Venturing where no New Zealand Law School has ventured before, Waikato University is commencing the country’s first Space Law course.
Is it a gimmick? A smart move into a new world of legal study? And can the land of cows really deliver a meaningful course on the intricacies of intergalactic law?
Waikato Law School think so. They plan a year-long post-graduate Space Law degree, being the second such university in the world, following a Space Law course in the Netherlands.
Run as a six week long summer school course it is designed to cover law relating to manned spaceflight and space station operations, space tourism, space transportation, satellite communications, international trade in space services and dispute resolutions regarding space activities, according to Space lecturer Anna Marie Brennan.
So far 27 students have enrolled in the course, she says.
“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,” she told Stuff.co.nz
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.”
The growth of companies like ROcket Lab have stimulated interest in Space issues generally in New Zealand.
“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.”
New Zealand’s geographical location made the country 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.”
“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.”