Space technologies – enhancing Bulgaria’s economy

Firts talk in history of Bulgarian students with astronauts aboard the International Space Station

A Cluster of 30+ top Bulgarian NGOs and STEM/space research stakeholders, coordinated by the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, partnered with the US Embassy in Sofia as the host of a LIVE video chat with astronauts on the board of the International Space Station.

The project aimed to ignite the imagination of the youth, inspiring them to dream big by reaching out for the Moon, Venus, Mars and beyond.

We strived showcase the vast career opportunities of the STEM field and how students and teachers alike may pursue them via both in-person and virtual experiences detailing the work of NASA.

Building on Bulgaria’s historical achievements in space in its capacity as the sixth country in the world to launch a person in space and the third country to produce space food, we seek not only to improve and expand Bulgarian-U.S. partnerships in the fields of aeronautics and STEM education, but also to send a third Bulgarian astronaut with NASA/SpaceX into space.

We are the first EU country that has the privilege to host a direct civilian video conference with NASA’s 65th expedition. Children and adolescents had the chance to submit their groundbreaking questions for the astronauts and the best were broadcast to the International Space Station. The final decision on this matter will rest with NASA.

Photo from the live broadcast of the Talk with International Space Station at Sofia Tech Park.

Bill for advocating for investment in Space Technologies

In 2013, The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria prepared the first bill for space activities in the Republic of Bulgaria. The “Bill for the Promotion of Investments in Space Technologies” was publicly announced and proposed to the Bulgarian government in the summer of 2013. The idea behind the writing of the Bill was “for the first time in the history of Bulgarian legislation to regulate the matter of national space activities and to enhance the competitiveness of Bulgaria’s economy through systematic promotion of research, innovation and technological development by increasing investment in activities related to space activities and the satellite industry.”

The Bill’s specific objectives are summarized as follows:

  • stimulating the development of the national economy and science in Bulgaria;
  • increasing technological resources and introducing innovative technologies;
  • promoting investment in the high-tech sector and the applications of space activities;
  • guaranteeing national security;
  • ensuring the life and health of the population;
  • environmental protection.

The Bill stipulates that “the national policy in the field of space activities shall be implemented by the Council of Ministers on the basis of a five-year National Program adopted by the National Assembly. Part of the mandatory content of the Program is the financial framework for its implementation and measures to promote projects and investments in the field of space activities, including measures under the Investment Promotion Act. A National Council for Space Activity of the Republic of Bulgaria should be established at the Council of Ministers to ensure interagency coordination and interaction with the non-governmental sector. “

The Bill further provides for “the introduction of a licensing regime for the launching, flying and targeting of space objects, with the authorizing authority being the Minister for Transport, Information Technology and Communications. In accordance with the international legal obligations of the State, a national registry of space objects is established, which is a prerequisite for exercising effective control over activities that may involve the State’s responsibility. Rules are laid down to determine the amount of damage in the event of damage caused by space activities.”

It also regulates “administrative and criminal liability for violations of the law, with the penalties being fines.”

The following arguments are given as motives for writing the Bill:

Paradoxically, Bulgaria, which has a rich and successful history related to space exploration, lags behind the global trend for national legal regulation of this field. Currently, more than twenty countries have legislation on space activities, including a number of EU Member States. The speed with which technology and telecommunications are developing, the increasing number of countries that have potential in space activities and the increasing involvement of private actors in them require a targeted attitude towards space.

The adoption of an Act on the Promotion of Investments in Space Technologies is a prerequisite for a stricter fulfillment of the obligations of the Bulgarian state as a party to the major international treaties in the field of space (the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 1967; the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1968; the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, 1972;  and the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1975) and for adherence to the fundamental principles of space law, namely: the exploration and use of the cosmos for the good and for the benefit of all mankind, on the basis of equality between states; the ban on space appropriation; the use of space exclusively for peaceful purposes; the international liability of States for damage caused by space objects registered by them and for their national space activities, including those carried out by natural and legal persons; the obligation not to pollute the cosmos; and others. By adopting the law, specific commitments arising from the listed international legal instruments will be fulfilled:

  • VI of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 1967, requires the parties to control the activities of private entities in space and establishes international responsibility for the State for private space activities that do not comply with the provisions of the Treaty;
  • VIII and IX of the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1975, introduce an obligation to establish a National Register of Space Objects and to notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations of national space activities.

The adoption of the Act would create preconditions for a fuller participation of Bulgaria in European space policy, by creating an institutional framework for defining and pursuing a targeted national policy, materialized in five-year National Space Programs.

A major feature of the space activities and the satellite industry is that they are high-tech and stimulate the development of research and innovation. The formulation of an adequate national policy to encourage investment in the space sector, whose main core is the satellite industry, would allow the full utilization of national educational and scientific potential and would create better preconditions for developing and finding markets for numerous industries in the high-tech sector – engineering, information technology, electronics, optics, material production and related services.

In addition, the passing of an Act on the Promotion of Investments in Space Technology is a first and necessary step to ensure national security against previously unknown threats, such as the use of space technology for terrorist purposes (space terrorism) and space piracy, which is expected to emerge as a new, evolving form of the problem of maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean, a phenomenon that the international community has been unable to find a solution to for years. In this sense, the adoption of the Act appears as a proactive, pre-emptive measure for ensuring national security, as a prerequisite for the creation of national expertise to counter new and future threats.

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