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Ad Astra
Volume 15, Number 3 June/July/August 2003


Launch Pad

Thank you, Ken
By Kirby Ikin

The NSS family lost one of its own on June 24, 2003, when Lt. Col. F. Kenneth Schwetje (USAF Ret.), NSS Board Member and General Counsel, passed away. Ken first became associated with NSS in the late 1980s, when he helped organize the Law & Space Symposium for the 1989 ISDC in Chicago, bringing in the Air & Space Law Section of the Federal Bar Association as a co-Sponsor and helping assemble a prestigious group of participants. Ken made himself available to us as an unofficial resource through the years before assuming his various official roles.

A native of New Jersey, Ken started his military career as an attorney in the United States Marine Corps and later transferred to the Air Force, where he had a distinguished military career specializing in air and space law. While in the Air Force, Ken earned a Masters of Laws in Space and Aviation Law from McGill University and became a world-known expert in space law issues. He held a series of challenging positions dealing with space law and policy as Chief of Air and Space Law, HQ USAF, at the Pentagon. Ken was responsible for developing and advocating the Air Force positions on many important space policy issues, such as SDI, space treaty interpretations, commercial uses of government launch facilities, and the use of the International Space Station. After the Air Staff, Ken was assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the international negotiations and agreements division. Among a number of duties, he participated in the UN study on the military uses of space, evaluated ballistic missile defense programs for compliance with international treaties and domestic law, and was a delegate to the Standing Consultative Commission in Geneva.

After retiring from the USAF, Ken worked for defense contractors on classified space programs. For the past six years he was engaged in the private practice of law. Most recently he was with the firm of Pierson & Burnett L.L.P. and represented many of the major aerospace companies in both the United States and Europe. In addition to his roles with NSS, Ken also has served as the Committee Chairman for the Space Law Committees of the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, and the president of the U.S. Section of the International Institute of Space Law. Ken was one of the founders of the International Moot Court Space Law Competition and regularly served as a judge at U.S. competitions, and also taught space law and policy at the Columbus School of Law (Catholic University) and the National Law Center (George Washington University).

His contributions to the field of space law will be long remembered, but, more importantly, we will miss our friend and colleague. Thank you, Ken.