Who regulates space law?

The past few decades have witnessed the biggest changes in space establishment since the Cold War. Between Sputnik 1 and SpaceX Falcon 9, we've seen more nations establish their own defensive space commands, diversify their space technologies, and even demonstrate potentially destructive capabilities for the world to see. However, to understand the future ahead, we must consider the state of space governance now. We then describe the current legal systems, which collectively constitute the global spatial governance system, while identifying and critically explaining the shortcomings within those systems.

In doing so, we will show possible paths to stronger global space governance to ensure the security and sustainability of space for the future future. Global space governance was born out of the Cold War era, where only a few actors, namely the United States (U.S. UU. In today's world, however, 72 nations claim to have space agencies and 14 are capable of performing orbital launches.

Unfortunately, this means that low- to middle-income countries have been largely excluded from writing the rules that are still in place more than half a century later. In addition, the five founding organizations of the United Nations (UN,. However, with the rapid pace of space development, the future of space governance will need to encompass additional threats caused by novel changes in the world order. This will prove to be a delicate, if not deceptive, balancing act between encouraging democratization, boosting commercialization and containing militarization.

For more than half a century, the UN,. He has been the main facilitator of global space law and governance. The Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) was established to support Governments in building legal, technical and political infrastructure to support global space activities. In addition to helping states understand space law and develop their own national space policy in line with the established global governance framework, UNOOSA maintains a register of objects launched into outer space and plays an essential role in forming additional international organizations to address specific problem areas of spatial regulation.

COPUOS and its 95 member States discuss topics such as the regulation of space debris, the extraction of space resources, the standardization of small satellites such as CubeSats, the nuclearization of outer space and the threats posed by asteroids and other types of space rocks, among other areas that require and space law with purpose. These activities are divided between the two subcommittees of the Committee, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee, and meet annually to discuss issues related to major space treaties and international mechanisms for space cooperation. Do you want to learn more about the history of the space race with first-hand resources? Visit the Wilson Center Space Race Digital Archive, which houses documents on the 20th century competition for supremacy in space flight capability between the United States and the Soviet Union. To supplement these gaps, four additional treaties were created, but to a large extent they did not succeed in garnering sufficient support and mitigating the shortcomings of their predecessors.

Expanding Articles 5 and 8 of the OST, the second U, N. The space treaty “The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched to Outer Space”, called the Rescue Agreement (196), states that States must take measures to rescue and assist astronauts in the event of an accident, danger or emergency landing, and return them to their launch state, in addition to helping launch states recover space objects returning to Earth outside the native launch state. Despite the fact that the Rescue Agreement is clear as to the status of astronauts as “envoys of humanity”, there has not yet been an opportunity for other States to test the effectiveness of the Agreement or to help an astronaut in distress when a state's astronauts or cosmonauts were in danger. The space treaty, “Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects”, called the Liability Convention (197), describes the liability of launching States for damage caused by their space objects, both on Earth and in space, as well as the procedures for resolving claims for damages suffered.

This means that states are still responsible for any space assets launched from their territory, which implies that the same states are responsible for any damage in the event of an accident. Under the Liability Convention, claims for damage or destruction are brought by a State against a State, regardless of who caused the incident, whether it is a commercial actor or a state space agency. Under most domestic legal instruments, an individual or industry could initiate a lawsuit against another person or industry, but with respect to international space law, the Liability Convention determined that States are ultimately responsible, even if an incident is caused by an actor private. The Liability Convention has only been invoked once, in 1978, when the USSR Cosmos 954 satellite accidentally re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, dispersing about 50 kg of radioactive uranium-235 over northern Canada.

Although this area was sparsely populated, several residents were accidentally exposed to radiation before a major recovery campaign succeeded in sweeping a total area of 124,000 square kilometers in the course of almost a year (Karacalıoğlu, 201.The fifth treaty, “The Agreement Governing the Activities of States in the Moon and other celestial bodies, known as the Moon Treaty (198), have received the least support from member nations for their reaffirmation and elaboration of the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty in the context of the appropriation and exploration of the Moon and the exploitation of its resources. The Moon Treaty states that the Moon shall be used by all states “exclusively for peaceful purposes”, and that “(A), any threat or use of force or any other hostile act or threat of hostile act on the Moon is prohibited. In addition, it prohibits the placement or use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on the Moon, as well as the “establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers (U, N. Following the ratification of the five United Nations,.

Fundamental space treaties, with much or little support, the international space law community shifted to the development of voluntary consensus principles and guidelines for space operations, debris mitigation and space sustainability. In addition to the five general multilateral treaties, the UN,. He oversaw the drafting and formulation of five sets of principles adopted by the General Assembly, including the Declaration of Legal Principles. While these influential voluntary international guidelines may contain more detailed, challenging and aspirational objectives, they are not binding.

