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Japan: Two Outer Space-Related Laws Enacted

(Dec. 19, 2016) Two outer space-related laws were promulgated in Japan’s official gazette on November 16, 2016: the Act on Launching Artificial Satellites and Managing Satellites (Satellite Act, Act No. 76 of 2016) and the Act on Securing Proper Handling of Satellite Remote Sensing Records (Remote Sensing Records Act, Act No.77 of 2016).  (Texts of both laws, KANPO, extra edition No. 252 (Nov. 16, 2016), at 3, KANPO website (in Japanese).)  Most of the provisions of these laws will become effective within two years of the promulgation date.  (Satellite Act, Supp. Provisions, art. 1; Remote Sensing Records Act, Supp. Provisions, art. 1.)

The Satellite Act is linked to articles 6 and 7 of the Outer Space Treaty, which have to do with international responsibility for national activities in outer space and liability for damage.  (Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 18 UST 2410 & TIAS 6347, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) website.) In creating the new Act, the Japanese government referred to the systems adopted by other developed countries regarding third party compensation for  damages by satellites and the management of satellites launched by private parties.  (Outer Space Basic Plan, Cabinet Decision (Apr. 1, 2016), at 24, Cabinet Office website (in Japanese).)

The Satellite Act states that a person who launches a satellite from the territory of Japan, or from a ship or airplane registered in Japan, must obtain permission from the Prime Minister prior to the launch.  (Satellite Act, art. 4.)  To obtain the permission, the person must have a certificate for a rocket design and for radio equipment at a launching facility.  In addition, the ability to launch a rocket safely and the purpose for the satellite launch must be evaluated.  (Id. art. 6)  Managing a satellite from Japan also requires permission from the government.  (Id. art. 20.)  A person who launches a rocket must have insurance for any potential damage arising from accidents, and the government is to supplement the potential compensation to allow for damage that cannot be covered by private insurance.  (Id. arts. 9 & 40.)

The Remote Sensing Records Act establishes regulations for satellite remote sensing data.  A person who plans to use a satellite remote sensing device through radio equipment  located in Japan must obtain permission for each device from the Prime Minister.  (Remote Sensing Records Act, art. 4.)  The user must implement measures to prevent unauthorized use of the equipment.  (Id. art. 8)  The user must also stop remote sensing when the satellite is out of the orbit for which permission was granted to collect information.  (Id. art. 9.)  Reception of remote sensing data must be carried out only by the facility listed on the permit.  (Id. art. 10.)

Satellite remote sensing data can be provided only to the person who obtained the license to operate the remote sensing device from the government, except in cases of an emergency.  (Id. arts. 18 & 21.)  The Prime Minister can prohibit transfer of particular remote sensing data for a limited time if it is necessary for national security.  (Id. art. 19.)  The Prime Minister supervises persons who use satellite remote sensing devices and who hold satellite remote sensing data, and the Prime Minister can conduct on-site inspections and issue orders with respect to the operation of the devices and the data.  (Id. arts. 27 & 29.)