Waikato University offers summer school classes in space law

New Zealand's geographical location made it ideal for rocket launches and space tourism.
123RFNew Zealand’s geographical location made it ideal for rocket launches and space tourism.

The six week long class is part of the university’s summer school programme, aimed at providing students with an understanding of issues around space law confronting New Zealand.

It includes manned spaceflight and space station operations, space tourism, space transportation, satellite communications, international trade in space services and dispute resolutions regarding space activities.

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The six week long paper is primarily aimed at second year students studying law, but students studying other degreesare also welcome.

Senior lecturer Anna Marie Brennan said it had generated a lot of interest – 27 students enrolled. 

Waikato University senior lecturer Anna Marie Brennan is teaching New Zealand's first ever class in space law.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFFWaikato University senior lecturer Anna Marie Brennan is teaching New Zealand’s first ever class in space law.

“Students did think initially that they would be studying aliens and Darth Vader​ and Star Wars issues. We do kind of touch on those particular topics because we do look at military uses in outer space and the weaponisation of satellites and whatnot.”

Brennan has plans to establish a year-long post graduate degree in space law, which would make Waikato University only the second university in the world to offer that qualification, the other is in the Netherlands.

The paper’s aim is to respond to New Zealand’s burgeoning space industry and would help them better advise state and private corporations about space activity, she said.

“Space law as an area is rapidly developing and Waikato [University] foresees this as a potentially growing area and that the industry needs lawyers that can practice in this area.”

New Zealand had been slow to recognise the need for this type of study but were catching up largely thanks to the growth of companies such as US company Rocket Lab, she said.

The weaponisation of satellites is one topic being covered in a new summer school paper on space law being offered by Waikato University.
SPIRE GLOBALThe weaponisation of satellites is one topic being covered in a new summer school paper on space law being offered by Waikato University.

“They foresee that New Zealand will be launching more rockets into space in the future than the United States and there is a very important opportunity here for New Zealand to develop a technologically advanced, savvy space industry that would have a knock on effect for the economy.”

Its geographical location made New Zealand ideal for rocket launches and as a potential venue for space tourism, she said.

Rocket Lab chief executive, New Zealander Peter Beck said the the global space economy was rapidly growing and evolving.

“New Zealand can play an important role in this growth. It’s great to see more opportunities like this for young Kiwis to enter the space economy.”

The company’s focus was increasing access to space for small satellites. A key element to achieving this was the speed that satellites and launch providers could secure necessary permits and licences, he said.

“As the small launch industry grows, and thousands more satellites need to reach orbit, we will likely see a natural evolution of this process to enable fast and frequent launch.”

Rocket Lab’s next launch window is on Sunday at 4pm.

An MBIE spokesman said New Zealand’s emerging space industry meant it is important its legal obligations were understood.

“It is great to see interest from universities and other educational institution in making space law accessible to New Zealanders.”

Sunday Star Times