Dentons creates ‘space law’ group


SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying the AsiaSat 8 commercial communications satellite launches from Cape Canaveral ealier this month. Dentons’s new practice group is to focus on the commercial space industry. (SPACEX / HANDOUT/EPA)

International law firm Dentons has created a practice group focused on representing companies that manufacture, operate and invest in satellites, as it eyes potential in the fast-growing commercial space industry.

The new group is led by attorneys Del Smith, Liz Evans and Deepak Reddy, who recently joined Dentons from Jones Day. Smith is in Washington and Evans and Reddy are in New York. The group includes 15 attorneys spread across 10 of the firm’s offices around the world, whose legal expertise spans mergers and acquisitions, finance, restructuring, regulatory, insurance, intellectual property, antitrust and litigation.

Smith said the idea is to a build a one-stop legal shop for companies looking to build, launch and operate satellites — media organizations that use satellites for news gathering, or hospitals that use satellites to provide telehealth services, for example — and handle all facets of legal work from start to finish. That includes securing the financing of the project, getting regulatory approval and negotiating contracts with government agencies to operate the satellite.

“If you can find all those services in one place, it’s tremendously cheaper than trying to find them in little bits and pieces,” Smith said.

The commercial space industry is one that is ripe for expansion, with private companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Dulles-based Orbital Sciences winning lucrative contracts from NASA to transport supplies to astronauts on the international space station.

Global spending on space hardware and services reached $314 billion 2013, a 4 percent increase from 2012, according to an annual report by the Space Foundation, a nonprofit space advocacy group. Spending by the U.S. government declined, while spending in the private sector grew.

Catherine Ho covers lobbying at The Washington Post. She previously worked at the LA Daily Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Wichita Eagle and the San Mateo County Times.
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