Media Casualties Mount
Administration Split On Europe Invasion
Administration In Crisis Over Burgeoning Quagmire
Congress Concerned About Diversion From War On Japan
Pot, Kettle On Line Two...
Allies Seize Paris
Gore Book Sales Tank, Supporters Claim Unfair Tactics
Satan Files Lack Of Defamation Suit
Why This Blog Bores People With Space Stuff
A New Beginning
My Hit Parade
Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds)
James Lileks Bleats
Winds Of Change (Joe Katzman)
Little Green Footballs (Charles Johnson)
Eject Eject Eject (Bill Whittle)
Alan Boyle (MSNBC)
Space Politics (Jeff Foust)
Space Transport News (Clark Lindsey)
NASA Space Flight
A Voyage To Arcturus (Jay Manifold)
Dispatches From The Final Frontier (Michael Belfiore)
Personal Spaceflight (Jeff Foust)
The Flame Trench (Florida Today)
Rocket Forge (Michael Mealing)
COTS Watch (Michael Mealing)
Curmudgeon's Corner (Mark Whittington)
Tales of the Heliosphere
Out Of The Cradle
Space For Commerce (Brian Dunbar)
The Speculist (Phil Bowermaster)
Spacecraft (Chris Hall)
Space Pragmatism (Dan Schrimpsher)
Eternal Golden Braid (Fred Kiesche)
Carried Away (Dan Schmelzer)
Laughing Wolf (C. Blake Powers)
Chair Force Engineer (Air Force Procurement)
JesusPhreaks (Scott Bell)
Nanobot (Howard Lovy)
Lagniappe (Derek Lowe)
Geek Press (Paul Hsieh)
Redwood Dragon (Dave Trowbridge)
Turned Up To Eleven (Paul Orwin)
Cowlix (Wes Cowley)
Quark Soup (Dave Appell)
Assymetrical Information (Jane Galt and Mindles H. Dreck)
Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen et al)
Man Without Qualities (Robert Musil)
Knowledge Problem (Lynne Kiesling)
Cut On The Bias (Susanna Cornett)
The Funny Pages
Cox & Forkum
Day By Day
Happy Fun Pundit
Amish Tech Support (Lawrence Simon)
Scrapple Face (Scott Ott)
Quasipundit (Adragna & Vehrs)
England's Sword (Iain Murray)
Daily Pundit (Bill Quick)
Daimnation! (Damian Penny)
Z+ Blog (Andrew Zolli)
The Kolkata Libertarian
Midwest Conservative Journal
Protein Wisdom (Jeff Goldstein et al)
Dean's World (Dean Esmay)
Yippee-Ki-Yay (Kevin McGehee)
Spleenville (Andrea Harris)
Random Jottings (John Weidner)
On the Third Hand (Kathy Kinsley, Bellicose Woman)
Inappropriate Response (Moira Breen)
Inadvertent Comic Relief
Warblogger Watcher (Cowardly Anonymous Idiotarians)
Other Worthy Weblogs
Ain't No Bad Dude (Brian Linse)
A libertarian reads the papers
Anna Franco Review
Ben Kepple's Daily Rant
Dropscan (Shiloh Bucher)
End the War on Freedom
Insolvent Republic of Blogistan
James Reuben Haney
Mind over what matters
Page Fault Interrupt
Sand In The Gears(Anthony Woodlief)
The Blogs of War
The Fly Bottle
The Illuminated Donkey
What she really thinks
Where HipHop & Libertarianism Meet
Zem : blog
Space Policy Links
The Space Review
The Space Show
Space Frontier Foundation
Space Policy Digest BBS
USS Clueless (Steven Den Beste)
Unremitting Verse (Will Warren)
World View (Brink Lindsay)
The Last Page
More Than Zero (Andrew Hofer)
Pathetic Earthlings (Andrew Lloyd)
Spaceship Summer (Derek Lyons)
The New Space Age (Rob Wilson)
Rocketman (Mark Oakley)
Site designed by
Fish Or Fowl?
Professor Reynolds has some questions about the legal status of space elevators.
Here are some more. The problems associated with anchoring such a beast in an unstable and/or corrupt equatorial country has caused many of those planning such things to put them instead on floating ocean platforms, in international waters. This raises some new issues, because now, instead of (as Glenn notes) the structure simply being a very high tower, it would be a tall ship that would put to shame all of the previous false claimants to that designation, with their puny little sticks for masts. This thing would have a crows nest above geosynchronous altitude. It would also imbue an entirely new meaning to the old phrase, the "high seas."
