Outer Space Law

21 Apr 2022

Scientists debate whether or not if the Universe is finite, and whether a single universe or several of them exist. Albert Einstein used to believe that only two things, the Universe and human stupidity, were infinite, but then he added that he had no certainty about the former. 


Space law is the body that governs objects and activities outside the atmosphere of the Earth. Over time, space law has developed to include domestic laws and regulations, as well as private international law that regulates the relations of non-state actors of various nationalities. The space law’s origins can be traced back to Sputnik I, the first artificial earth satellite launched on 4 October 1957. 

From then on, the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Outer Space has focused mostly on the legal regulations on outer space activities. The majority of space law is comprised of norms used in five multilateral treaties. 


Legal Status of Outer Space Outer Space Treaty

The Treaty of 1967 governing States’ activities Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, which includes the moon and other celestial bodies commonly known as the Outer Space Treaty. According to the Outer Space Treaty, the freedom to explore and use outer space and celestial bodies is not unlimited. It is subject to a range of conditions and limitations, such as authorization and supervision of private activity, specific prohibitions on some military uses and others. 

Countries with national laws and legislation regulating space activities include Argentina, Canada, Australia, Finland, South Africa, the Philippines, the UK, France, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Slovakia, Indonesia, Tunisia, Ukraine, Hungary, and the USA. The very first article of the Outer Space Treaty states that explorations and use, in the interest and benefit of all nations, shall take place, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies. 

Article III of the Treaty specifies that the most general guideline principle stipulates that activities in the exploration and use of external space should be pursued in compliance with international law, including the UN Charter. While the International Space Station proves that, even after the Cold War, the Outer Space Treaty has helped to preserve peace and harmony in space, many challenges still need to be addressed under existing space law. The agreement related to the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space. The agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts is yet another milestone in the history of space law. 

In addition, The Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched to outer space was introduced on 10 December 1967 by the General Assembly. The agreement establishes that each contracting party that receives information or finds out that the personnel of the particular spacecraft suffered an accident or are suffering from distress or unexpected landing or any other area not within the jurisdiction of any State shall immediately: 

1. Notify the launching authority or promptly make a public announcement through any appropriate forms of contact available to them and interact immediately with the launching authority. 

2. Inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations who, by all reasonable means of communication available to him, shall promptly disseminate the information. 


The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, 1971. 

The third significant landmark in the evolution of international space law is the convention on the International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, implemented and endorsed by the General Assembly on 29 November 1971. The convention mentions the launching state will be entirely liable to pay compensation for the damages caused by the space object on earth’s surface or to aircraft along with faults in space. 


The Moon Treaty

The agreement is based on the Outer Space Treaty clauses and also on the fact that the moon and also its natural resources are a common heritage and that an international procedure to curb its use should be established. The agreement prohibits the establishment of military bases, fortifications on the moon, and the testing of some form of weaponry and military manoeuvres on the moon. However, it is not prohibited to use military personnel for scientific experiments or other peaceful purposes. The Third UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UNISPACE-III) The conference aimed primarily at developing a strategy to use outer space peacefully in the 21st century.

The main points were considered: 

1. Future of exploration of planets 

2. Usage of the micro-wave system or microsatellites in the course of exploration of outer space. 

3. Use of mobile satellite communication and 

4. Outer space maintenance and supervision 

The UAE Space Sector Latest Developments The UAE governs the Regulation of the Space Sector which is Federal Law No 12 of 2019. 


The law seeks to develop a regulatory framework in order to meet the following goals, the objectives of the UAE’s National Space Policy: 

1. Encouraging private sector involvement in activities in the space sector 

2. Implementation of sustainability, safety and environmental controls in relation to space activities. 

3. Implement the provisions of the outer space international conventions and treaties Mission to Mars The UAE Space Agency and MBRSC had agreed to build the unmanned probe to Mars. The United Arab Emirates was the first-ever Arab and Islamic country to send an unmanned spacecraft to the Red Planet. The Hope orbiter was successfully launched on July 19, 2020, and arrived at Mars on 9 February 2021. The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre was in charge of mission design, development, and operations.

To know more about Outer Space Treaty, you could contact our technology department at Fotis International Law firm.