WASHINGTON — DLA Piper, an international law firm that advises space industry companies and investors, announced Sept. 12 it is expanding its legal practice focused on space. 

The firm’s new Space Exploration and Innovation Practice “is an umbrella practice for all of DLA Piper’s legal consulting with clients in the space sector; it formalizes its existing work in the sector into a one-stop shop for current and future clients,” a spokesperson said. 

Commercial space companies have increasingly more complex needs that require a holistic approach to providing legal services, said Christian Ford, a DLA Piper partner based in Houston who oversees the space practice.

“Our team understands the challenges commercial space companies face every day in an industry marked by tremendous growth, rapid innovation, and regulatory uncertainty,” said Ford.

Commercialization of space

The rapid commercialization of space technologies creates challenges for companies that are not familiar with government regulations, intellectual property and contracting laws, he said. 

“It used to be that we had a small number of contractors that would really be the lifeline of the space industry. And that model has completely changed,” Ford added. 

The globalization of the industry also is fueling a demand for legal services to deal with cross-border issues, he said. Space industry supply chains, for example, are often multinational.

The role of the commercial space industry in support of national security is another trend expected to grow, said Ford. 

“It used to be that the relationship between commercial and defense was much more limited,” he said. The U.S. government, for example, is increasingly relying on commercial space capabilities. “And so the relationship is getting more complex, certainly from a regulatory standpoint because of the expanding commercialization, and you see this globally.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...