French National Space Legislation: A Brief "Parcours" of a Long History

Article excerpt

  I. INTRODUCTION   II. A HISTORY OF FRENCH SPACE LEGISLATION  III. PRE-2008 FRENCH REGULATION OF SPACE   IV. POST-2008 FRENCH REGULATION OF SPACE      A. Jurisdiction and Authority      B. Liability and Indemnification    V. CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

Although France was the last state in Europe to adopt a national space act, (1) it is by no means the least spacefaring nation of Europe. Indeed, it is often referred to--rightly so--as a major launching state. (2) France has a major space launching facility in its territory: the Guyane Space Center (GSC) used by a commercial space "workhorse," Arianespace. (3) The Ariane 5 fleet is the European Space Agency's (ESA) heavy launcher, and although it is launched six to seven times a year, only one or two of those launches are for institutional purposes. (4) In other words, the Ariane 5 is usually used commercially. France is also host to the ESA headquarters (located in Paris). (5) Furthermore, France continues to have a "large and growing space industry." (6) It is therefore unsurprising that space legislation has existed in France since the early 1960's, albeit not in the form of a uniform space act. France's significant ongoing involvement in private space activities makes it a significant player in the increasingly commercialized space industry.

II. A HISTORY OF FRENCH SPACE LEGISLATION

On December 19, 1961, France created the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (National Center for Space Studies) (CNES). (7) The CNES was created to be: (1) a public scientific and technical institution; (2) of an industrial and commercial nature; (3) having financial autonomy; and (4) placed under the authority of the Prime Minister. (8) The CNES website proudly announces that as of October 29, 2013, "the agency's more-than 2,400-strong workforce constitutes an exceptional pool of talent, with some 1,800 engineers and executives, 35% of whom are women." (9)

The CNES's duties are to (1) collect information on national and international space activities, (2) prepare and propose to the Interministerial Committee for Scientific and Technical research programs of national interest in space, (3) ensure execution of such research projects, either in its own laboratories and technical institutions or using private or public institutions or by financial participation, (4) follow, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, problems of international cooperation, and (5) ensure, either directly or indirectly, publication of scientific work regarding problems related to space. (10) These duties are consistent with the CNES's announced goal of being a public scientific research institution rather than an administrative and regulatory one. (11) And, as we will see, even in the context of licensing and authorization, the CNES largely maintains its role as a technical and scientific advisory institution.

On July 19, 1989, the French legislature created the Space Committee. (12) The Space Committee was placed under the co-leadership of the Minister of Defense and Minister of Industries. (13) Its goals are to (1) analyze civil and military space plans, (2) examine the effect of space programs on the French and European industries, (3) prepare France's position statements regarding international space collaboration, and (4) recommend any necessary action to the Prime Minister. (14) The Space Committee meets twice a year and its secretariat is provided by the CNES. (15)

Finally, on June 3, 2008, France issued the Loi relative aux operations spatiales (French Space Operations Act) (FSOA),16 which was--as stated previously--the first uniform law of its kind in France, and the last adopted by a European country to date. (17) According to the head of the CNES legal department, the FSOA establishes a coherent national framework reflecting France's international obligations:

   Basically, the French Space Operations Act establishes    a coherent national legal framework which sets forth an    authorisation and monitoring regime for Space    operations carried out under French jurisdiction and]or    for which the French Government bears international    liability either under UN Treaties (namely the 1967    Outer Space Treaty, the 1972 Liability Convention and    the 1976 Registration Convention) or under its    European commitments with ESA and its Member    States. …