Multimedia eLearning program By: David A Johanson © All written & graphic content on this site (unless noted) were produced by the author. Add 1.0 This multimedia program will be updated and modifed over the next 48 hours for enhanced learning & eLearning. This story is an updated version of a previous essay on ScienceTechTablet and BigPictureOne eLearning sites. entitled: Is Space Law Really That Far Over Your Head?
The Antares 110 rocket engines roared as they illuminated its departure from Earth — seconds later, appearing as if mortally wounded, the multi-staged rocket suddenly lost momentum and sank backwards, creating a violent tower of flames. Over the launch site’s PA system an urgent command required all media personnel to leave their equipment and evacuate immediately. It was reported no deaths occurred — however the environmental damage, surrounding site cleanup and liability issues is yet to be assessed.
What Goes Up, Must Come Down
Rocket launch programs have always had to contend with Newton’s law of gravity, today, these programs face new challenges with liability laws, to protect individuals, communities and their property from unexpected, man-made objects falling from the sky.
Case Study: The first time a major issue of liability occurred was in 1962, on a street within Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Apparently, a three-kilogram metal artifact from the Russian’s 1960, Sputnik 4 satellite launch, reentered the atmosphere unannounced, over an unsuspecting Midwest. The Russian’s denied it was theirs, fearing liability under international law. This event, helped set in motion, the 1963 Declaration on Legal Principals Governing the Activities of State in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space. As an international agreement, it puts forth the responsibility to the State which launches or engages the launching of objects into space as internationally responsible for damages caused on Earth. In 1967, the agreement was slightly modified and was titled “Outer Space Treaty 1967.”
A photo illustration of space debris from a low Earth orbit reentering the atmosphere over a city. Earth has water covering 70% of its surface — when attempts fail to guide space debris towards open oceans, the chance for these falling objects to hit a populated area increase. Space Law sets the liability for damages caused by the space debris to the nation or agency responsible for its original rocket launch.
By 1984, the United Nations General Assembly, had adopted five sets of legal principles governing international law and cooperation in space activities. The principles include the following agreements and conventions.”Outer Space Treaty” – the use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies (1967 – resolution 2222.) “Rescue Agreement” – the agreement to rescue Astronauts/Cosmonauts, the Return of Astronauts/Cosmonauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Space (1968 – resolution 2345.) “Liability Convention” – the Convention on International Liability for Damaged Caused by Space Objects (1972 – resolution 2777.) “Registration Convention” – the registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (1975 – resolution 3235.) “Moon Agreement” – the agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (1979 – resolution 34/68.)
Because so many international languages are used for creating these technical agreements — terms and meanings are often misinterpreted. There are linguistic limitations and a general lack of definitions to adequately cover all the specific space concepts and activities using Space Law. Each Nation has its own agenda and vision concerning the development of space, including corporate, cultural and religious interest, adding to the comlexity of governing space.
Although most large “space debris” is monitored with top priority for enabling reentry over uninhabited areas such as oceans and deserts — satellites or sections of rockets still have potential for an unexpected re-entry over an inhabited area.
Cuba Gives A New Meaning To A Cash Cow.
Case Study: In November of 1960, the second stage of a U.S. – Thor rocket fell back to Earth and killed a cow grazing in Eastern Cuba. The final settlement required the U.S. Government to pay Cuba $2 million dollars in compensation — creating the world’s first “Cuban Cash Cow.”
Dramatic Rocket Launch Failures Associated With Space Exploration.
It’s estimated since the 1950s, of the nearly 8,000 rockets launched for space related missions, 8 % of rocket launches ended in failure (2012 spacelaunchreport.com.) The resulting anomalies have cost the lives of hundreds of astronauts, cosmonauts and civilians along with billions of dollars in losses. Here’s an abbreviated list of dramatic and tragic events associated with rocket launch failures.
Vanguard TV3, December 9, 1957 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida (U.S.) was the first U.S. attempt at sending a satellite into orbit. A first event of its kind to use a live televised broadcast, which ended by witnessing Vanguard’s explosive failure. Unfortunately, this launch was a rash reaction to the Soviet Union’s surprise success of launching the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, on October 23, 1957.
Vostok rocket, March 18, 1980, launched from Plesetsk, Russia (formerly the world’s busiest spaceport). While being refueled the rocket exploded on the launch pad, killing 50, mostly young soldiers. (Source: New York Times article, published September 28, 1989)
Challenger STS-51-L Space Shuttle disaster, January 28, 1986, launched from Kennedy Space Center (U.S.) marked the first U.S. in-flight fatalities. After only 73 seconds from lift-off, faulty O-ring seals failed, releasing hot gases from the solid propellant rocket booster (SRB), which led to a catastrophic failure. Seven crew members were lost, including Christy McAullife, selected by NASA’s Teacher in Space Program. McAullife was the first civilian to be trained as an astronaut — she would have been the first civilian to enter space, but tragically, the flight ended a short distance before reaching the edge of space. Recovery efforts for Challenger were the most expensive of any rocket launch disaster to date.
