Understanding the Current Space Law

Space law is a set of laws that govern activities related to space exploration. It is based on international agreements, treaties, conventions, and resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, as well as rules and regulations of international organizations. Space policy is a combination of policies codified in these laws and policies issued by the President. The United Nations (UN) Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in Vienna, Austria, drafted five international treaties and five “declarations” and legal principles.

The Conference on Disarmament is the venue for most international debates on the “militarization” or “militarization” of space and on whether a treaty should be negotiated to ban weapons in outer space that are not yet prohibited by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The Outer Space Treaty prohibits the national appropriation of outer space, the Moon or any other heavenly body. It also prohibits weapons of mass destruction in orbit and beyond, and states that the Moon, planets and other heavenly bodies can only be used for peaceful purposes. The delimitation between airspace and outer space is not yet legally defined. The Artemis Agreements recognize the ban, but go further and affirm that the extraction of space resources does not inherently constitute a national appropriation. The United States is a signatory to the first four of the following treaties: Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Space (the “Astronaut Rescue and Return Agreement”), Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (the “Liability Convention”), Convention on the Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the “Registration Convention”), Agreement governing the activities of States on the Moon and other heavenly bodies (the “Moon Agreement”).The term “launching State” is defined as the State that launches or succeeds in the launch of a space object, or whose territory or facility is used for the launch of a space object, which gives rise to the possibility that there may be more than one “launching State” with respect to a single space object.

International coordination and cooperation are facilitated by the growing Inter-Agency Group for the Coordination of International Space Exploration and is planned for the Lunar Gateway space station, emulating the cooperation of the ISS. Space legislation also covers national laws, and many countries have enacted national space laws in recent years. Many countries working in space seem to believe that discussing a new agreement on space or an amendment to the Outer Space Treaty would be futile and time-consuming, because deep-seated differences in relation to resource appropriation, property rights and other issues related to commercial activity make it unlikely that a consensus will be reached. Space law addresses a variety of issues, such as the preservation of space and Earth's environment, liability for damage caused by space objects, resolution of disputes, rescue of astronauts, exchange of information on possible dangers in outer space, use of space-related technologies and international cooperation. The Artemis Agreements establish ten principles that aim to reinforce and implement the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty. It is also unlikely that the Subcommittee will be able to agree to amend the Outer Space Treaty in the near future. This has been interpreted as an impediment to any assertion of property rights by any State, commercial entity or private person over any part of outer space, although it remains unclear whether it applies to space resources once they have been extracted from a heavenly body. At the beginning of the development of international space law, outer space was defined as res communis and not explicitly as terra nullius in the Magna Carta of Space presented by William A.

Deplano maintains that clarifying the term “national appropriation” does not amount to a modification of the definition of the Outer Space Treaty, but recognizes that it could influence future interpretations. Countries with more advanced space programs have the opportunity to establish international standards through practice before other countries have a seat at the table. Eleven now has all IISL proceedings, as well as papers presented at space law symposiums between IISL-ECSL and Eilene M.

Jeannie Eschenbrenner
Jeannie Eschenbrenner

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