Notes from 5th Annual Space & Satellite Regulatory Colloquium on Oct 20th

Attached are my notes from the Dentons, ManSat and SatNews “5th Annual Space and Satellite Regulatory Colloquium” held on September 20, 2016 in Washington DC.

Executive Summary

Dentons, ManSat and SatNews Annual Space and Satellite Regulatory Colloquium, now in it’s fifth year has grown to about 100 attendees and included 14 panels and keynotes (including the NSR breakfast briefing). It was a long day that ran from 7:00am to 5:45pm, followed by a rooftop cocktail reception. But the effort was worthwhile. As far as we know, this is the only gathering of its kind in the satellite sector.

Sessions were filled with an acknowledgement that recent technical developments in the sector will lead to more rapid change – from pricing, to new ways of using technology, to entirely new applications. It may also increase the number of satellites and launches. These changes making some of the industry’s traditional concerns such as in-orbit debris, collision avoidance, traffic management and frequency interference even more important.

Presenters also seem to acknowledge that the demand of terrestrial wireless spectrum users mean that spectrum sharing will be required in the the future. The satellite industry needs to work with terrestrial users for better defining spectrum sharing approaches to ensure it works for everyone. In particular, many presenters emphasized the need for the satellite industry to work together on unified positions to maintain fair access to spectrum in light of strong push from terrestrial wireless operators, who are often more politically powerful, to take-over spectrum the satellite sector believes it needs.

Future issues, such as asteroid mining, still lack a comprehensive regulatory framework and will remain a project for space law attorneys to complete in the future. Other pressing issues, such as cybersecurity, might ultimately be beyond the powers of the legal system to control. They may require constant defensive technical vigilance to manage – particularly if they emanate from a “bad actor” country. Finally, while there is a lot of speculation about where the next major successes will be, the industry remains highly dynamic and hard to predict.