A Quick Look at Denmark’s New Space Law

The Parliament of Denmark passed a domestic space law on May 3, 2016, and thanks to a tweet by PJ Blount, I was able to get a copy of the text in Danish.  It was my intention to  do a comprehensive analysis for Space Thoughts, but I am going to save that for an essay for The Space Review as I want to use footnotes.  That being said, the following is a gloss of the new Danish space law; a more comprehensive piece will follow in a few weeks.  Note that I am working off a rough translation of the law; the original text can be found here.

Denmark’s domestic space law (the Act) is designed to address the present and future commercial space activities of its citizens and provides a framework for regulating those activities and address national security concerns those activities might implicate.  The Act strives to address three things:

  • The approval and supervision of activities in outer space;
  • The registration of space objects, and
  • Ensure clarity on ‘responsibility’ for injuries caused by space objects.

The Act applies to space activities undertaken by the Danish state, and space activities and installations  or vessels of the Danish state operated a by Danish citizen whether they be government or private.  The Research and Education Minister has primary authority under the Act to approve space activities and coordinates with the Defense minister to create regulations pursuant to the Act.

The Act lays down the following definitions:

  • Space activity: A launch of a space object into outer space, and the operation, control and return of space objects including ground and other activities that are in related to the space object.
  • Space object: Any object that is launched or scheduled for launch into outer space, including its individual parts, and any device that is used or planned to be used to launch an object to it outer space.
  • Operator: A natural or legal person performing or planning to undertake or carry out space activities.
  • Outer space: The area located more than 100 kilometers above sea level.
  • Owner: A natural or legal person who owns a space object.
  • Launching State: A State which launches or effectuates the launch of a space object, or from whose territory a space object is launched.

Per the Act, a Danish operator may perform a space activity only after the Minister of Education and Research approves the space activity.  Approval of a space activity requires the operator to show ownership of the space object, technical and financial capability to perform the space activity, the space activity meets safety and security standards, the space activity is not detrimental to the environment, the space activity does not implicate Denmark’s national security, the space activity does not interfere with Denmark’s international obligations or foreign policy interests, complies with insurance requirements, provides for mitigation of space debris, and the space activity complies with ITU frequency and GEO-slot allotments.

The Act also makes the Education and Research Minister responsible for registering space objects domestically and to create the rules for domestic registration.  The Act also allows for an owner of space object to transfer ownership to another; however, if ownership of the space object is transferred to an owner who is not a citizen of Denmark, then Denmark’s liability for the space object end.

The Act requires the the operator of space object to compensate for damage caused by a  space object to persons or property on the ground as well as aircraft in flight, unless the damage was caused by the gross negligence of the aggrieved party.  The Education and Research Minister may create regulations limiting the liability of the operator.  An operator of a space object is also required to indemnify the State for any damages incurred via the State’s obligations under international law, but the Education and Research Minister may limit the extent of indemnification.

As part of the approval process for a space activity, the Act requires proof of insurance or demonstrate financial responsibility sufficient to compensate for damages to third parties. The Act leaves the exact extent of the requirements of insurance to the Education and Research Minister. To recover from damages inflicted by a space object, the injured part or the State must file a summons in Denmark’s civil court.

The Education and Research Minister is authorized to create and enforce any regulations regarding space activities under the Act, including any regulations it deems necessary to supervise space activities under the Act and penalties for violations.  Violations of the Act or regulations pursuant to the Act are punishable under Denmark’s Criminal Code, including fines and imprisonment of up to four months, unless a higher punishment is mandated by Danish law.  Willful violations of provisions of regulations pursuant to the Act may require imprisonment of up to 2 years.

The Act does not apply to the Faroe Islands and Greenland, but a Royal Decree can fully or partially enter the Act into force in those territories.

{UPDATE}

I have written a comprehensive analysis for The Space Review, which can be found here: http://thespacereview.com/article/2994/1

 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “A Quick Look at Denmark’s New Space Law

    1. Denmark is a member of ESA and most of their space program is geared towards developing and technology for ESA missions. They have one small-satellite called Ørsted, which was supposed to be the first in a series of satellites, but the program was canceled.

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