Presumably, maritime law would apply to it, absent any codicils to the Outer Space Treaty. Thus gambling would be legal, the person in charge of the facility would be captain of the ship with all implied powers (including wedding officiation), etc. He would also keep the keys to the gun locker.
As to whether such an object would be "launched" or not, that depends on the construction technique. Most plans for these things would in fact involve launching them, in the conventional usage of the term. It would be only after the initial mass had been deployed at geostationary orbit that it would be slowly lowered and attached to the planet. After that, more mass would be added via the elevator route, so it would really be a hybrid creature, partially launched and partially constructed from the surface.
It would get even more interesting if the orbital anchor were a captured carbonaceous asteroid, and the diamondoid materials needed for the tether manufactured from it. In that case, it would be more akin to a grappling of the earth from another planetary body. I'm not sure what the legal implications of that would be. Would its status somehow change once it was actually attached to the planet? And what does "attached" mean, if the bottom of it is simply floating on the ocean or, even more tenuously, in the atmosphere?
This is one that will indeed keep the lawyers happily busy for years.
[Update at 8:30 AM PDT]
This strikes me as a loophole in the sovereignty restrictions of the OST. If an asteroid were the orbital anchor for the beanstalk, and it were designated a ship (flagged, perhaps, in Panama or Liberia), then the property rights to mining (and owning) it would presumably be settled. Or at least much more so than they would be for it as a freely orbiting body. And one could protect additional objects in like manner by simply attaching them.Posted by Rand Simberg at August 31, 2005 07:12 AM
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference this post from Transterrestrial Musings.
The Legality of Space Elevators
Excerpt: Glenn Reynolds and Rand Simberg both have some interesting questions about the legal implications of space elevators. I'm not a big fan of space elevators, but it's neat how much you could get away with by using space elevators instead of launch vehi...
Weblog: The Star Spangled Cosmos
Tracked: August 31, 2005 08:34 AM
As to whether such an object would be "launched" or not, that depends on the construction technique.
Technically, sure. But I suspect the legal status - which will be what counts - will depend more on what happens as a result of legal and political comprimise than nitpicky technical terms.
Happy lawyers indeed!Posted by brian at August 31, 2005 08:16 AM
I think Michael Laine's LiftPort Group (www.liftport.com) is doing valuable work in beginning to "walk point" on these legal/political questions, which as Laine readily acknowledges may well prove knottier than the technical ones.
Some people have sniped at them for being a tiny start-up aimed at a multi-billion-dollar project, but it's self-evident that nobody's going to write big checks or recruit a big development team for any space elevator work until CNT materials get a lot stronger. That doesn't mean it's too soon for a profit-oriented enterprise to begin testing the waters.
I wouldn't be surprised if LiftPort does well simply as a consultant when the deep pockets start thinking "You know, this could actually happen..."
Posted by Monte Davis at August 31, 2005 08:30 AM
He's also wrong about them being "tall towers". They are, but only in the sense that they are towers located on the anchor satellite. You could theoretically have one that ends just short of the earth, and it's still perfectly stable (assuming nothing pushes against it, like strong winds or lunar tides).Posted by Raoul Ortega at August 31, 2005 05:10 PM
He's also wrong about them being "tall towers".
I believe he is speaking in the legal sense not the narrow technical one. If said object is legally a (really) tall building then a tall building it is where it counts most - the eyes of the law.Posted by Brian at August 31, 2005 07:03 PM
I think you may be on to something re sovereignty via a vis the ships' registry angle. Is registry the "killer app" that will provide a legal foundation for private property law in space? Kudos.
Also, one small correction: under U.S. law, ship captains, commanding officers, and/or masters have NO authority to preside over civil marriage ceremonies. The only exception occurs when the captain (etc.) in question is otherwise so empowered under the law (by being a justice of the peace, a rabbi, or an ordained minister, for example).
I've been told by a fellow with a Harvard law degree that that "wedding officiation" is a sailor's story meant to get the girl to agree, and is not actually valid.
Also, what does the Outer Space Treaty say about ownership of asteroids...I believe the Moon cannot be owned.Posted by Eric R. Ashley at August 31, 2005 07:53 PM
Forgive me for being the pessimistic old man here- but I think arguing the legalities of something for which the technology does not yet exist.... shows there must be lawyers out there with too much time on their hands.
I know the space elevator fans think they're just around the corner, and certainly more likely than time or FTL travel.... to which I say hey- start building! I wanna SEE it!Posted by SpaceCat at August 31, 2005 10:27 PM
I think arguing the legalities of something for which the technology does not yet exist.... shows there must be lawyers out there with too much time on their hands.
