August 5, 2022

"SpaceX Crew-1 Trunk Space Junk Found in Australian Sheep Paddock."

 


The farmer says he's “happy to keep it” but he thinks the space agencies or company will want it back, and, if so, he wants “a bit of compensation." But, he says, "I don’t know anything about it. As I said, I’m a sheep farmer."

The Times quotes some professor of international space law and the director of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law for the proposition that "to claim compensation" the debris needs to have "harmed him or her or caused any damage to his or her property." Did they ask the sheep farmer about his pronouns? I don't know, but I don't hear him saying he's going to sue. He's just saying the object is in his possession and if someone else wants it, let them step up and make a deal. It's contracts, not torts.

13 comments:

Wilbur said...

International Space Law: all torts, all the time. No contracts.

Bob Boyd said...

Finders keepers, losers weepers.

Rusty said...

Cool

Hunter Biden's tax payer funded Hooker said...

what happens when space junk collides with commercial aircraft? Besides lots of horrible death?

typingtalker said...

" ... They are thought to be from a SpaceX spacecraft."

Call me if and when SpaceX confirms that they are from a SpaceX spacecraft.

Joe Smith said...

It's junk. Nobody wants it.

Original Mike said...

Why would SpaceX want it back?

MikeR said...

Not sure why anyone would want something back, that they expected to burn up in the atmosphere.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Between Musk and China, how much junk do we have to dodge?

Bystander said...

From fading memory, if, say, a meteorite falls onto your field it is deemed a natural accretion to the soil and you own it. If a piece falls off of an aircraft (or, I suppose, from a spacecraft) it is not such a natural accretion and the craft owner retains ownership of it. A tort claim for damages may arise.

If you slip on a banana peel at a subway stop...

Richard Dolan said...

"He's just saying the object is in his possession and if someone else wants it, let them step up and make a deal. It's contracts, not torts."

Sounds like a bar exam question, if they have such things in Australia. Assuming Australia follows Anglo-American commom law and there is no statute that displaces it, physical possession does not imply a right to retain possession -- that's the premise of pretty much every conversion claim, and it comes down to which party has the superior right to possession. But you could just as easily assume that the sheep farmer doesn't make any possessory claim at all, and what's really at issue is how the entity that put the space junk in orbit can exercise its (undisputed) right to retrieve possession of its property. They have no right to enter the farmer's land, and would have to pay him for a license to make a one-time entry to reclaim it. He has no obligation to incur any expense or expend any effort to help them since they are responsible for putting their space junk on his property. If the farmer does not assert any possessory right, there's nothing for a court to resolve in terms of a conversion claim, which is based on conflicting claims of a right to possession and so no vehicle for a decree requiring him to surrender possession. Perhaps if the farmer demanded an exorbitant price for the license, a court might intervene to fix a reasonable price. But the transaction costs would likely impel the parties to resolve the issue without court involvement (the Coase idea).

So I'd agree -- the farmer gets paid and it's essentially a contract issue.

Pettifogger said...

The facts are distinct from, but reminiscent of, those of Goddard v. Winchell. https://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/property/property-law-keyed-to-cribbet/finding/goddard-v-winchell/

That was the first case we read in property law at UT Law School in the '73-'74 school year. We spent several weeks on it. The facts can be used to illustrate a lot of property law principles, and Prof. Stanley Johanson did just that.

Original Mike said...

"Between Musk and China, how much junk do we have to dodge?"

IDK, but there were a hell of a lot of satellites in the eyepiece last week when I was observing.