About the Nebraska Space, Cyber, and Telecommunications Law Program

Founding Director and Professor Matthew Schaefer led the efforts to start the program and was responsible for the $1.71 million NASA grant from 2008-2011 that helped launch it. Schaefer was also the co-administrator with Executive Director Elsbeth Magilton on a $250,000 NASA grant in 2018-2019 to strengthen and diversify the nationwide space law network.

Since its beginning, the program has held annual conferences across the United States, and has built up an international reputation for its largest regular event: the Washington D.C. Space Law Conference. In addition, the program has hosted multiple events in coordination with U.S. Strategic Command and others across the Department of Defense.

The LL.M. program is successful because of their distinguished faculty leaders. These internationally renowned scholars consult with international governments, private sector businesses and military actors, and receive consultation from national and international media on space, telecommunications, and cyber law issues.

Ribbon cutting ceremony for Space, Telecom Law program

On Aug. 22, 2008, the Nebraska Space, Cyber, and Telecommunications Master of Laws degree program was launched. The inaugural class of seven LL.M. students was welcomed by then Mayor Chris Beutler and then Chancellor Harvey Perlman. Several distinguished Nebraska Law alumni who've had successful careers in space or telecommunications law attended the celebration, including Fred Campbell, Wireless Bureau Chief of the Federal Communications Commission, and June Edwards, a former attorney for NASA and program advisory board member.

More on Space, Cyber, and Telecommunications Law

SCTL in Action
Learn about space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law is used in the field and career building

Alumni graduate with an advantage in several different career sectors in the space and cyber realm, ranging from private industry (launch providers, satellite manufactures, etc), to policy (State Dept, FAA, think tanks), to national security (military, civilians working for DoD, defense contractors). Telecommunications also opens a broad door, as more (larger) companies are already entrenched in that regulatory scheme.

Nebraska Law believes strongly in the power experiential learning and has a strong tradition of J.D. internships and externships with the FCC, FTC, DoD, NASA, Blue Origin, and others. In addition Nebraska Law has a strong history of participation and success at the the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition created by the International Institute of Space Law. The competition has grown to cover four world regions: North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa. More than 60 teams participate yearly in this competition.

Nebraska Law places about 60% of SCTL graduates within the government or Department of Defense. The remaining students are spread across the private sector, think tanks, and law firms. Year to year, about 80% of our LL.M. graduates report being in a position they characterize as related to their work in the program. Others, while they may be in an adjacent industry, still feel their education in these topics give them a competitive edge with clients and employers.

LL.M. and J.D. students are offered personalized career coaching and a month-to-month job seekers plan to help them be in the best place possible when seeking employment in these fields. For students particularly interested in space, it is important to understand that it is a growing, but still relatively small field. Often new attorneys must gain legal experience in other fields before pivoting back to space. Our career planning advising helps our graduates make that transition and stay on track to join the space industry.

SCTL Defined
Get more familiar with the subjects and how all three together work.

Space Law

Space law is the study of the laws and regulations governing not just activities in space but also activities on Earth necessary to launch objects into space or to communicate with objects in space. This encompasses all national and international laws governing such activities. Activities regulated involve innovative new industries like commercial space flight, scientific endeavors such as experiments heading to the International Space Station, the business sector and aerospace companies launching and operating satellites, as well as military applications and uses of space.

Attorneys specializing in space law learn a unique mixture of international, U.S. administrative, and industry specific law, policy, history, and economics. Space law is indeed a capstone course, touching on torts, property, foreign relations, insurance, and many other areas of the law.

Cyber law

Cyber law (or Cyberlaw) is the study of the relationship of technological and electronic elements, including computers, software, hardware and information systems to the law. Cyber law encompasses the regulation of commercial industries and private company data, as well as a vast number of military operations. From large company hacks, to cloud storage, to cyber warfare, the law interacts with technology but often with gaps in coverage and difficult dilemmas in how best to proceed. Cyber law is now virtually required in every law practice as nearly all clients have an online presence.

Telecommunications Law

Telecommunications law covers every electronic communication and all broadcasting across the United States. This area is heavily regulated by federal law and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but also by state and local laws, dealing with privacy and real estate. Telecommunications law is an area with many controversies as new technologies are created and invented by entrepreneurs. Google is now spending more money lobbying in Washington DC than any oil company. From net neutrality to cable contracts to spectrum management the world of telecommunications law continues to grow and change along with technology.

Why all three?

While our students generally pick a focus area for their independent research, we require our students to take classes in all three areas. Why? You can’t launch a space vehicle or operate a communications satellite without licensing communication spectrum from the FCC. You can’t discuss cyber warfare without addressing the possibility of satellites as targets. The connections go on and on. These three areas are intrinsically linked by the technology they require and the laws and policies that impact them. Nebraska law is the one program in the world to specialize in all three and require our graduates to obtain a well-rounded understanding of the changing legal frontier.