How France uses law as a strategic tool for growing its satellite industry

By Willy Mikalef


In 2008, France adopted its first comprehensive national space law, the French Space Operations Act (FSOA). 10 years later, the space sector is witnessing nothing short of a revolution: the so-called New Space. As it is to radical changes that France and Europe must respond, on 17 December 2018, key industry players, public authorities, academics and lawyers met in the headquarters of the CNES to discuss how law and regulation can be strategic tools to better secure growth initiatives in the space sector in the framework of a space law conference. The following day, in a written response to a question from a member of parliament, France’s Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the space sector and announced that it would conduct consultations with key stakeholders in 2019. A revision of the FSOA is also being discussed. These initiatives and statements prove France’s strong commitment to provide the sector with the right regulatory and policy environment to keep prospering in the New Space era.

Radical changes have impacted the industry

In 10 years, the industry has undergone significant changes. Globally, the revenues generated by the commercial space sector went from US$110bn in 2008 to US$271bn in 2018. This impressive growth has been generated by space-based services and applications, the other space activities (satellite manufacturing, launching and in-orbit operations) having remained stable overall. The upstream sector has been impacted by several factors: new entrants, technological changes (e.g. electric propulsion, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, reusable launchers) and new sources of investment. As a result of these changes, new services and business models appear, naturally leading traditional players to reassess their strategies and space faring nations to adapt their regulation of space activities.

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