Space policy can be defined as the political decision-making process for, and application of, public policy of a state regarding spaceflight and uses of outer space, both for civilian, scientific and commercial, and military purposes.
This is significantly and distinctly different than space law. Space Law deals with treaties and law regarding space; whereas, space policy deals with enacting policies to help guide countries on their space policies. There are some paths for being a space lawyer, but it is still relatively new. Here is a great write-up that we found about becoming a space lawyer.
That said, we are going to be taking a look at space policy, which often time intersects with science policy, as national space programs often perform or fund research in space science. There is also some mixing in with defense policy, for applications such as spy satellites and anti-satellite weapons. However, with the rise of private spaceflight and increases in accessibility of space for new communications satellites, this area of public policy is becoming more crucial.
There is an aspect of that also encompasses the creation and application of space law, and space advocacy organizations exist to support the cause of space exploration. But this article will focus a bit on space policy. There is a great website for space policy called spacepolicyonline.com, which is a great first step for checking out the latest news and events.
United States space policy is drafted by the Executive branch at the direction of the President of the United States, and submitted for approval and establishment of funding to the legislative process of the United States Congress.The President may also negotiate with other nations and sign space treaties on behalf of the US, according to his or her constitutional authority. Congress’ final space policy product is, in the case of domestic policy a bill explicitly stating the policy objectives and the budget appropriation for their implementation to be submitted to the President for signature into law, or else a ratified treaty with other nations.
Other countries will have differing methods of drafting and implementing space related policies. For example, in China had the Ministry of Aerospace Industry be responsible for the Chinese space program prior to July 1999. After 1999, this changed and was split into the China National Space Administration, which became responsible for setting policy, and the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, responsible for implementation.
With the rise of private spaceflight for both commercial and private purposes, this topic will definitely get more complex and complicated. That said, it will be crucial that countries understand how policies vary per country and how companies can navigate these policies. This will be important because if companies want to operate in several countries, such as SpaceX with their proposed service to utilize their service to transport passengers between countries.
How policies are made and how countries handle it can vary wildly. This could make things complex and harder to provide unified policies if everything were nationalized. However, with the rise of private spaceflight, it should be made more complex with the private sector becoming more prevalent and important in the space economy. There might be an opportunity for the government to provide the oversight and less of the legwork in regards to space policy.