Space law encompasses national and international law governing
activities in outer space. International lawyers have been unable to
agree on a uniform definition of the term "outer space", although most
lawyers agree that outer space generally begins at the lowest altitude
above sea level at which objects can orbit the Earth, approximately
100 km (62 mi) (the Kármán line).
The inception of the field of space law began with the launch of the
world's first artificial satellite by the
Soviet Union in October
1957. Named Sputnik 1, the satellite was launched as part of the
International Geophysical Year. Since that time, space law has evolved
and assumed more importance as mankind has increasingly come to use
and rely on space-based resources.
NASA STS-121 Launch
1 Early developments
2 International treaties
3 International principles and declarations
5 1998 ISS agreement
6 National law
Geostationary orbit allocation
8 Future developments
8.2 Legal profession
9 See also
11 External links
Caltech in 1942
Theodore von Kármán
Theodore von Kármán and other rocket scientists
banded together to form
Aerojet rocket company with the help of lawyer
Andrew G. Haley. To toast the new corporation, Kármán said, "Now,
Andy, we will make the rockets – you must make the corporation and
obtain the money. Later on you will have to see that we behave well in
outer space...After all, we are the scientists but you are the lawyer,
and you must tell us how to behave ourselves according to law and to
safeguard our innocence." Indeed, twenty years later Haley
published the fundamental textbook, Space
Law and Government.[citation
Beginning in 1957 with the Space Race, nations began discussing
systems to ensure the peaceful use of outer space. Bilateral
discussions between the United States and USSR in 1958 resulted in the
presentation of issues to the UN for debate. In 1959, the UN
created the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).
COPUOS in turn created two subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical
Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The COPUOS Legal Subcommittee
has been a primary forum for discussion and negotiation of
international agreements relating to outer space.
In 1960 the
International Astronautical Congress
International Astronautical Congress met in Stockholm and
heard several submissions including a survey of legal opinion on
extraterrestrial jurisdiction by Andrew G. Haley.
Yale University Press
Yale University Press published
Law and Public Order in Space
by Myres McDougal,
Harold Lasswell and Ivan Vlasic.
Five international treaties have been negotiated and drafted in the
Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in
the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other
Celestial Bodies (the "Outer Space Treaty").
The 1968 Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of
Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the
The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by
Space Objects (the "Liability Convention").
The 1975 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer
Space (the "Registration Convention").
The 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and
Other Celestial Bodies (the "Moon Treaty").
The outer space treaty is the most widely adopted treaty, with 104
parties. The rescue agreement, the liability convention and the
registration convention all elaborate on provisions of the outer space
treaty. UN delegates apparently intended[according to whom?] that the
moon treaty serve as a new comprehensive treaty which would supersede
or supplement the outer space treaty, most notably by elaborating upon
the outer space treaty's provisions regarding resource appropriation
and prohibition of territorial sovereignty. The moon treaty has
only 17 parties  however, and many consider it to be a failed
treaty due to its limited acceptance. India is the only nation
that has both signed the moon treaty and declared itself interested in
going to the moon. India has not ratified the treaty; an analysis of
India's treaty law is required to understand how this affects India
In addition, the 1963
Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the
Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water ("Partial Test Ban
Treaty") banned the testing of nuclear weapons in outer space.
International principles and declarations
The five treaties and agreements of international space law cover
"non-appropriation of outer space by any one country, arms control,
the freedom of exploration, liability for damage caused by space
objects, the safety and rescue of spacecraft and astronauts, the
prevention of harmful interference with space activities and the
environment, the notification and registration of space activities,
scientific investigation and the exploitation of natural resources in
outer space and the settlement of disputes." 
United Nations General Assembly adopted five declarations and
legal principles which encourage exercising the international laws, as
well as unified communication between countries. The five declarations
and principles are:
The Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States
in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space (1963)
All space exploration will be done with good intentions and is equally
open to all States that comply with international law. No one nation
may claim ownership of outer space or any celestial body. Activities
carried out in space must abide by the international law and the
nations undergoing these said activities must accept responsibility
for the governmental or non-governmental agency involved. Objects
launched into space are subject to their nation of belonging,
including people. Objects, parts, and components discovered outside
the jurisdiction of a nation will be returned upon identification. If
a nation launches an object into space, they are responsible for any
damages that occur internationally.
The Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth
Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting (1982)
Activities of this nature must be transpired in accordance with the
sovereign rights of States. Said activities should "promote the free
dissemination and mutual exchange of information and knowledge in
cultural and scientific fields, assist in educational, social and
economic development, particularly in the developing countries,
enhance the qualities of life of all peoples and provide recreation
with due respect to the political and cultural integrity of States."
