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Todays Date
19 October 2017

Law relating to Space

Space law comprises all the law that may govern or apply to outer space and activities in and relating to outer space…’Space Law’ is the Law of Space, and can range from the terms of an insurance contract in respect of a particular space launch to the broadest of principles that govern how states act in outer space. Some ‘Space law’ is therefore simply the application of the principles of existing domestic law such as contract to a new field activity. ‘Space Law’ is particular law, developed to deal with the practical problems of the use and exploration of outer space.(1)

In other words the space law may be defined as “the body of regulations in international that governs conduct in and related to areas of space above Earth’s lower atmosphere.”(2)

It can be said that the Space law can be described as that branch of law which is applicable to and governing the space law related activities. The space law is that area of law which includes all the national and international conduct in the outer space.

Outer space….shall be free for exploration and use by all States…in accordance with international law.(3) States Parties to the Treaty shall carry on activities in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, in accordance with international law.(4)

LAW RELATING TO SPACE

It may be discussed under two heads:-

(A) Law relating to space at International level.

(B) Law relating to space at National level (i.e., law relating to space in India).

(A) Law relating to Space at International Level:- Space law is a creature of international law which is a combination of customs and treaties. An example of customary space law is the principle of free passage in space established when the USSR launched Sputnik into orbit and crossed over territories other than its own without protest from those countries.(5) In the year 1959, the United Nations created the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space created two sub- committees, the Scientific and Technical sub-committee and Legal sub-committee. It can be said that the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has been a primary forum for discussion and negotiate of international agreements on outer space. There were five international treaties which have been negotiated and drafted in the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space:-

(1) The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, (2) The Rescue Agreement of 1968, (3) The Liability Convention of 1972, (4) The Registration Convention of 1975, and (5) The Moon Treaty of 1979.

(1) The Outer Space Treaty of 1967:- The primary treaty governing the law of space is the Treaty on the Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies or more commonly known as the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The Outer Space Treaty was created shortly after United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space set forth its fundamentals governing the use of outer space and incorporates and expands upon those fundamentals and serves as the parent for the subject matter of the other four space law treaties. The overriding principle of the Outer Space Treaty is that space is the common heritage of all mankind and that all nations have access to space and the resources contained within it and that the territory in outer space, on the moon or other celestial bodies cannot be claimed by any nation. This prohibition does not extend to private individuals or legal entities.(6)

The Outer Space Treaty specifically bans the placement of nuclear weapons or any other weapon of mass destruction in the orbit of Earth or on any celestial body. It does not specifically address the placement of non-nuclear weapons or those that are not capable of causing mass destruction.

(2) The Rescue Agreement of 1968:- The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space or more commonly known as the Rescue Agreement expands on the duties introduced in the Outer Space Treaty to render assistance to astronauts in distress. The Rescue agreement delineates the requirements of a State to come to the aid of astronauts in distress.(7)

(3) The Liability Convention of 1972:- The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects or more commonly known as the Liability Convention expands the principles of liability for damage caused by space objects introduced in the Outer Space Treaty. Two scenarios are envisioned by the Liability Convention:- (a) a space object causes damage to the surface of the earth or an aircraft in flight; or (b) a space object causes damage some place other than the surface of the earth i.e., outer space or another celestial body.(8)

(4) The Registration Convention of 1975:- The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space or more commonly known as the Registration Convention builds on the principle of the Outer Space Treaty concerning the registration of objects launched by a State. The impetus behind the Registration Convention is to ensure the peaceful use of outer space by creating a duty for States to create a registry of spacecraft that it launches and to make that registry available for public inspection.(9)

(5) The Moon Treaty of 1979:- The final and most controversial child of the Outer Space Treaty is the Agreement Governing the Activities on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies or more commonly known as the Moon Treaty. The Moon Treaty takes the concept of non-appropriation by nations from the Outer Space Treaty and closes the loophole for private entities barring them from laying claim to the moon or other celestial bodies and extending that prohibition to resources as well. The Moon Treaty expands the “common heritage” language and suggest that not only is extraterrestrial property and the resources contained within belong to all mankind, but the technology and means to obtain those resources must be shared with who could not otherwise obtain it on their own. This suggests that intellectual property rights as well as real property and resources rights are implicated as well.(10)

