May 18, 2004

Private Enterprise Milestone

We have a new milestone! The Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) launched the first fully privately-funded rocket into space Monday in Nevada. The rocket was about 6.5 meters long, and reached an altitude of over 100 kilometers.

The CSXT received signals from the rocket while it was in space, then the rocket and the telemetry package descended under different parachutes. According to avionics manager Eric Knight, the team has detected the telemetry beacon, but haven't yet reached it.

Link cheerfully stolen from Dean.

While I am excited about this (and the X-Prize competition) as Dean is, we have to keep things in perspective. None of the new launch technology will count for much if we don't alter the legal conditions of space exploration, including international treaties.

For example: when an American Airlines jet crashes, AA is the party responsible; but under current law if a privately-owned spacecraft crashes, the launching country is responsible, so if the CSXT rocket had crashed in Mexico, the United States would have been liable, not CSXT.

Another problem is that according to UN treaty, there's no private property in space. Yep, that's right! There is, therefore, no way for a particular privately-owned company to protect their investment from the nearest greedy bureacrat.

If the Bush administration is serious about space exploration, they should concentrate at least as much on changing the legal sphere as on funding. If the money is flagged for NASA, I would say forget the money, and just fix the laws. The Bush administration is already under fire for Kyoto and the ABM treaty, so they might as well load for bear.

This is something we can all influence. Write your local Congresscritter, and Senator, and explain how you feel that the current laws are too restrictive to allow private investment in space development, and that we need to pry the direction of US space development out of the fingers of NASA.

If you want more information -especially for the above letters- here's some places/books to check out:

G. Harry Stine's The Third Industrial Revolution
G. Harry Stine's Halfway to Anywhere

Jerry Pournelle A Step Farther Out
Pournelle's web pages on space development. Use Control-F [find] "Space", there's no direct link.

The Space Access Society webpage.

Posted by Casey at May 18, 2004 2:58 PM | TrackBack