All States have equal rights to pursue these activities and must
maintain responsibility for anything carried out under their
boundaries of authority. States planning activities need to contact
the Secretary-General of the
United Nations with details of the
The Principles Relating to Remote Sensing of the
Earth from Outer
Fifteen principles are stated under this category. The basic
understanding comes from these descriptions given by the United
Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs:
(a) The term "remote sensing" means the sensing of the Earth's surface
from space by making use of the properties of electromagnetic waves
emitted, reflected or :diffracted by the sensed objects, for the
purpose of improving natural resources management, land use and the
protection of the environment;
(b) The term "primary data" means those raw data that are acquired by
remote sensors borne by a space object and that are transmitted or
delivered to the ground :from space by telemetry in the form of
electromagnetic signals, by photographic film, magnetic tape or any
(c) The term "processed data" means the products resulting from the
processing of the primary data, needed to make such data usable;
(d) The term "analysed information" means the information resulting
from the interpretation of processed data, inputs of data and
knowledge from other sources;
(e) The term "remote sensing activities" means the operation of remote
sensing space systems, primary data collection and storage stations,
and activities in :processing, interpreting and disseminating the
The Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer
"States launching space objects with nuclear power sources on board
shall endeavour to protect individuals, populations and the biosphere
against radiological hazards. The design and use of space objects with
nuclear power sources on board shall ensure, with a high degree of
confidence, that the hazards, in foreseeable operational or accidental
circumstances, are kept below acceptable levels..."
The Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and
Use of Outer Space for the Benefit and in the Interest of All States,
Taking into Particular Account the Needs of Developing Countries
"States are free to determine all aspects of their participation in
international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space on
an equitable and mutually acceptable basis. All States, particularly
those with relevant space capabilities and with programmes for the
exploration and use of outer space, should contribute to promoting and
fostering international cooperation on an equitable and mutually
acceptable basis. In this context, particular attention should be
given to the benefit for and the interests of developing countries and
countries with incipient space programmes stemming from such
international cooperation conducted with countries with more advanced
space capabilities. International cooperation should be conducted in
the modes that are considered most effective and appropriate by the
countries concerned, including, inter alia, governmental and
non-governmental; commercial and non-commercial; global, multilateral,
regional or bilateral; and international cooperation among countries
in all levels of development."
United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and
its Scientific and Technical and Legal Subcommittees operate on the
basis of consensus, i.e. all delegations from member States must agree
on any matter, be it treaty language before it can be included in the
final version of a treaty or new items on Committee/Subcommittee's
agendas. One reason that the U.N. space treaties lack definitions and
are unclear in other respects, is that it is easier to achieve
consensus when language and terms are vague. In recent years, the
Legal Subcommittee has been unable to achieve consensus on discussion
of a new comprehensive space agreement (the idea of which, though, was
proposed just by a few member States). It is also unlikely that the
Subcommittee will be able to agree to amend the
Outer Space Treaty
Outer Space Treaty in
the foreseeable future. Many space faring nations seem to believe that
discussing a new space agreement or amendment of the Outer Space
Treaty would be futile and time-consuming, because entrenched
differences regarding resource appropriation, property rights and
other issues relating to commercial activity make consensus unlikely.
1998 ISS agreement
In addition to the international treaties that have been negotiated at
the United Nations, the nations participating in the International
Space Station have entered into the 1998 Agreement among the
governments of Canada, Member States of the European Space Agency,
Japan, Russian Federation, and the United States concerning
cooperation on the Civil International Space Station. This
agreement provides, among other things, that
NASA is the lead agency
in coordinating the member states' contributions to and activities on
the space station, and that each nation has jurisdiction over its own
module(s). The agreement also provides for protection of intellectual
property and procedures for criminal prosecution. This agreement may
very well serve as a model for future agreements regarding
international cooperation in facilities on the Moon and Mars, where
the first off-world colonies and scientific/industrial bases are
likely to be established.
Space law also encompasses national laws, and many countries have
passed national space legislation in recent years. The Outer Space
Treaty gives responsibility for regulating space activities, including
both government and private sector, to the individual countries where
the activity is taking place. If a national of, or an organization
incorporated in one country launches a spacecraft in a different
country, interpretations differ as to whether the home country or the
launching country has jurisdiction.
Outer Space Treaty
Outer Space Treaty also incorporates the UN
Charter by reference,
and requires parties to ensure that activities are conducted in
accordance with other forms of international law such as customary
international law (the custom and practice of states).
The advent of commercial activities like space mining, space tourism,
private exploration, and the development of many commercial
spaceports, is leading many countries[which?] to consider how to
regulate private space activities. The challenge is to regulate
these activities in a manner that does not hinder or preclude
investment, while still ensuring that commercial activities comply
with international law. The developing nations are concerned that the
spacefaring nations will monopolize space resources.
Royalties paid to developing countries is one reason the United States
has not ratified the
United Nations Convention on the
Law of the Sea,
and why some oppose applying the same principles to outer space.