In addition to the “Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space”, the four additional statements were: Apart from UNOOSA and UNCOPUOS and their mechanisms, another forum dedicated to discussing and negotiating arms control and disarmament agreements, is the Conference of Disarm (CD). Organization, is connected to the U, N. Through a personal representative of the UN,. Secretary General and considers the recommendations of the UNGA, as well as the proposals of its members.

The Conference on Disarmament is responsible for successfully negotiating a number of non-proliferation treaties, in particular the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The Conference on Disarmament has a broad mandate that encompasses, inter alia, the negotiation and discussion of the “cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; the prevention of nuclear war; the prevention of an arms race in outer space; effective international agreements that give assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States against or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and new types of weapons of mass destruction. However, due to the impasse in member States, there have been insufficient substantive discussions and debates on critical measures such as the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) and nuclear disarmament. Binding national governance and enforcement mechanisms promote space security in accordance with each state's unique interpretation of international law of common space, accepted best practices and expected standards of conduct.

However, disparities in interpretations by each state can lead space operators to adopt “flags of convenience”, either to avoid costly analysis, designs or operational mandates, or to circumvent stricter regulations. As a result, space operators and the commercial industry tend to favor non-binding industry best practices and self-government. Image CreditWilson Center's Across Karman Project In an era when space evolves and develops more rapidly than intergovernmental organizations can sustain, it is very clear that the current framework of global space governance, a product of the Cold War, is no longer adequate. As it stands, the global space governance framework excludes many space activities and allows actors to operate under broad and often conflicting interpretations of existing agreements.

While there have been many attempts to improve the governance framework, progress in this area has stalled, largely due to diplomatic stagnations among international actors, and has had a negative impact on the sustainable development of space. Of the five international agreements mentioned above, the Outer Space Treaty (196), the Rescue Agreement (196), the Liability Convention (197) and the Registration Conventions (197) require substantial clarification in order to apply many of their principles to emerging space activities and issues , such as satellite service, space traffic management, tourism or space debris mitigation. The Moon Treaty (197) has too few signatories to be fully effective. While countries have tried to improve or complement these agreements over the years, there have been no new multilateral agreements since the 1970s.

Instead, non-binding rules have emerged largely because of the ease with which they can be created and enforced, however effective or ineffective they may be. Often slow to act, limited in authority and stuck by political stalemate, international organizations such as COPUOS and, more indirectly, UNOOSA, which were created to advance global space governance, are failing to advance their mission. While this has not deterred nations with space programmes from proposing new multilateral policies that address changing uses of space through international forums, important technological advances, such as the rapid advancement of the commercial space sector, are often overlooked. This gives rise to concern, especially since private entities are not bound by the Outer Space Treaty or by any of the other agreements.

Another noteworthy obstacle is that different States have different priorities when it comes to transparency and confidence-building measures (CBMs), and often competing economic and military interests tend to stall such efforts. As our dependence on space increases, what are the implications for global critical infrastructure? Do risks to space capabilities threaten global economic development and international security? Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Aerospace Corporation experts discuss the future of space governance at this event organized at the Wilson Center. In response to recent failures in promoting international agreements, the development of national space policies is on the increase. Take the U.S.

These documents cover our human space exploration program (SPD-); commercial space regulations (SPD-); national space traffic management (SPD-); the creation of the Space Force (SPD-); cybersecurity in space (SPD-); and space nuclear energy and propulsion (SPD-. With the addition of the U.S. The growth of the commercial space sector has proven to be the only space-related development since the foundations of international space governance were laid in the 1960s and 1970s. This has greatly contributed to trade interests being given a higher priority as new national policies are developed.

While they are given lower priority than national security (that is,. The preference for developing national policies rather than international agreements reflects both the emerging value of commercial space and the stagnation of international space governance. And Russia distinguishes itself from other nations, as they have the strongest set of national laws and regulatory organizations designed with international space commitments in mind. However, among the 28 nations with national space policies, there is little policy convergence.

States' decisions to develop unilateral space policies, with little concern for international cooperation, are creating more constraints than benefits. Lack of cooperation only aggravates existing political confusion and slows down the development of commercial space activities. Notable examples include satellite service operations and space traffic management, which have significant economic value but cannot be fully developed without better cooperation because of their need for shared standards and best practices, just as civil aviation could not work effectively. if states did not agree on standards and best practices for air traffic control or flight safety.

As global commons, if the objective is to take full advantage of the economic value of near-Earth space, then unilateral national policies cannot replace international agreements. Current trends suggest that the number of space actors and their interests will increase in the coming years. Consequently, competition for the use of space is likely to widen and intensify, with more actors pursuing their interests and disagreements becoming more common. Current international space governance will not be able to manage the changing nature of space development.

