CURE: Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research: Who Owns Space?

Who Owns Space?

CURE: Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research: Who Owns Space?


Nathan O'Brien


Dr. Anne Donnelly


Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering


Space mining is no longer a figment of fringe science fiction. Due to the recent passage of the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015 (SREU Act), US domestic space companies now have a semblance of legislative backing to launch commercial resource acquisition ventures in space. Previously, such companies floundered as capital from investors was reasonably sparse. Uncertainty created by the previously untested Outer Space Treaty (OST) perpetuated worry surrounding the existence of private property rights in space. With the passage of the recent SREU Act, many domestic worries were dismissed by the definitive granting of commercial property rights to US citizens, yet equally many worries surround the legitimacy of the SREU Act itself, as certain legal experts both inside and outside the US argue the Act to be a violation of US international obligations. In contrast to the OST, the SREU Act explicitly grants Americans the right to hold and obtain commercial resources from celestial bodies such as asteroids and minor planets. This paper examines the implications of such a legal gray area and ultimately concludes that the existence of property rights remains profoundly unclear.


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Research Pitch

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