Finnish president signs space act as country’s first commercial SAR microsatellite launched

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WARSAW, Poland — Shortly after a Finnish company successfully launched the country’s first commercial SAR microsatellite, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö signed the country’s first comprehensive space legislation.

The act was drafted by a working group set up to establish a clear framework for the country’s space industry. The legislation creates regulations for local satellite operators, a licensing scheme for space industry players, and the rules for maintaining a national satellite register.

The act’s signing Jan. 12 was preceded by the launch of the country’s first commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR) microsatellite, the Iceye X1, onboard the Indian Space Research Organisation’s PSLV C40 rocket. The Jan. 11 launch took place from Satish Dhawan Space Center in India. Developed by a Finnish company, the Iceye X1 is the first of the three proof-of-concept microsatellites that the Helsinki-based firm aims to launch this year.

Maija Lönnqvist, the senior legal counsel at the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and a member of the working group, told SpaceNews that prior to the act’s entry into force Jan. 23 no legislation regulated Finland’s space activities.

“The objective of the act is to include the obligations of space treaties of the United Nations into Finnish national law and to pass on the obligations and liability to the operators of space activities,” Lönnqvist said. “The act applies both to governmental and non-governmental space activities. However, its provisions on authorization, insurance and supervision are not applied to space activities by the national defense forces.”

Finnish space ambitions

In an earlier statement, the ministry recognized that Finland had “no legislation applicable to satellite launches,” as opposed to other countries in the Nordic region, such as Denmark and Sweden. The new regulations are to facilitate the implementation of the goals defined in the government’s strategic document, Finland’s space strategy for 2013 to 2020.

The country’s key development objectives within the space sector, the document says, include:

  • Developing “space-based applications that respond to the growing demands of the Arctic area.”
  • Fostering “services based on open data to be utilized nationally and in export.”
  • Increasing “the level and societal impact of scientific research based to a large degree on the ESA’s and EU’s programs.”
  • Advancing “the specialization of the space industry and its applications development to tackle tightening competition.”

Lönnqvist said that, under the new act, any Finland-based space activities will be “subject to prior authorization and supervision by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Conditions for authorization and means of supervision are specified in the act. Also [any] transfer of the space activity to another operator is subject to prior authorization by the ministry and the same conditions for authorization.”

The act covers space activities on Finland’s territory or on vessels or craft registered in Finland, as well as space activities by Finnish citizens or by legal entities registered in Finland. The legislation comprises provisions on operators’ liability and third party liability insurance, as well as operators’ obligation to inform the ministry on any changes to their activities. Operators are required to report annually on the status of their space activities.