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This book addresses the complex technical challenges presented by remote space mining in terms of robotics, remote power systems, space transport, IT and communications systems, and more. It also addresses the difficult oversight and regulatory issues that face states and non-state enterprises that would take on the perilous task of obtaining natural resources from the Moon and asteroids.

An increasing number of countries are becoming involved in space-related activities that were previously carried out primarily by the United States and the USSR (now the Russian Federation). How these regulatory endeavors might be handled in international treaties, standards, codes of conduct or other means have become a truly international political issue. And there is yet another issue.

In the past, space activities traditionally fell under the exclusive domain of government. But the last few years have seen the emergence of the private sector of "space entrepreneurs." This poses many challenges for the pre-existing governance regimes and state-based conceptions of international law. This book examines the adequacies and ambiguities in treaty provisions and national laws and in currently accepted practices involving the growing exploration and exploitation of space-based natural resources.



1. Introduction

This chapter explains need for a full understanding of the technical, operational, business, financial, political and legal aspects of the new enterprise of space mining. It also introduces the various countries and new businesses that have undertaken or aspire to engage in space mining activities.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

2. The Importance of Natural Resources from Space and Key Challenges

The first question that arises with respect to the space mining enterprise is whether or not there is a business case for it. It is a very technically demanding and costly undertaking that requires decades of effort to succeed. Further, the risk level is extremely high. This chapter explains the rate at which rare natural resources are being consumed by a global population that is expanding in twenty-first century toward 12 billion people. It explains that not only are valuable rare natural resources such as platinum abundantly available in space, but so are water and other vital resources. Further, the hydrogen and oxygen in “space water” can be used as rocket fuel. It can cost thousands of dollars to get a kilogram of water into space beyond Earth’s gravity. Human society must find a strategy to develop a way to sustain its key natural resources and cope with climate change over the longer term, but natural resources from space can be a part of this longer term strategy.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

3. Transportation Systems and Targeting Locations for Space Mining

The basic idea of space mining strikes many people like a Buck Rogers fantasy. And indeed the challenges to develop key new, reliable technologies that are cost effective is challenging indeed. The most critical technology involves space transportation systems. This requires launcher systems that are able to get from Earth to space mining targets—primarily near earth asteroids—and bring back to Earth excavated materials safely. Also there is a need for low cost and efficient spacecraft that can “find” the best targets for asteroid mining. A good deal is known about the Moon, but mining the Moon poses perhaps greater challenges than mining minor asteroids—particularly if their very existence poses a risk to humans. This chapter discusses these technical challenges and options.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

4. Power and Robotic Systems for Space Mining Operations

This chapter continues exploring what types of robotic mining systems and remote power generation capabilities will be needed to carry out space mining activities perhaps millions of kilometers away from Earth. Again this is no easy task, and these ventures to succeed will probably require new technology that is not only reliable and competent but also able to perform these tasks at reasonable costs, with reliability. The most interesting aspect of these challenges is whether the development of these new technical capabilities might even find their first applications right here on Earth.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

5. U. S. Space Exploration and Planetary Resources

Sometimes U. S. leadership in the world is questioned and rightly so. But for better or worse, the United States does lead in efforts to develop space mining activities. The four new ventures that have been leading this initiative are all U. S. in origin and location, and the U. S Space Act of 2015 provides a possible legal and regulatory pathway to actually controlling and promoting commercial activities in space in coming years. The rest of the world is watching closely. Some are concerned about the precedent. Others are poised to see how they might share in the bounties of outer space in future years. This chapter explores why and how U. S. space initiatives are forging ahead. It explores what is happening and examines the likelihood that these visionary dreams of young space entrepreneurs will be realized in their lifetimes.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

6. Private Sector Space Mining Initiatives and Policies in the United States

The private space companies were able to build their new space mining companies on the base of U. S. government space programs that have been active for a half century. NASA has been sending space probes and astronauts into space to understand the composition of the Moon, the planets and their moons, and the Sun with scores of scientific missions. It is these efforts that set the stage for possible exploitation of natural resources in space today. This chapter provides an insight to the many U. S. space missions conducted in past decades to explore the Solar System and its composition and character. This key exploratory information plus new contracts by NASA to the start-up private space mining activities represent vital support to the various space mining ventures.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

7. Space Enterprises in Russia and the Former Soviet Union

After the United States, the nation that has devoted the most time and energy to exploring the Solar System has been the U.S.S.R./Russia. This chapter provides a summary of the various space missions that have gone to the Moon, Mars, Venus and other parts of the Solar System and also notes additional probes that are planned for the future.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

8. Activities in Europe, Canada and Other Western Countries

The urge to move from just space exploration and scientific discovery to space-based activities that go beyond to what might be called “space development” can be detected around the world. This chapter examines the various activities around the world that have occurred or are now in progress that that could help support space mining in the future. In particular, this chapter examines relevant activities in Europe, Canada, Australia and other countries.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

9. Asian Space Programs: Japan, China and India

There are numerous space initiatives in Japan, China and India aimed at space exploration within the solar system. Although these programs started later than in other parts of the world there has been an increase in space initiatives in Asia and expressions of interest in possible space mining as well. This chapter explores the relevant activities already undertaken or planned in Japan, China and India that have shown significant new interest in the possibility of exploration and exploitation of natural resources in space, particularly in the last 5 years.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

10. The International Legal Framework

Up to this point this book has mainly examined activities related to space exploration and potential mining operations within the scope of technical, operational and exploratory efforts, mainly of the space agencies around the world. There are, however, major legal and regulatory aspects that apply to efforts such as mining either the Moon or other celestial objects (including asteroids). The Outer Space Treaty, the Moon Agreement and other international agreements and arrangements are clearly relevant to such efforts. This chapter explores and discusses the current international agreements that would need to be considered by any nation or private entity seeking to engage in space mining of the heavens. It examines possible constraints that apply to the “global commons” as this concept is applied to the practical use of outer space and mining of natural resources in space.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

11. National Space Laws and the Exploitation of Natural Resources from Space

It is usually assumed that national law, related to space activities or any other subject, will be consistent with international treaties. This is the case since once a treaty is formally adopted, it is considered to be the highest form of national law. There can be cases where there is ambiguity in the phrasing of international law and treaties as well as in national law where it is not clear what the requirements and scopes actually are. Many countries around the world have now developed national space laws, and there has not been a formal determination if those national space laws might contravene the Outer Space Treaty or any of the other international space agreements. In particular, the U. S. Space Act of 2015 that is discussed in this chapter raises new questions about how space mining might be conducted, who might profit from this activity, and how possible conflicts between national space law and international space law might be resolved. In addition, this chapter discusses national space laws of the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, Australia, Canada and India, primarily to assess their adequacy to govern natural resource explorations and exploitations in space.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong

12. Conclusions and the Way Forward

This final chapter provides a summary of the key elements in this book. It recaps the technical, operational and regulatory issues facing those now planning to pursue these exotic new activities. There are clearly a host of issues at the business, financial and technical levels that may still take decades to be resolved fully. Aside from the practical and technological issues there are also important legal and regulatory issues to be addressed. Key in this regard is the potential conflict between national laws and international law with regard to space mining.

Ram S. Jakhu, Joseph N. Pelton, Yaw Otu Mankata Nyampong


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