Long Mark 3B rocket launch, payload: American communication satellite, built by Space Systems Loral – February 14, 1996 in Xichang (China) – two seconds into launch, rocket pitched over just after clearing the launch tower and accelerated horizontally a few hundred feet off the ground, before hitting a hill 22 seconds into its flight. The rocket slammed into a hillside exploding in a fireball above a nearby town, it’s estimated at least 100 people died in the resulting aftermath. Disaster at Xichang | History of Flight | Air & Space Magazine http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/disaster-at-xichang-2873673/?c=y%3Fno-ist
Delta 2, rocket launch – January 1997, Cape Canaveral (U.S.) – this rocket carried a new GPS satellite and ends in a spectacular explosion. Video link included to show examples of worst case scenario of a rocket exploding only seconds after launch (note brightly burning rocket propellant cascading to the ground is known as “firebrand”.) The short video has an interview with Chester Whitehair, former VP of Space Launch Operations Aerospace Corporation, who describes how the burning debris and toxic hydrochloric gas cloud fell into the Atlantic Ocean from the rocket explosion. Rocket launch sites and Spaceports are geographically chosen to mitigate rocket launch accidents. US rocket disasters – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4-Idv6HnH8
Titan 4, rocket launch – August 1998, Cape Canaveral (U.S.) the last launch of a Titan rocket – with a military, top-secret satellite payload, was the most expensive rocket disaster to date – estimated loss of $ 1.3 Billion dollars.
VLS-3 rocket, launch – August 2003, Alcantara (Brazil) – rocket exploded on the launch pad when the rocket booster was accidentally initiated during test 72 hours before its scheduled launch. Reports of at least 21 people were killed at the site.
Rocket launch debris fields are color keyed in red & Links to space port’s web sites included. (CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE) Quiz ??? – 1.) Do you see any similarities in the geographic locations used for these launch sites? 2.) What advantages do these locations have regarding “Space Law?” 3.) For most rocket launches, which site has the greatest geographic advantage & why? 4.) Which has the least advantage & why?
Location, location, location benefits rocket launch sites.
If you zoom into the above World map with its rocket launch sites, you’ll notice they’re located near or budding remote, inhabited regions. Another feature most spaceports share is their proximity to large bodies of water located in an easterly direction (with the exception of the U.S. Vandenberg site.) Most rockets are launched over oceans to protect people or property from being harmed from catastrophic accidents, which includes falling launch debris. Legal liability from a launch vehicle is the main reason why all ships and aircraft are restricted from being anywhere near a rocket’s flight path. Rocket’s debris from a launch often contains highly toxic forms of unspent fuel and oxidizers, especially from solid propellant fuels.
Most rockets are launched towards an easterly direction due to the Earth’s eastern rotation, which aids the rocket with extra momentum to help escape the Earth’s gravitational pull. An exception for an east directional launch is Vandenberg site in California, which launches most of its rockets south for polar orbits used by communication and mapping satellites.
Launching rockets closer to the equator gives a launch vehicle one more advantage — extra velocity gained from the Earth’s rotation near its equator. At the equator, our planet spins at a speed of 1675 kph (1040 mph,) compared to a spot near the Arctic Circle, which moves at a slower, 736 kph (457 mph.) Even the smallest advantage gained in velocity means a rocket requires less fuel to reach “escape velocity.” This fuel savings translates to a lighter launch vehicle, making the critical transition of leaving Earth’s gravitational field quicker.
The next edition of the Space Law series includes:
Potential Minefield Effects From Space Debris And The Regulatory Laws To Help Clean It Up.
Will Asteroid Mining Become The Next Big Gold Rush And What Laws Will Keep The Frontier Order?
Surprise space mission featured videos: Click → http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfVfRWv7igg → Boards of Canada – Music is Math (HD)
→ Boards of Canada – Gemini – Fan Video on Vimeo
Links And Resources, For Space Law And Related Issues.
The Space Review: International space law and commercial space activities: the rules do apply Outlook on Space Law Over the Next 30 Years: Essays Published for the 30th … – Google Books “SPACE FOR DISPUTE SETTLEMENT MECHANISMS – DISPUTE RESOLUTION MECHANISM” by Frans G. von der Dunk Asteroid mining: US company looks to space for precious metal | Science | The Guardian Planetary Resources – The Asteroid Mining Company – News 5 of the Worst Space Launch Failures | Wired Science | Wired.com Orbital Debris: A Technical Assessment NASA Orbital Debris FAQs orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/library/IAR_95_Document.pdf A Minefield in Earth Orbit: How Space Debris Is Spinning Out of Control [Interactive]: Scientific American SpaceX signs lease agreement at spaceport to test reusable rocket – latimes.com Earth’s rotation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The Space Review: Spacecraft stats and insights Space Launch Report V-2 rocket – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Billionaire Paul Allen gets V-2 rocket for aviation museum near Seattle – Science Germany conducts first successful V-2 rocket test — History.com This Day in History — 10/3/1942