January 22, 2009

A space act and a new foundation for a forward-looking space sector

On 23 May 2008, the French parliament voted a new act covering space operations.
a french parliament chamber © Assembée Nationale
a french parliament chamber © Assembée Nationale

This space act fills a legal vacuum that posed few problems while government, through CNES, was virtually the sole stakeholder in space. To accommodate the arrival of players from the private sector, a new legal framework was called for to translate into French law the provisions of international treaties and accords ratified since the late 1960s.

This act establishes clear and fair ground rules, with appropriate legal safeguards for public and private players in space. Its chief objective is to ensure that the technical risks associated with space activities are properly mitigated, without compromising private contractors’ competitiveness. The government provides a financial guarantee to compensate damages to people, property or the environment, which the Budget is expected to set at around €60 million.

Further, the act clearly confers CNES a central support role in providing technical expertise to government on regulations governing space operations, and in checking compliance prior to delivery of authorizations submitted for approval to the minister in charge of space. The CNES President also has responsibility for range safety at the Guiana Space Centre, ensuring proper protection of people, property and the environment during launch operations.

Lastly, the act requires CNES to keep an up-to-date register of objects that France launches into space.

As a whole, the space act lays the vital legal foundation for an ambitious French and European space policy, guaranteeing access to the space market for private operators while preserving the level of safety and excellence that the unique nature of space activities demands.

More about