NPOC Austria "The role of private actors in shaping national space law and policy"


The NPOC for Space Law Austria organized an event at the margins of the 60th LSC on 7 June 2021.


The full event can be viewed here.


On Monday, 7 June 2021, at the margins of the UNCOPUOS Legal Subcommittee at the United Nations in Vienna, the NPOC Space Law Austria organised an online event on the topic of “The role of private actors in shaping national space law and policy – dynamics and stumbling blocks”. Four prominent speakers were invited to share their experiences with developments in national space laws and policies that reflected the interests and needs of the private space sector. Professor Steven Freeland, emeritus professor of Western Sydney University, professorial fellow of Bond University and co-founder of Azimuth Advisory, Australia, talked about his involvement in the review of the Australian Space Activities Act of 1998, which was reformed in 2018, and in the drafting of the New Zealand Space Activities Act of 2017. In both cases, the development of space launch services triggered legislative action. The respective states wanted to ensure that the activities envisaged would be compatible with their obligations under international law as well as their national interests. In Australia, space activities by Southern Launch (, Gilmour Space (, and Equatorial Launch Services (, were in focus. In New Zealand, the private company was RocketLab ( which built a launch site in Mahia and started launching operations in 2017. Professor Freeland highlighted the importance of finding a balance between the need to ensure safety, protecting the space environment and national interests, on the one hand, and to avoid barriers to entry and delays caused by complicated procedures, on the other.


Brian Israel, currently the Associate General Counsel for International Law at NASA, shared reflections on his experience in prior roles as General Counsel of Planetary Resources, a Seattle-based start-up developing technologies for asteroid resource exploration. Previously, he represented the United States in the UNCOPUOS Legal Subcommittee for the State Department's Office of the Legal Adviser between 2012 and 2016, when the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, including its Title IV on Space Resource Utilization, was developed and enacted. In his presentation, he emphasised that the most important objective of space resource utilisation currently is to enable future human Moon and Mars exploration activities, as the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) has formulated in its Global Exploration Roadmap of 2020. Private companies that are active in this sector engage in research and development in anticipation of this demand by space agencies. However, he also addressed the numerous business and technical challenges that stand between our present reality and the future state and vision of many space agencies, including for example a commercial market for water on the lunar surface.


Elina Morozova, the Executive Director of the Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications headquartered in Moscow (, discussed the role of satellite operators and communication providers in the global space economy on the example of Intersputnik. She highlighted that, even though Intersputnik is an intergovernmental organisation with 26 member states, it nevertheless conducts satellite operator business as a private actor. The organisation generates its own income as commercial entity and does not rely on state membership fees. Another aspect discussed was Intersputnik´s involvement in the Russian legislation process on satellite telecommunication. The presentation also addressed the importance of promoting a dialogue between private space actors and the legislator and also emphasised the role of the private sector in the implementation of international rules, for example with respect to the registration of satellites.


Professor Otto Koudelka, head of the Institute of Communication Networks and Satellite Communications at the Graz University of Technology in Austria, talked about characteristics of the small satellite industry and recent developments. Building upon his experience with three small satellite projects, TUGSAT-1, OPS-SAT and PRETTY in Austria, he gave an interesting insight into the current status of small satellite activities, including those carried out by Planet ( and Spire ( Furthermore, he highlighted promises and questions with respect to so-called mega-constellations of small satellites, such as those envisaged by OneWeb (, Space-X Starlink (, and Telesat ( His own experience with the development of the Austrian Outer Space Act (2011) he described as interesting and fruitful, because the exchange between technical and legal experts was continuously pursued. He highlighted that the legal requirements, including the registration of frequencies with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), should not be regarded as an obstacle or hurdle for small satellite activities, but as a means to avoid harmful interference and other negative effects.


In their presentations, all speakers addressed questions previously communicated by the moderator of the event, Irmgard Marboe of the University of Vienna and Head of the Austrian National Point of Contact for Space Law. These included the question, to what extent the respective space sectors are “private” or “public”, since the state frequently becomes involved as an owner of companies, by grants or subsidies, or as a customer and purchaser of services. Furthermore, the panellists shared their experiences how they were involved in the development or review of national space laws and policies and the biggest challenges they encountered. Finally, they formulated recommendations they would have for the future.


The event, which triggered a lot of interest, in particular by delegates of the UNCOPUOS Legal Subcommittee, took place via Zoom, It was recorded and will soon be accessible on the website Austria in Space and of the University of Vienna. The National Point of Contact (NPOC) for Space Law Austria organised the event, supported by the University of Vienna and the Federal Ministry of Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology.


For more information about the activities of the NPOC Space Law Austria, please contact