was the first U.S. attempt at sending a satellite into orbit.  A first event of its kind to use a live televised broadcast, which ended by witnessing Vanguard’s explosive failure. Unfortunately this launch was a rushed reaction to the Soviet Union’s surprise success of launching the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, on October 23, 1957.

Vostok rocket, March 18, 1980, launched from Plesetsk, Russia (the world’s busiest spaceport). While being refueled the rocket exploded on the launch pad, killing 50, mostly young soldiers. (Source: New York Times article, published September 28, 1989)

Challenger STS-51-L Space Shuttle disaster, January 28, 1986, launched from Kennedy Space Center (U.S.) marked the first U.S. in-flight fatalities. After only 73 seconds from lift-off, faulty O-ring seals failed, releasing hot gases from the solid propellant rocket booster (SRB), which led to a catastrophic failure. Seven crew members were lost, including Christy McAullife,  selected by NASA’s Teacher in Space Program. McAullife was the first civilian to be trained as an astronaut — she would have been the first civilian to enter space, but tragically, the flight ended a short distance before reaching the edge of space. Recovery efforts for Challenger were the most expensive of any rocket launch disaster to date.

Long Mark 3B rocket launch, payload: American communication satellite, built by Space Systems Loral – February 14, 1996 in Xichang (China) – two seconds into launch, rocket pitched over just after clearing the launch tower and accelerated  horizontally a few hundred feet off the ground, before hitting a hill 22 seconds into its flight. The rocket slammed into a hillside exploding in a fireball above a nearby town, it’s estimated at least 100 people died in the resulting aftermath. Click on this link to read the complete eyewitness story. →    Disaster at Xichang | History of Flight | Air & Space Magazine

Delta 2, rocket launch – January 1997, Cape Canaveral (U.S.) – this rocket carried a new GPS satellite and ends in a spectacular explosion. Video link included to show examples of  worst case scenario of a rocket exploding only seconds after launch (note brightly burning rocket propellant cascading to the ground is known as “firebrand”.)  The short video has an interview with Chester Whitehair, former VP of Space Launch Operations Aerospace Corporation, who describes how the burning debris and toxic hydrochloric gas cloud fell into the Atlantic Ocean from the rocket explosion. Rocket launch sites and Spaceports are geographically chosen to mitigate rocket launch accidents . Click on this video link to see the rocket mishap. →    US rocket disasters – YouTube

Titan 4, rocket launch – August 1998, Cape Canaveral (U.S.) the last launch of a Titan rocket – with a military, top-secret satellite payload, was the most expensive rocket disaster to date – estimated loss of $ 1.3 Billion dollars.

VLS-3 rocket, launch  – August 2003, Alcantara (Brazil) – rocket exploded on the launch pad when the rocket booster was accidentally initiated during test 72 hours before its scheduled launch. Reports of at least 21 people were killed at the site.

World_spaceport-InterAf_Map

Global location, GPS coordinates & rocket debris fields of major Spaceports & launch sites. ( Click on map to enlarge)
Quiz ??? – Do you see any similarities in the geographic locations used for these launch sites? What advantages do these locations have regarding “Space Law?” For most rocket launches, which site has the greatest geographic advantage & why; which has the least advantage & why?
Location, Location, Location Benefits Rocket Launch Sites.

If you zoom into the above World map with its rocket launch sites, you’ll notice all the locations gravitate toward remote regions. Another feature most Spaceports share is large bodies of water located to the east, with the exception of the U.S. Vandenberg site. Less likely hood of people or property being harmed by a rocket which could experience a catastrophic failure is why oceans make a great safety barrier.  The legal liability for a launch vehicle is why all ships and aircraft are restricted from being anywhere near a rocket’s flight path. The rocket debris fields are marked with red highlights, this fallen debris is a highly toxic form of unspent fuel and oxidizers.

Most rockets are launched towards an easterly direction due to the Earth’s eastern rotation, which aids the rocket with extra momentum. An exception for an east directional launch is Vandenberg site in California, which launches most of its rockets south for polar orbits used by communication and mapping satellites.

Launching rockets closer to the equator gives a launch vehicle one more advantage — extra velocity gained from the Earth’s rotation near its equator. At the equator, our planet spins at a speed of 1675 kph (1040 mph,) compared to a spot near the Arctic Circle, which moves at a slower, 736 kph (457 mph.) Even the smallest advantage gained in velocity means a rocket requires less fuel to reach “escape velocity.” This fuel savings translates to a lighter launch vehicle, making the critical transition of leaving Earth’s gravitational field quicker.

