A group of lawmakers across party lines, including the Liberal Democratic Party and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, have put together a bill that will allow private companies and others to take ownership of resources extracted from outer space, the Sankei Shimbun learned on Sept. 21. Legislation on the ownership of space resources has not been created internationally, and if realized, it would be a leading example following the U.S. and Luxembourg. The group aims to draft and submit a bill as early as the next extraordinary Diet session.
The group is the “council of Diet members for follow-up to the Basic Space Law,” a non-partisan parliamentary group that includes about 20 Diet members from each party (co-chaired by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura and former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara). The council intends to approach the Japanese Communist Party and others, which have not joined the group, for cooperation. After deliberations in each party, the group will finalize a bill.
The group compiled a “draft law on the promotion of business activities related to the exploration and development of space resources.” Under the bill, a special exception will be made for permitting satellites for the exploration and development of water and mineral resources in space, including celestial bodies such as the Moon and Mars. Any operator who extracts space resources in accordance with the pre-submitted business plan shall be able to generate revenue from their use and acquire the right to dispose of them.
The bill calls on the government to strengthen the international competitiveness of space-related industries while aiming to establish a system that is consistent with the systems of other countries. On the other hand, the bill includes a note saying that “the interests of other countries exercising their freedom of exploration and use of space will not be unduly harmed.”
The Outer Space Treaty, which governs activities in space, does not recognize the ownership of celestial objects or space itself, but there is no provision for space resources. The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) has discussed space resources since 2017. As a result of the consideration of the issue by a working group, the UN presented the view that it does not rule out the drafting of national legislation.
The U.S. passed similar legislation in 2015 and Luxembourg in 2017. Countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand are also mulling bills.