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10 years of partnership with SES for SatCom governance and regulation

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Published on Wednesday, 13 October 2021

In September 2021, the University of Luxembourg and SES celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Chair in Space, SatCom and Media Law.

In a decade of existence, the Chair has supported 85 Masters in Space, Communication and Media Law students, 7 PhD candidates, over 100 academic publications, and contributed legal expertise to many workshops, conferences and other events in the public and private sector. The Chair is hosted at the Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance (FDEF) and is held by Prof. Mahulena Hofmann.

A strategic partnership with SES, the world-leading Luxembourg-based provider of satellite connectivity services

The Chair supported by SES focuses its research, teaching and outreach on the legal and regulatory challenges in satellite communications and other space activities. Since the inauguration of the Chair in 2010, FDEF has worked closely with SES, the leading provider of global content and connectivity services via satellite, based in Betzdorf, Luxembourg, developing a friendly and efficient model of cooperation. The SES Chair is among the oldest chairs at the University.

The partnership hinges on many forms, including welcoming SES professionals into the classroom for lectures, jointly organising a yearly colloquium to discuss regulatory issues, as well as the placement of interns and post-doctoral researchers within the company. Through this close collaboration, students within the Master in Space, Communication and Media Law, founded in 2016 with support of the Chair, have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with a global industry leader in this specialised field of law. Since the 2016-2017 academic year, 85 students of 20 nationalities have graduated with an LL.M and have gone onto careers in both the public and private sector.

Helping build a stable legal framework to grow the industry

By way of the Act on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources (2017) and the General Space Law (2020), Luxembourg has been an early adopter of regulatory framework to govern space-related activities such as the launching of space objects and space mining. In addition to having provided legal expertise to the Luxembourg government during the drafting of the legislation, the Chair is currently involved in providing a commentary of the recent Luxembourg space legislation. This interpretation of the laws will serve as a practical tool for operators, providing them, among others, with information on how to apply for authorisations to launch satellites or research devices.

Beyond the borders of Luxembourg, the Chair’s activities also extend globally with supporting the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in the creation of modules of an e-learning course in Space Law, and on the European level i.a. in establishing of a European Space University – Universeh.

A highly qualified and dynamic team of researchers and educators

The initiative supported by SES is composed of the Chair and co-director of the Master in Space, Communication and Media Law Professor Mahulena Hofmann, member of the Board of the International Institute of Space Law and winner of its 2020 Distinguished Service award, as well as Postdoctoral researcher Dr. PJ Blount, executive secretary of the IISL who benefits from the FNR Industrial Fellowship: “Cybersecurity for the Space Industry”, an independently funded collaboration between SES and the University of Luxembourg.

Four doctoral researchers are currently active: Gabrielle Leterre, Laetitia Zarkan, Antonino Salmeri and Ella Homov. Antonino Salmeri holds two leadership positions within the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC): Co-Lead of the Space Exploration Project Group and Lead of the E.A.G.L.E. Action Team on Lunar Governance, publishing the Moon Manifesto earlier this year.

Along with these four current PhD candidates, the Chair has also supported four doctoral researchers over the course of the past 10 years, including Andreas Loukakis, Simona Spassova, Sandra Cabrera-Alvarado and Federico Bergamasco. Through the work of the Chair team, over 100 publications have been realised, including an updated textbook to be used by students in the Master programme, The Introduction to Space Law, 4th edition (written by M. Hofmann together with Tanja Masson Zwaan) in 2019.

“Ten years of the work within the SES Chair are very rewarding”, said Prof. Mahulena Hofman. “It is a great pleasure to work with the students, and to be involved in the exchange of views with many international and European colleagues. Space is not fantasy, it is entering our homes offering communication and navigation, and it is important to know its legal basis. No one would drive a car without a driving license and in the wrong direction – it is similar in space!”

"As the world enters the era of connectivity and next-generation space technologies, a comprehensive, scalable and modern approach to the legal framework is needed," said Thai Rubin, Chief Legal Officer at SES. "Luxembourg has decades of experience in leading groundbreaking space initiatives that benefit the world, as well as in the legal aspects that go with such leadership. The country is thus well placed to drive forward the relevant legislation. As a company with deep roots in this country, we are delighted to provide our expertise and support the development of space laws that will lead to further successes in this field in Luxembourg and beyond."

SES and the University

In addition to successful partnership in the domain of higher education, SES and the University have a longstanding cooperation in Research and Development (R&D). In particular, the University’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) has regularly partnered up with SES to conduct cutting-edge research on satellite communication and next-generation connectivity networks. The University’s SnT and SES collaboration include projects under the FNR’s Industrial Partnership Block Grant (IPBG), European Space Agency (ESA) initiatives, European Commission’s H2020 and national 5G testbed programmes.


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