Geostationary orbit allocation
Satellites in geostationary orbit must all occupy a single ring above
the equator, approximately 35,800 km into space. The requirement
to space these satellites apart means that there is a limited number
of orbital "slots" available, thus only a limited number of satellites
can be placed in geostationary orbit. This has led to conflict between
different countries wishing access to the same orbital slots
(countries at the same longitude but differing latitudes). These
disputes are addressed through the ITU allocation mechanism.
Countries located at the Earth's equator have also asserted their
legal claim to control the use of space above their territory,
notably in 1976, when many countries located at the Earth's equator
created the Bogota Declaration, in which they asserted their legal
claim to control the use of space above their territory.
American Society of International
Law Space Interest Group 2014 Board
While this field of the law is still in its infancy, it is in an era
of rapid change and development. Arguably the resources of space are
infinite. If commercial space transportation becomes widely available,
with substantially lower launch costs, then all countries will be able
to directly reap the benefits of space resources. In that situation,
it seems likely that consensus will be much easier to achieve with
respect to commercial development and human settlement of outer space.
High costs are not the only factor preventing the economic
exploitation of space: it is argued that space should be considered as
a pristine environment worthy of protection and conservation, and that
the legal regime for space should further protect it from being used
as a resource for Earth's needs. Debate is also focused on
whether space should continue to be legally defined as part of the
“common heritage of man,” and therefore unavailable for national
claims, or whether its legal definition should be changed to allow
private property in space.
As of 2013, NASA's plans to capture an asteroid by 2021 has raised
questions about how space law would be applied in practice.
In 2016, the nation of
Luxembourg has set out a formal legal framework
which ensures that private companies engaged in mining resources in
space have rights to those resources.
Michael Dodge, of Long Beach, Mississippi, was the first law school
graduate to receive a space law certificate in the United
States. Dodge graduated from the National Center for Remote
Sensing, Air and Space
Law at the
University of Mississippi
University of Mississippi School of
Law in 2008. He is now an assistant professor in the
Department of Space Studies at the University of North Dakota 
University of Sunderland
University of Sunderland is the first UK University to offer a
space law module as part of its
LLB programme. 
University of Nebraska
University of Nebraska College of
Law offers the U.S.’s first
and only LL.M. and Doctor of the Science of
Law (J.S.D.) in space,
cyber, and telecommunications law. Professor Frans von der Dunk,
former Director of space law research at
Leiden University joined the
program in 2007. In addition to the LL.M., students can earn a J.D. at
Law with an emphasis in space and telecommunications law. The
program also hosts three space and telecommunications conferences each
year [full citation needed]
For more than 10 years, the
University of Paris-Sud
University of Paris-Sud with the Institute
of Space and Telecommunications
Law have offered a Master's degree in
Space Activities and Telecommunications Law. This Master is supported
by numerous companies of space and telecommunications sectors.
In August 2012, students at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge
Law in Sacramento, California created the McGeorge Society
Law and Policy.
In September 2012, the Space
Law Society (SLS) at the University of
Maryland Francis King Carey School of
Law was established. A legal
resources team united in Maryland, a "Space Science State," with Jorge
Rodriguez, Lee Sampson, Patrick Gardiner, Lyra Correa and Juliana
Neelbauer as SLS founding members.
In August 2014, students at Northeastern University School of Law
founded the school's Space
Since 1951, the McGill Faculty of
Law in Montreal, Canada hosts the
Institute of Air and Space Law, and offers an LL.M in Air and Space
law. Leiden University,
Netherlands hosts an International
Institute of Air and Space
Law and offers an LL.M. degree.
In 2014, students at American University Washington College of Law
founded the school's Space
Law Society, with the help of Pamela L.
Meredith, space lawyer and adjunct professor of Satellite
Communications and Space Law.
Commercialization of space
Institute of Space and Telecommunications Law
Outer Space Treaty
Politics of the International Space Station
Space archaeology, the law as related to preserving cultural heritage
from space sites
Title 51 of the United States Code
Andrew G. Haley (1963) Space
Law and Government, page xii,
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Journal of Air
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International Institute of Space Law
Res Communis —
University of Mississippi
University of Mississippi National Center for Remote
Sensing, Air and Space
Law blog about air and space law developments
Overview of space law (in German) at the Foreign Office website
Journal of Space Law
Law at the
United Nations Office for Outer Space
Rose, Neil (2009-08-13). "Can you buy an acre of the Moon?". The
Institute of Space and Telecommunications Law & Master's degree in
Space Activities and Telecommunications Law
Law of obligations
Conflict of laws
International criminal law
International human rights
International slavery laws
Law of war
Will and testament
Public international law
Women in law
Sources of law
Natural and legal rights
Act of Parliament
Act of Congress
Act of Congress (US)
Critical legal studies
Law and economics
International legal theory
Principle of legality
Rule of law
Administration of justice
Justice of the peace
Practice of law
Question of fact
Question of law
Trier of fact
... in space
The human body
The human body (exposed)
Monkeys and non-human apes
Space-based solar power
Solar panels on spacecraft