(B) Law relating to space at National level (i.e., law relating to space in India):- Space legislation in India is the ultimate need of the nation, especially because India is progressively looking forward to privatize and commercialize space assets, expand and develop capability in space exploration and scientific discovery, commercialize its competence to build satellites and offer launch service from its launch vehicles.(11)

India is a party to all the above significant international treaties i.e., (1) The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, (2) The Rescue Agreement of 1968, (3) The Liability Convention of 1972, (4) The Registration Convention of 1975, and (5) The Moon Treaty of 1979.

As far as India is concerned, India has a tremendous heritage in the field of scientific research. In this juncture, we must thank our Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for his vision relating to the space law in India. The space revolution in India began with the launching of small sounding rockets from the Thumba Equitorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in the year 1963 under the support of the United Nations. In 1975, India entered in to the space age by the launching of the first scientific satellite namely Aryabhatta on 19 April 1975 from the former Soviet Cosmodrome at Baikanur. The launching of SLV-3 in July 1980 brought India more close to the dream of achieving indigenous satellite launch capability. With the launch of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on 15 October 1994, India achieved the indigenous satellite launch capability. India has now specially made PSLV and Geosynchrous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).(12)

The space and space related matters in India are regulated by legal rules belonging to domestic laws. This is because India does not have any legislation on space and space related matters. At present the position in India is that space industry is legally determined by the Indian Constitution, 1950. Articles mentioned in the constitution of India foster respect for International Law such as Article 51 of the Indian Constitution imposes on the state obligation to strive for the promotion of international peace and security, including maintaining just and reasonable relation between nations, respect for international law and treaty obligation, and settlement of international dispute by arbitration. Under Art 73 the executive power of the union extends a) to the matter relating to which parliament has power to make laws, b) to exercise of such rights, authority and jurisdiction as one exercisable by the Government of India by virtue of any treaty or agreement.(13)

Our space legislation should incorporate (i) the legal issues connected to launch services (space transportation systems); (ii) the legal issues connected to satellite telecommunications, including satellite broadcasting; (iii) analyze issues associated to earth observation services as well as data processing and distribution; (iv) satellite navigational systems and (v) analyzes the intellectual property.

CONCLUSION

Space law can be described as that branch of law which is applicable to and governing the space law related activities. The space law is that area of law which includes all the national and international conduct in the outer space. India does not have any legislation on space and space related matters. At present the position in India is that space industry is legally determined by the Indian Constitution, 1950. Articles mentioned in the constitution of India foster respect for International Law such as Article 51 of the Indian Constitution imposes on the state obligation to strive for the promotion of international peace and security, including maintaining just and reasonable relation between nations, respect for international law and treaty obligation, and settlement of international dispute by arbitration.

ENDNOTES

(1). Francis Lyall & Paul B. Larsen, Space Law: A Treatise 2 (2009).

(2). Definition of Space Law, Encyclopedia Britannica Online: Academic Edition 2011, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/557401/space-law

(3). Outer Space Treaty Article I.

(4). Ibid, Article III.

(5). Listner J. Michael, International Space Law: An Overview of Law and Issues, New Hampshire Bar Journal, Spring 2011, p. 62.

(6). Ibid, p. 62.

(7). Ibid, p. 63.

(8). Ibid, p. 63.

(9). Ibid, p. 64.

(10). Ibid, p. 64.

(11). Kaushik Dhar Mr., Need of Space Law in India, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, p. 1, available at http://works.bepress.com/kaushikdhar/1/

(12). Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO); www.isro.org

(13). Kaushik Dhar Mr., Need of Space Law in India, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, p. 2, availabe at http://works.bepress.com/kaushikdhar/1/

 

Ritesh Kumar

Ritesh Kumar

I am a studious boy
Ritesh Kumar

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