No. Consider all of the problems that attend introducing new technology and then watching the scramble as the law plays catch up. I could catalog but you can easily come up with your own.
The effort isn't so much to completly map the terrain ahead but to chart the major pitfalls so we can bridge them easily or work around them. This is called foresight when it works and intellectual self-boinking when it doesn't.Posted by Brian at August 31, 2005 11:15 PM
Why not erect the first space elevator in lunar orbit, extending down to the surface of the Moon?
Technically easier, fewer legal and political problems.Posted by David Davenport at September 1, 2005 07:00 PM
Technically easier, fewer legal and political problem
And fewer customers. Which might get us into the 'build it and they will come' vs. 'who the heck is 'them' and what market are you talking about' argument.
I only note that lowering the transaction cost of a traffic link increases traffic and lowers costs ... and creates wealth at both ends of the link.
I have in mind com links like the Eerie Canal and the National Road. And yes, comparing terrestrial projects to anything is space is not optimal - but what else do we have?
Are there any counter-examples where building a cheaper and more efficient traffic link did not lower costs and create wealth?Posted by brian at September 2, 2005 10:53 AM
Are there any counter-examples where building a cheaper and more efficient traffic link did not lower costs and create wealth?
I don't know, but I'm confident that there are plenty where it didn't create as much wealth as it cost to build it. Bridges to small islands in Alaska, or the Dulles highway come to mind...Posted by Rand Simberg at September 2, 2005 11:27 AM
I don't think it would take too many years for a $20 billion investment to provide $20 billion in net launch savings, at the predicted operational costs. At the most overblown savings, $10K/$100 (not sure how overblown that is to GEO, though), it would take only 1,000 tons, or under 100 launches, to pay that back (I'm not caring right now which party gets to pocket how much, just overall savings).
Obviously, that's overstated and assumes optimal costs and scheduling. But given that additional elevators can be built for much less, amortizing the R&D expense more rapidly, I'd be hard-pressed to say that the elevator isn't an economically viable concept as long as we don't discover that it naturally breaks every 50 launches.
[ And fewer customers. Which might get us into the 'build it and they will come' vs. 'who the heck is 'them' and what market are you talking about' argument. ]
Don't expect many customers for a small lunar space elevator whose purpose is to to be a demonstrator to convince the skeptical.
I mean small, a space elevator that could hoist approximately one gallon-size bucket at a time into lunar orbit.
One doubts that an Earthly space elevator will ever happen if it has to be a sort of engineering Big Bang project.Posted by David Davenport at September 2, 2005 05:05 PM
"The problems associated with anchoring such a beast in [a] ... corrupt equatorial country" has caused many of those planning such things to put them instead on floating ocean platforms, in international waters."
If price gouging is good for Katrina, why not corruption? Shouldn't you really be complaining that there is too much competition for corruption and that there should be a monopoly on it so countries can stay bought?Posted by Sam Dinkin at September 2, 2005 09:42 PM
I don't know, but I'm confident that there are plenty where it didn't create as much wealth as it cost to build it. Bridges to small islands in Alaska, or the Dulles highway come to mind...
Ya' got me there, pardner. The counter is thus; those examples were created not from economic need but as a boon from a politician to his people.Posted by Brian at September 3, 2005 03:49 AM
...those examples were created not from economic need but as a boon from a politician to his people.
The latter case was actually a boon from politicians to themselves...Posted by Rand Simberg at September 3, 2005 06:05 AM
Somebody said that the moon cannot be owned. That is a lot of malarkey. All ownership 'rights' anywhere were originally establixhed by force at some time in history, some sooner, some later. If the Chinese built this elevator and used it to militarize space to the extent that we could not effectively oppose them, then THEY would own it. All the so called lawyers arguments about rights, attachments, licenses, torts, suits, appeals, ad nauseum would be shown to be the weak pile of crap that they righteousely are. All the land in the world has been carved up again and again by whoever conquered what and when they did it. After World War I, all German patents and claims to territory, inventions, or whatever were grabbed by the victors. The same will happen in space. Only the stakes are higher in space, and the Chinese know it. If the rest of the world does not proceed with this, then the little people would do well to learn to read ideographs, for interesting times are in store foe us all. A gathering storm is drawing over the world. Little time remains to use what resources remain to give the free peoples of this planet access to space. For the space and bodies of the system around us are our legacy, our manifest destiny, if we will but reach out and claim it in time.Posted by at September 7, 2005 08:46 PM
Post a comment