Current space law is unclear as to whether private entities may claim possession of resources extracted from their endeavors in outer space. The lack of certainty prevents private entities from entirely investing in infrastructure and capabilities to access new deposits of resources due to the depletion of minerals and resources on Earth. The establishment of a new space regime devoid of non-appropriation principles found in international law is necessary to motivate private entities to invest the capital in extracting and transporting space resources back to Earth. This Comment seeks to understand how the current framework of space law impacts the property rights of private entities and their claim to resources in space. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibited the claiming of property by sovereign nations. However, the concept of private entities now having the capability to extract resources from outer space has reignited the issue of property rights in outer space. With resources becoming scarcer or priced out of the market, the solution of mining these resources from celestial bodies has caused a new space race. Past multilateral agreements have dealt with similar discoveries such as the polymetallic nodules on the ocean floor; however, these agreements led to disputes as to ownership and the rights to extract said resources. With little to no support from the industrialized nations, the structure of any new regime must ensure access for the benefit of humankind. The benefit of allowing these private entities the right to claim mined resources must be weighed against potential drawbacks in order to create a framework that balances the interest of the free market with that of the common heritage principle. In determining that a suitable framework fails to guide a new space regime, this Comment proposes that a new governing body comprising a rotation of space-faring and nonspacefaring nations act as a regulatory body for the interest of all of humankind.
Jose A. Martin del Campo,
Finders Keepers: Who Has Say Over Private Property in Space,
Tex. A&M J. Prop. L.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.37419/JPL.V7.I2.3