A new governance is needed, structured differently. Undoubtedly, space has undergone some significant changes since the turn of the century, and so has its threat landscape. Although space was once seen as a peaceful sanctuary for scientific purposes, it has become the new playing field for major power competition between the U.S. In addition to the superpowers, there are now a greater number of nations and non-state actors involved in space activities, and the role of commercial actors in space is increasingly considerable.

While the privatization of space has so far proven to be primarily a Western phenomenon, nations around the world are beginning to adopt the public-private partnership model and will follow its example. As such, since an increasingly democratized and more accessible space will inevitably bring more man-made threats and challenges to space sustainability, it will be necessary to strengthen the current system of space governance to effectively address the challenges of the near future. The process of developing new rules for movement in space has been complicated by the rapid proliferation of space technology among new actors. Throughout the Cold War era, when technology was in the hands of few states, reaching consensus on treaties was much easier due to the shared interest of the permanent members of the UN,.

The Security Council will monitor the diffusion of technology. Today, the same technologies that were in the hands of a select few are in the hands of dozens of countries. As such, there is less incentive to collaborate in modifying or updating Cold War-era provisions, which has led to a stalemate in international bodies originally established to promote global space governance. In the absence of a multilateral consensus on the management of space activities through intergovernmental organizations, namely, the United Nations,.

UNOOSA, UNCOPUOS and CD), non-State actors have played an increasingly influential role in the development of space law. Currently, the international regime of space law grants legal authority to regulate and manage space activities to nation-States, not international organizations, through Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty. International agencies, such as UNCOPUOS, play a key role in standard-setting and facilitating coordination, but licensing and enforcement are carried out at the national level. The successful contributions of non-state actors to global space governance are directly correlated with the broader trend of a tense multilateral order in which international rules, standards and voluntary (or non-binding) agreements are preferred over legally binding treaties.

The declining capacity of intergovernmental organizations to create widely accepted treaties and agreements that effectively manage space activities means, therefore, that non-space nations are losing what little access they already had to shape space governance. It is therefore not surprising that successful governance through the model of space law, legally binding and verifiable measures, has become impossible to achieve in the current international political climate. Today, States have shifted their focus to standard-setting through voluntary and non-legal measures with the goal of achieving mutual understanding and reducing suspicion, competition and rivalry between states, bypassing international legal bodies altogether. For space governance to continue to succeed, states must think about modern challenges creatively and collaboratively in the long term, strictly bilateral agreements, national policies and passive support for non-binding agreements will not be enough.

It is important to note that ineffective and outdated multilateral treaties and agreements are not exclusive obstacles to global space governance alone, but rather to global governance and multilateralism in general. To stay ahead of adversaries, especially in the context of LEO's rapid development, the U.S. It must aspire to lead the creation of new space governance policies, focusing on the creation of effective and functionally specific bilateral agreements between like-minded allies and partners. The path to the development of new traffic rules for space activities, taking into account space sustainability, involves partnering with allies and partners, and would serve to overcome the current stalemate in COPUOS.

It is also important to note that, historically, bilateral agreements between major countries have influenced the broader behavior of global governance. An enabling environment for formal, standards-based international collaboration is space situational awareness (SSA) and space traffic management (STM). The new agreements on SSA and STM would allow greater transparency in the activities of different actors in space and would further reduce concerns about dual-use technologies, make in-orbit operations more precise and alleviate concerns related to orbital debris management. In addition, it is essential that best practices and traffic management regulations are initiated to prevent incidents in space.

UU. And several countries and business players are currently participating in SSA cooperation through memorandums of understanding, an increasing amount of space activity is testing the Department of Defense's ability to provide secure and actionable data. More Formal Cooperation Between the U.S. And its allies and partners are needed, possibly through the support of COPUOS.

Another key challenge that would benefit from formal, standards-based international collaboration is space debris mitigation. New space debris mitigation agreements should follow the guidelines of existing guidelines of major space agencies, such as the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines, and should be adapted and formalized as official treaties and be enforced through regulations. Importantly, the full value of space cannot be realized if the challenges posed by space debris are not addressed at the level of binding agreements, which would legally oblige States to comply with mutually agreed standards. Of the many challenges facing global space governance, increasing space debris, overcrowded orbits, radio frequency interference, issues of spectrum allocation and the development of antispace capabilities, none can be addressed without re-establishing intergovernmental bodies with the capacity to develop an effective outer space regime.

