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Space Law? Ohio College Explores Final Frontier Of Booming Industry

Cleveland State University
Cleveland State University's Marshall College of Law

The explosion of growth in the space industry is opening up new areas of law, and an Ohio university is preparing to go where no university has gone before.

Cleveland State University recently opened the Global Space Law Center at the Marshall College of Law, to be the first of its kind in the country. "Space law," says Professor Mark Sundahl, covers laws and regulations that preserve order in outer space.  

"There's an international dimension of five main treaties, which establishes basic principles in space, like a country cannot place a nuclear weapon in orbit, but can potentially use conventional weapons," Sundahl says.

There are currently 103 countries involved under the treaties, which were drafted under the United Nations and its  committee on the peaceful uses of outer space existence.  

The first course the center will offer, starting next summer, is called "Space Law: A Global View." Sundahl says students will get an overview of space law, as well as domestic, international and state laws.

The class will also teach students a great deal about the global space industry, which the Federal Aviation Administration estimates is already worth a combined $324 billion. Earlier this year, a Florida company became the first in history to obtain government permission to exit Earth's orbit.

The main job of the private space industry lawyer, Sundahl says, will be in regulation. 

"To get launch licenses, to get re-entry licenses," Sundahl says. "To get an allocation of an orbital float, to insure that your client will have priority rights to a certain part of the moon that is rich in water, so that they can establish their base there."

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.