The next edition of the Space Law series includes:
Potential Minefield Effects From Space Debris And The Regulatory Laws To Help Clean It Up.
Will Asteroid Mining Become The Next Big Gold Rush And What Laws Will Keep The Frontier Order?
Links And Resources For Space Law.

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International space law is emerging from its infancy, attempting to more clearly define itself from a nebulous amalgam of; agreements, amendments, codes, rules, regulations, jurisdictions, treaties and non-binding measures. There exists today, enough legal framework for commercial interest to move cautiously towards developing outer space. However, with the unforeseen variables & dynamics of space activities, exceptions will be made and rules will be stretched, if not broken to accommodate necessity, justification or exculpation. ~

Surprise space mission featured videos: Click → Boards of Canada – Dawn Chorus – YouTube   

→     Boards of Canada – Music is Math (HD)

→     Boards of Canada – Gemini – Fan Video on Vimeo
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Links And Resources For Space Law.

The Space Review: International space law and commercial space activities: the rules do apply

Outlook on Space Law Over the Next 30 Years: Essays Published for the 30th … – Google Books

“SPACE FOR DISPUTE SETTLEMENT MECHANISMS – DISPUTE RESOLUTION MECHANISM” by Frans G. von der Dunk

Asteroid mining: US company looks to space for precious metal | Science | The Guardian

Planetary Resources – The Asteroid Mining Company – News

5 of the Worst Space Launch Failures | Wired Science | Wired.com

Orbital Debris: A Technical Assessment

NASA Orbital Debris FAQs

‎orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/library/IAR_95_Document.pdf

A Minefield in Earth Orbit: How Space Debris Is Spinning Out of Control [Interactive]: Scientific American

SpaceX signs lease agreement at spaceport to test reusable rocket – latimes.com

Earth’s rotation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Space Review: Spacecraft stats and insights

Space Launch Report

V-2 rocket – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Billionaire Paul Allen gets V-2 rocket for aviation museum near Seattle – Science

Germany conducts first successful V-2 rocket test — History.com This Day in History — 10/3/1942

Part 1 of 2 editions – please check back soon for the conclusion of this essay. 
Photo illustration by: David Johanson Vasquez, using a NASA photo of Skylab.

Photo illustration of space debris by: David Johanson Vasquez, using a NASA photo of Skylab.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG9LUSf_qK8 

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The World Event Which Launched Seattle Into a Postmodern Orbit, 50 Years Ago Today.

Photos and essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights – Third Addition

Content includes: Blended learning, critical think, Seattle Postmodern History, (Video Links – MGM film segments with Elvis Presly at Seattle’s World Fair, postmodern video of early NASA rocket launches & spacewalks, video defining “postmodernism”)  (Web links, history org feature of Century 21 Seattle’s World’s Fair & Architect Japanese American Minoru Yamasaki)

On this day, April 21st, 1962, Seattle’s Century 21 World’s Fair opened the doors for its national and international visitors.  Eventually, almost 10 million guests attended the entire event to — “imagine a futuristic tomorrow,” which promised technological wonders for improved living and for promoting world harmony.

Century 21 Fair Exposition Logo.

The 1851 London World’s Fair, which took place in London’s  Crystal Palace, was the vanguard of this type of global gathering.  The industrial age was in a mature stage of development, offering new and exciting forms of technologies. In this era, people became aware of time-and-space being compressed — due to steam-power’s ability to hasten long-distance travel with the locomotive and steamship.  As the World’s people experience shrinking obstacles towards bringing distant nations and cultures together—the creation of global fairs was created to promote industrial development and international exhibits.

Queen Victoria opens the first international World's Fare in 1851. ( Image in public domain )

Queen Victoria opens the first international World’s Fair in 1851. ( Image in public domain )

Seattle’s first World’s fair — Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909, occurred near the peak of an industrial age, which helped Seattle obtain national name recognition.

The Space Needle, an iconic landmark from Seattle’s 1962 Century 21 World’s Fair.

Significantly, the Century 21 World’s Fair was created in an emerging postmodern era. The Fair was remarkably successful with a number of tangible results, notably: it was one of the select few world event of its kind, which made a profit and most importantly, it lifted Seattle out of its perceived provincial setting, and placed it onto a world stage. The timing was ideal for the city’s economic development trajectory.  With Boeing Aerospace as a Seattle-based company, it benefited from the international exposure, at a time when the postmodern world began to embrace jet travel for global access.

Seattle Center with Mount Rainier in Background.

