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After Rocket Explosion, Meet the Lawyers Behind Space Visits

Washington DC Legal DC

The explosion of the unmanned Antares rocket this week caught everyone's attention. By chance, it happened days after the third annual Space & Satellite Regulatory Colloquium at the W Hotel, where we heard from the lawyers and business folks behind the industry.

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Upstairs at the W, we snapped the event hosts: Satnews Publishers CEO of 30 years Silvano Payne, ManSat CEO Chris Stott, and Dentons space and satellite lawyers Liz Evans and Dr. Del Smith. Del and other panelists discussed issues like spectrum wars, anticipatory self-defense, and the potential for military activity in space. But by next year, Del says, we will see a lot more instability in the industry. Next year's topics will be completely different.

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With export enforcement, the government is being more aggressive in going after individuals, says Jones Day's Giovanna Cinelli (with NASA's Jeffrey Nosanov); they're not letting them hide behind the corporate shield. One example was Timothy Gormley, an employee of a company that makes microwave amplifiers. Last year, he was sentenced to almost four years in prison for falsifying export licenses after his company voluntarily self-disclosed.

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Spectrum was a much-debated subject, particularly the potential for reallocation of some used by the satellite industry to wireless broadband providers. (Spoiler: most folks were decidedly not in favor.) Global VSAT Forum secretary general David Hartshorn, second from left, says wireless forecasts have overestimated actual adoption and can significantly misjudge demand. He's with fellow panelists Zuckert Scoutt & Rasenberger space law practice group chair Pamela Meredith, Huckworthy president David Howgill, SES VP Kim Baum, and Intelsat assistant GC Gonzalo de Dios. David Howgill says it's a matter of how and when to work with the wireless industry, not if.

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Near Earth LLC partner John Stone discussed satellite finance. Afterward, we snapped him with Irwin Communications president Susan Irwin. Before his career in finance, John was an engineer for companies like Boeing and General Dynamics, and before that, an astronomer at the US Naval Observatory. If you're looking for a comparatively "cheap sat," he says look to a cube satellite or nanosat. Weighing around five pounds and measuring several inches wide, they challenge the basic premise that satellites are expensive to make and launch.