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Space Law: Meaning and Its Significance

By:- Team Legal Specs


What is Space Law?

The definition of "space" is unclear and has never been properly established in law. The area of the universe between the planets and the stars, and more specifically the part of the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere, is what we call "the cosmos" in the field of natural science. The difference between air space and outer space itself is called into doubt.

The body of legislation that regulates actions that are associated with space is referred to as "space law." Similar to general international law, space law is made up of a range of international agreements, treaties, conventions, and resolutions passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations, in addition to the rules and regulations of other international organizations. In addition to such international mechanisms, several countries also have their national laws that regulate activities that are associated with space.


What is the ambit of Space Law?

Space law covers a wide range of topics, including, for instance, the protection of both the environment of space and the environment of Earth, an obligation for damages caused by objects in space, the resolution of conflicts the rescue of astronauts, the exchange of data regarding inherent risks in outer space, the application of technologies related to space, and international cooperation.

Fundamental concepts such as the non-appropriation of outer space, the right of all states to explore and use outer space without interference, and the idea that space belongs to all of humanity all shape how space activities are carried out.

To help states, NGOs, and the public better understand and accept the advanced space law accords reached under UN auspices, the Office's staff is available to answer questions and offer guidance on the subject upon request.


What governs the Space Laws?

International space law is developed through the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Over the course of its work, the Committee has negotiated and finalized five separate international space treaties and five separate sets of principles. These five treaties address issues such as the non-appropriation of outer space by any single nation, 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 research and the exploitation of natural resources in outer space, and the settlement of disputes arising from space activities.

Each of the treaties underlines that outer space, the operations conducted in outer space, and any potential benefits derived from outer space must be dedicated to fostering international cooperation and advancing the well-being of all nations and humanity.


The Five United Nations Treaties Frequently Referred to as "Treaties On Outer Space" are:


1. The Outer Space treaty:

The Outer Space Treaty was examined by the Legal Subcommittee in 1966, and the General Assembly established a consensus that same year (resolution 2222 (XXI)). A few new clauses were added to the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, which had been adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 1962 (XVIII) in 1963. In January 1967, the three depository Governments (the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America) opened the Treaty for signature, and in October 1967, it entered into force. The Outer Space Treaty lays the foundation for international space law.


2. The Rescue Agreement:

The Legal Subcommittee negotiated the Rescue Agreement between 1962-1967. General Assembly resolution 2345 (XXII) obtained consensus in 1967, and the Agreement took effect in December 1968. The Agreement elaborates on articles 5 and 8 of the Outer Space Treaty by requiring states to save and assist astronauts in distress and return them to the launching state. It also requires states to assist releasing states in starting to recover celestial objects that return to Earth outside the launching state's territory.


3. The Liability Convention:

The legal subcommittee negotiated the Liability Convention from 1963 to 1972. The Convention went into effect in September 1972 after the General Assembly passed resolution 2777 (XXVI) in 1971. The Liability Convention expands on Article 7 of the Outer Space Treaty by holding launching states liable for damage caused by their space objects on Earth or to aircraft, as well as damage caused by their faults in space. The Convention also covers damage claims.


4. The Registration Convention:

Since 1962, the Legal Subcommittee has been considering and negotiating the Registration Convention. Opened for signing on 14 January 1975, it went into effect on 15 September 1976 after being endorsed by the General Assembly in 1974 (General Assembly resolution 3235 (XXIX)). The Registration Convention broadened the reach of the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space, which had been established by resolution 1721B (XVI) of December 1961, and addressed issues relating to State’s Parties resolving disputes over space objects.


5. The Moon Agreement:

The Legal Subcommittee drafted the Moon Agreement from 1972 to 1979. General Assembly resolution 34/68 endorsed the Agreement in 1979. Austria ratified the Agreement in June 1984, allowing it to go into effect in July. The Agreement reaffirms and expands on many regulations of the Outer Space Treaty as implemented to the Moon and other celestial bodies, including that they are used purely for peaceful uses, that their environments not be disturbed, and that the UN be notified of the place and purpose of any station established on them. The Agreement also states that the Moon and its natural resources are indeed the common heritage of humanity and that an international government should oversee their exploitation when it becomes practical.


The Legal Principles and Declarations Governing Space Law Are As Follows:


1. The Declaration of Legal Principles:

It was in 1963 (resolution 1962 (XVIII)) that the Assembly adopted the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space, a forerunner to the Outer Space Treaty. It laid out the foundations of international space law, such as the requirement that exploration is conducted for the good of all nations.


