Last Friday, the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications took one small step towards drafting the country's Space Act by holding the first meeting of its advisory working group. The aim of the act is to encourage a giant leap forward in Estonia's space technology development, while also mitigating the potential risks of operating in a largely unregulated field.
A Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications press statement released on Sunday said, that the draft law is due to be completed by the end of 2023.
According to the ministry, developments in the global space sector have skyrocketed in recent years due to a fall in both satellite production costs and the funds required to send objects into the Earth's orbit. However, according to the ministry's Head of Space Paul Liias, the growing role of businesses in the space sector, also brings about a range of new regulatory challenges for countries to deal with.
"Private space business is constantly building new infrastructure to provide services and collect data in orbit. However, the development of the space sector along with the high traffic in the Earth's orbit, means regulations are needed to ensure cyber security, as well as environmentally friendly, responsible and sustainable development in space," Liias explained.
The aim of the Space Act is to create a favorable environment in Estonia for the development of high-tech companies, while at the same time mitigating the risks involved for both the state and businesses. The act is also needed to fulfil the obligation outlined in the under the UN Outer Space Treaty (UNOOSA), which requires private business activities in space to be regulated.
According to Liias, the Estonian space sector has already made a giant leap in recent years, with several Estonian companies now planning to launch their own objects into orbit in the near future. Liias believes, that this means now is precisely the right time to draft a national space law.
KappaZeta OÜ, which offers high-accuracy radar satellite services, is one of the Estonian companies planning to send a new satellite into orbit. Representative Karoli Kahn said, that to do so, it is crucial for companies to know the legal boundaries within which they can operate in space.
"A law would give space developers and operators the clarity and certainty they need to start investing," Kahn said.
The aim of the working group is to provide suitable advice for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is ultimately responsible for drafting Estonia's Space Act.
The Space Act's advisory working group includes members of the ministries responsible for its content, as well as sub-agencies and representatives of Estonian universities and businesses. Additional stakeholders and experts from both Estonia and the European Space Agency (ESA) will all be involved during the drafting process.
The content of the draft Estonian Space Act will be informed by the Estonian Space Policy and Program 2020-2027, which can be seen (in Estonian) here.
Editor: Michael Cole