Still, Matchett thinks the first users to jump on SpaceBelt might be financial companies looking for shorter delays getting messages around the world. Cloud Constellation says its satellites could transmit information from low Earth orbit to the ground in a quarter of a second and from one point on Earth to another in less than a second. Any advantage that financiers could gain over competitors using fiber networks, which usually have a few seconds of end-to-end latency, would help them make informed trades more quickly.
But if you do put your data in space, don’t expect it to float free from the laws of Earth. Under the United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967, the country where a satellite is registered still has jurisdiction over it after it’s in space, said Michael Listner, an attorney and founder of Space Law & Policy Solutions. If Cloud Constellations’ satellites are registered in the U.S., for example, the company will have to comply with subpoenas from the U.S. and other countries, he said.
And while the laws of physics are constant, those on Earth are unpredictable. For example, the U.S. hasn’t passed any laws that directly address data storage in orbit, but in 1990 it extended patents to space, said Frans von der Dunk, a professor of space law at the University of Nebraska. “Looking towards the future, that gap could always be filled.”
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