2. The Broadcasting Principles:

It was in 1982, resolution 37/92 when the assembly adopted this principle Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting providing the right of everyone to seek, receive, and disseminate information and ideas are guaranteed by the relevant United Nations instruments, and activities in the field of international direct television broadcasting by satellite should be conducted in a way that respects the sovereignty of States and the principle of non-intervention.

3. The Remote Sensing Principles:

It was in 1974 (resolution 3234 (XXIX)) when the assembly adopted principles relating to remote sensing of the earth from outer space adopts the principles relating to Earth remote sensing outlined in the annex to the present resolution, in the belief that doing so will contribute to the strengthening of international cooperation in this field.


4. The Nuclear Power Sources Principles:

It was in 1992, (resolution 47/68) when the assembly adopted the principles relevant to the use of nuclear power sources in outer space. This principle recognizes that nuclear power in space should prioritize uses that make the most of nuclear power's unique characteristics, as is widely acknowledged. Further recognizing the need for a comprehensive safety assessment.


5. The Benefits Declaration:

It was in 1996 (resolution 51/122) when the assembly adopted 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. Especially remembering the Treaty on the Principles Governing States' Activities in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, and remembering its pertinent resolutions about activities in outer space.

Conclusion

India's space program began in 1962, not long after the country won its independence from the British in 1947. The program was kick started in 1969 when the Indian Space Research Organization was established. ISRO came under DOS control in September 1972, after the Indian government formed the Space Commission of India (the Space Commission) and the Department of Space (DOS) in the middle of 1972. In 1975, India successfully launched its first satellite. India's space program has developed significantly since then.

The Outer Space Treaty was signed by India in 1967 but was not ratified until 1982. In 1979, India accepted the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts, and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space 1968. India joined the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space in 1982 and the Moon Agreement in 1979.

The Office of the Prime Minister governs all operations and exercises control over India's space program via the Space Commission and the Department of Space.

The Department of Space (DOS) is responsible for carrying out India's space policy, which is formulated by the Space Commission. The ISRO is the primary vehicle for the realization of space-related research and development efforts. India's space program's stated mission is to "harness space technology for national development" through activities including space science research and planetary exploration. This is clear from ISRO's many initiatives, which make space-related discoveries and advancements available to the Indian public.

Any government (signatory to the international space law treaties) that encourages private activities in the space domain must make arrangements for international responsibility concerning private activities. Because the establishment of a stable legal framework is essential to the growth of commercial operations, this incentive acts as a cornerstone for the creation of national space legislation.

Several space-related businesses have been established in India in recent years. Commercial firms in India's space industry face regulatory ambiguity due to the absence of legislation or rules covering all aspects of their work in space. As discussed in Section II, while the Indian government has enacted several policies meant to give regulatory guidance on commercial space activities, these policies do not amount to a comprehensive legislative framework.

India has taken on obligations and liabilities under international space treaties that it has ratified, making national space legislation necessary. Furthermore, given the growing importance of space operations and the growing involvement of the private sector in such activities, a space-faring nation like India needs to have national legislation on space activities done by government institutions and private commercial companies.

The Indian government is obligated to encourage "all facets" of space-related activities, as stated in the draught Space Activities Bill 2017 (the Bill). As stated in the Bill, there are two main motivations for conducting space exploration: first, for peaceful purposes, and second, for the sake of national defense. The Bill also stipulates that the government must adopt the broad policy, but does not make it directly accountable for funding space infrastructure.


FAQs

1. What are the Five United Nations Treaties Frequently Referred to as "Treaties on Outer Space"?

Ans- The Five United Nations Treaties Frequently Referred to as "Treaties on Outer Space" are as follows-

  • The Outer Space treaty

  • The Rescue Agreement

  • The Registration Convention

  • The Liability Convention

  • The Moon Agreement


2. What are the Legal Principles and Declarations Governing Space Law?

Ans-There are majorly five Principles and Declarations Governing Space Law-

  • The Broadcasting Principles

  • The Remote Sensing Principles

  • The Nuclear Power Sources Principles

  • The Benefits Declaration


3. What Covered under Space Law?

Ans- Space law covers a wide range of topics, including, for instance, the protection of both the environment of space and the environment of Earth, an obligation for damages caused by objects in space, the resolution of conflicts the rescue of astronauts, the exchange of data regarding inherent risks in outer space, the application of technologies related to space, and international cooperation.


4. In which year Department of ISRO came under the control of DOS (Department of Space)?

Ans- ISRO came under DOS control in September 1972.


5. When the did the Domestic Space Law i.e. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Act) Signed?

Ans- The Domestic Space Law i.e. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Act) was signed on July 29, 1958.





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