Optimism and enthusiasm associated with the 1962 World’s Fair was authentic, however, in the big picture, a dark shadow was growing with super-power tensions. As the cold war thermometer was nearing a boiling point, a serious situation was escalating.  President Kennedy’s excuse of having a cold for not attending the Century 21 closing ceremony in October was a ruse — actually his efforts for de-escalating the Cuban Missile Crisis were urgently required.  As a result of averting a nuclear war over Cuban missiles, President Kennedy successfully presided over the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union’s signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in  the following year of 1963.

Ironically, it was the Soviet Union, which created the theme of science for Seattle’s Century 21 World’s Fair. On October 4, 1957 the Russians launched Sputnik, the first orbiting man-made satellite, which gave them an edge in space development. With the Soviet’s apparent satellite success, Americans feared they were falling behind in science and technology; as a result of tech envy, a theme of science became the framework for Seattle’s Worlds Fair.  From this time forward, the U.S. Set goals to be leaders in space exploration and technology development.

Elliott Bay with Seattle Center and Mount Baker in background.

The shock-wave effect created by Sputnik, awoke America from its complacency of 1950s idealism.  Now, a sense of urgency was created  in looking for optimism within the futuristic Technology of tomorrow.  This quest for all things technological, was the fuel which Seattle used for launching its World’s Fair.  Late in 1957, the title: Seattle Century 21 World’s Fair was selected as the brand name to help promote America’s vision of optimism in a technological future.  To champion this cause, Albert Rossellini, Washington State Governor from 1956 to 1965, selected an exceptional group of business and civic leaders for a commission which successfully acquired local and national financing for the Seattle World’s Fair.

Governor Albert Rossellini, on Veteran’s Day 1961.

Governor Rossellini, a Pacific Northwest civic titan, had the vision which helped develop the region into a world-class, economic dynamo.  The Century 21 World’s Fair, along with the state’s modern transportation infrastructure , and post secondary education developments are just a few examples of Albert Rossellini legacy. One more fascinating contribution from Governor Rossellini was his contribution in bringing the “King of Rock and Roll” to Seattle’s World Fair. Albert Rossellini actually pitched the idea to MGM, for making a movie with Elvis Presley (click on the video link ↓ )  It Happened at the World’s Fair — (Movie Clip) Happy Ending  Enlisting Elvis, a mega superstar, to help promote the Fair in a movie was a brilliant marketing move, with true creative vision!

Most impressive icons of the Century 21 Fair are the Space Needle and Monorail, which went on to become revered Seattle landmarks and its biggest tourist attractions.

The ever popular Seattle Monorail is gliding past Paul Allen’s EMP building.

Internationally, the Space Needle is a more recognizable symbol of Seattle, than the city’s actual name or any other single reference.

The inspiration for the Space Tower as it was initially called, came from a napkin sketch by C21 chairman, Eddie Carlson of a 400’ TV Tower with a restaurant in Stuttgart Germany.  The idea of a tower with a “flying-saucer” shaped restaurant at the top, was presented to architect John Graham, who added the concept of a rotating restaurant to allow viewers a continuous change of panoramic views.  Victor Steinbrueck, professor of architecture at the University of Washington and architect John Ridley produced concept sketches which featured an elegant tripod, crowned with a saucer structure observation deck.

Minoru Yamasaki, a first-generation Japanese American, born in Seattle, was the main architect, along with Seattle’s NBBJ Architects chosen in designing  the U.S. Science Pavilion, today’s Pacific Science Center.

Minoru Yamasaki’s innovative, graceful design was also used for Seattle’s most daring piece of architecture, the Rainier Tower, supported by a gravity defying inverted pedestal!

Another of Minoru’s Emerald City designs is the IBM Building, used as a model for the New York City twin tower design (destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.)  The architectural style of the Pacific Science Center and NYC twin towers is “gothic modernism,” which is found in most of Minoru’s designs (please see examples of Gothic modernistic elements in the photographs be low.)

Seattle IBM Building designed by Minoru Yamasaki, was used as the model for NYC WTC Twin Towers. An example of Yamasaki’s “gothic modernism” style.

 

During the summer of the World’s Fair opening, my parents took me to experience the exposition. Although I was very young while attending… I clearly recall the impressions of wonder from seeing the futuristic architecture and dynamic exhibits.  The theme of life in the 21st century, awoke my imagination and interest in science technology at an early age, which still continues to this day in the form of stories, essays and multimedia work, which I share with you now. ~

Twilight view of Space Needle and Pacific Science Center.

A must see postmodern era video featuring the beginnings of the space race. Click on link below. ↓

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfVfRWv7igg 

What is postmodernism video (click on video link below ↓)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL8MhYq9owo 

HistoryLink to Century 21 — The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, Part 1 ( Click on link below ↓)

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=2290