Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.) in Space Law

About the Program

The Doctor of the Science of Law at Nebraska Law is a doctoral degree for students wanting to pursue advanced research in Space Law and to produce a book-length thesis on a Space Law topic. This program breaks new ground as the only doctoral-level space law program in the United States. The University of Nebraska College of law is the only law school in the United States offering this degree.

Research-focused and dissertation-based, the J.S.D. program requires students to write a book-length thesis about an aspect of space law. The degree broadens opportunities for experienced lawyers and legal scholars to delve into the intricate and complex issues facing the regulation of outer space activities in an in-depth manner. The expectation of the program is that upon completion, the dissertation will be published as a book.

There is no classroom curriculum for this program, either in-residence or online. The sole substance of the program is writing a dissertation (a publishable book-size manuscript) under faculty supervision. The only requirements of physical presence at Nebraska Law are upon admission to the J.S.D. program to arrange administrative details and meet a few key people, and a week or two at the very end for the purpose of the defense of the dissertation. In between, based upon the synopsis and provisional table of contents (acceptance of which is a condition for admission), the candidate will send in draft chapters, receive faculty comments, and incorporate feedback into new drafts and chapters until finally a full-fledged manuscript may be accepted for defense.

Supervisors: Professor Frans von der Dunk will supervise the J.S.D. students. Professor Matthew Schaefer may also supervise students and provide support, along with Professor Jack Beard.


  • Must hold a JD or LL.M. from an ABA-accredited American Law School; a PhD on a related subject; or a comparable Master of Laws or LL.M. degree from an international institution. The applicant must submit certified transcripts verifying these degrees. Waiver of this requirement will be possible but very rare.
  • Must have a proven expertise and/or educational background in Space Law (for example, professional positions, LL.M., specialization in a J.D. program, publications on space law in reputable journals, participation in a reputable space law moot court, etc.) presented via resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Distance Students and International Applicants: The J.S.D. program is open to international and distance students. The program is typically completed entirely remotely, but students are required to visit the Law College during the first month of their starting semester for a minimum of one week. Remote students will return to Nebraska Law at the end of their program for their Dissertation Defense. There is no difference in tuition for resident or remote students. Students who elect to move to Nebraska for the program will have full access to the student facilities and libraries, but are not provided a private office or university technology.

Application Process

Apply by creating an account at the Law School Admission Council website and selecting the application for the correct program.

Application Requirements:

  • Applicants must submit a detailed and specific research proposal and obtain the agreement of a member of the space, cyber, and telecommunications law faculty (most likely Professor von der Dunk) to review and potentially supervise the doctoral dissertation prior to applying. Proposals should be 3-6 pages long with a one-page table of contents. It should describe the precise issue to be addressed, the importance of that issue and the relevant laws to be discussed.
  • 2 letters of recommendation from individuals who are familiar with the applicant’s academic work and potential to succeed in the program. The letters of recommendation must be written in English.
  • Applicants from non-English speaking countries must submit a TOEFL score of 100 internet-based or 250 computer-based or 600-603 paper-based. We may also consider an IETLS score of 7 or above.


J.S.D. students pay a total of $30,000 for tuition and fees. This cost is spread out over the first four semesters, although students may take six semesters to complete the program without penalty.

Students From Outside the United States

The College of Law welcomes applications to its programs from students who are citizens of countries other than the United States. A foreign law degree is required of foreign applicants. A TOEFL score of 100 (on the internet based test) is required by foreign applicants. We may also consider an IETLS score of 7 or above.

Please note, the Space, Cyber, and Telecommunications LL.M. program is not designed to teach foreign attorneys U.S. Law, but to allow experts in these areas to further their expertise. The University of Nebraska College of Law has a Master of Laws (LL.M.) program for foreign attorneys interested in studying U.S. Law.

Foreign applicants (and domestic) must apply online and use the LSAC credential assembly service.

Josh Redwine portrait
Contact Josh with Questions

Josh Redwine
Program Coordinator