Outdated provisions whose definitions and vague language are left to the interpretation of states should be reviewed and new rules for participation should be developed. Despite all political obstacles, decision leaders must prioritize the development of effective international space law, first and foremost by committing to strengthening international dialogues, encouraging openness, greater transparency and information exchange, and avoiding pushing national agendas rather than ensure that space remains a world heritage. For the current status of international agreements related to outer space activities, visit the U. Status of international agreements relating to outer space activities of the Office for Outer Space Affairs.

The Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) takes forecasting to the frontier. Our experts explore emerging technologies through vital conversations, making science policy accessible to all. Read More One Woodrow Wilson Plaza1300 Pennsylvania Ave. International space law is governed by a 1967 agreement known as the Outer Space Treaty.

The treaty allows all nations to use and explore the moon and celestial bodies, prohibits sovereignty claims and requires nations to supervise the activities of private space companies. The space has the support of its audience. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. We explain why you can trust us.

By Elizabeth Howell Published 27 October 17, Because space is an area with no definite boundaries, there are many questions about legal jurisdiction in spaceships orbiting the Earth and other celestial bodies. Space-navigating nations have agreed on a variety of policies and treaties that relate to space exploration activities. As soon as humans reached for the stars, some looked up the law books. A year after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, the United Nations General Assembly created an Ad Hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOUS).

In 1960, the International Institute of Space Law, a non-governmental organization, was created to promote international cooperation in the process of drafting space laws. Today, several universities around the world offer programs and degrees in space law. The field of space law evolved to address issues such as property rights, weapons in space, protection of astronauts and other issues. However, space law remains a difficult field to define.

While there are treaties that have been voluntarily signed by many nations, technological advances mean that private companies can now participate in space exploration, and these entities may not be covered by some existing treaties (depending on one's legal interpretation of them). In addition, national priorities change over time, and those priorities may not be reflected in treaties that were created decades ago. The United Nations describes this committee as the focal point where international entities negotiate how to use space peacefully. COPUOUS's duties include exchanging information on space, monitoring what governments and non-governmental organizations do in space, and promoting international cooperation.

COPUOUS also formed two subcommittees in 1962 to deal with legal issues and scientific and technical developments; secretariat services are provided by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). COPUOUS has also created five sets of principles to support these treaties. Perhaps the most famous effort to put weapons into space was the United States Strategic Defense Initiative, sometimes dubbed Star Wars. President Ronald Reagan first announced it in 1983.Some parts of the system were tested on Earth, but it was never completed.

The concern was that parts of the space-weapon system would violate the Outer Space Treaty. For the time being, the Outer Space Treaty says that space and celestial bodies cannot be claimed by other nations, but it is not clear how these provisions would apply to private companies. The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (see above) does not allow claims. But with nations talking about landing on places like the Moon and Mars, it's unclear how exploitation rights and property rights would work in the case of adjacent colonies.

Some suggest that Antarctica, a territory not owned by any nation and used primarily for scientific purposes, could be a model to follow, but not everyone agrees. Satellites located approximately 26,000 miles (41,800 kilometers) above the equator have the same rotation period as Earth. This allows them to stay in approximately the same location on Earth for years while using a minimum of fuel, making them useful for telecommunication signals. These time slots are limited and are regulated by the International Telecommunication Union.

In 1976, eight nations in Ecuador attempted to exercise ownership of this space under the Bogotá Declaration, which was largely ignored, due to the way property claims are handled under the Outer Space Treaty. Please refresh the page and try again. Space is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and a leading digital publisher. Visit our corporate site (opens in a new tab).

There could be risks of suffering in space machines and the spatial colonization of organisms or the potentials of synthetic phenomenology (such as artificial life). Many space nations seem to believe that discussing a new space agreement or an amendment to the Outer Space Treaty would be futile and time-consuming, because deep-rooted differences in resource appropriation, property rights and other issues related to commercial activity make consensus unlikely. The launch marked a new era of space travel, as Elon Musk's SpaceX became the first private company to transport astronauts into space. Through the implementation of radio regulations and regional agreements, ITU ensures that radio frequency spectrum and associated satellite orbits are used equitably, efficiently and economically by states and avoids physical and electromagnetic interference in the geosynchronous orbit.

The Rescue Agreement, the Liability Convention and the Registration Convention are based on the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty. Space law also seeks to provide a framework for dispute resolution for matters arising in space. New actors and new topics were emerging, and new topics were being discussed in the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, such as the problem of space debris and the promotion of space law. Proof of this is the adoption, in 1963, by the General Assembly, of the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space and the elaboration, within the United Nations, of five treaties and principles; the basic one is the Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force on 10 October 1967, and to which some 100 States are parties.

In the last thirty years, states have also relied on non-binding international agreements to generate rules and regulations in space, to generate norms without inhibiting the diversity of interests in space. Since the Cold War, 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) and the International Telecommunication Union have served as a constitutional and joint legal framework for principles and procedures constituting space law. . .