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date: 18 October 2018

The Outer Space Treaty

Summary and Keywords

Negotiated at the United Nations and in force since 1967, the Outer Space Treaty has been ratified by over 100 countries and is the most important and foundational source of space law. The treaty, whose full title is “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,” governs all of humankind’s activities in outer space, including activities on other celestial bodies and many activities on Earth related to outer space. All space exploration and human spaceflight, planetary sciences, and commercial uses of space—such as the global telecommunications industry and the use of space technologies such as position, navigation, and timing (PNT), take place against the backdrop of the general regulatory framework established in the Outer Space Treaty.

A treaty is an international legal instrument which balances rights and obligations between states, and exists as a kind of mutual contract of shared understandings, rights, and responsibilities between them. Negotiated and drafted during the Cold War era of heightened political tensions, the Outer Space Treaty is largely the product of efforts by the United States and the USSR to agree on certain minimum standards and obligations to govern their competition in “conquering” space. Additionally, the Outer Space Treaty is similar to other treaties, including treaties governing the high seas, international airspace, and the Antarctic, all of which govern the behavior of states outside of their national borders. The treaty is brief in nature and only contains 17 articles, and is not comprehensive in addressing and regulating every possible scenario. The negotiating states knew that the Outer Space Treaty could only establish certain foundational concepts such as freedom of access, state responsibility and liability, non-weaponization of space, the treatment of astronauts in distress, and the prohibition of non-appropriation of celestial bodies. Subsequent treaties were to refine these concepts, and national space legislation was to incorporate the treaty’s rights and obligations at the national level.

While the treaty is the cornerstone in the regulation of activities in outer space, today the emergence of new issues that were not contemplated at the time of its creation, such as small satellites and megaconstellations, satellite servicing missions, the problem of space debris and the possibility of space debris removal, and the use of lunar and asteroid resources, all stretch the coherence and continuing adequacy of the treaty, and may occasion the need for new governance frameworks.

Keywords: international law, space law, outer space, province of all mankind, space exploration, United Nations

Introduction

Some may be surprised to learn that there is a body of law applicable to outer space. When we think of lawyers and their work, we may envision tense courtroom scenes with lawyers pleading with juries, or picture sophisticated legal offices where polished professionals draft contracts and negotiate major business deals on behalf of their well-heeled clients. It may therefore come as a surprise to learn that there is a small but thriving profession of legal professionals with a special focus on activities in outer space.

And while space law began at the international level as binding international conventions between states, it also exists on the national level as national space legislation creating space agencies and regulating commercial aerospace companies, and on the contractual level between commercial partners (including satellite owners, satellite operators, and launch service providers). The most fundamental pillar of space law exists at the international level, as a binding international treaty between sovereign states. Drafted and negotiated at the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the 1967 Outer Space Treaty is the most important source of rights and obligations between states (and, by extension, between people) in the access, exploration, and use of outer space.

Since 1967, the Outer Space Treaty has been ratified by 105 states around the world. Additionally, a further 25 states have signed the treaty, which expresses their intention to ratify it in the future, or at least to not take actions which violate the intentions of the treaty. The 50 years of state’s enjoying their rights and observing their obligations under the treaty attest to its success in aiding the exploration and use of space, and of the benefit that exploration and use of outer space brings to societies here on Earth.

Reflecting on the background of the Outer Space Treaty, including the geopolitical context which gave rise to it, as well as reading and analyzing the relatively short text itself will show both what geopolitical concerns informed the treaty, and how they were solved through careful and creative diplomacy. As the foundational source of international law applicable to space activities, the Outer Space Treaty contains the framework to which national and international space activities must conform.

Cold War and the Space Race

As the two global superpowers who emerged as geopolitical rivals in the aftermath of World War II, the United States and the USSR engaged in contests to assert not just the superiority of their technological and military capability, but the superiority of their very ideologies and the organization of their society. While the United States was the first to detonate an atomic weapon and harness the power of the atom, the USSR was the first to place the first artificial object into orbit around the Earth, along with a number of other historic firsts (Burrows, 1998).

Launched in 1957, Sputnik-1 spurred the “Space Race” between the Americans and the Soviets. Indeed, the list of firsts in space by the USSR is impressive: first artificial satellite, first signals from space, first living creature in orbit (1957), first object to leave Earth’s orbit, first object to impact another celestial body, first photos on the far side of the Moon (1959), first human in space, first planetary flyby (1961), first spacewalk (1965), and others. By the mid-1960s, however, the United States was aiming to accomplish a major first in space, that of the first human to land on another celestial body, which it accomplished in 1969 with the Apollo 11 mission. While these technological firsts were being accomplished, the international legal regime for outer space was being considered, including especially the security implications of spaceflight and the responsibility and liability implications of space objects (Burrows, 1998; McDougall, 1985).

International Law

International law is the body of law created for application on the international level, governing the activities of states and the relationships between them. The statute of the International Court of Justice (the judicial organ of the United Nations) lists the three primary sources of international law: treaties, customary law, and general principles of law. Beneath these three main categories are judicial decisions, and the writings of the most “highly qualified publicists” of the law (i.e., academics). Any of these sources of law may contain provisions which, in the broadest sense, apply to outer space and to activities on Earth affecting outer space. However, the Outer Space Treaty is the first treaty which specifically addresses space activities, and it therefore contains law of a more specific nature for space activities. As a more specific source of law for space, the legal maxim lex specialis derogat legi generali (“general law defers to special law”) applies, making the Outer Space Treaty the primary source of law regulating activities and topics which it addresses.

Similar International Regimes

A number of other similar international regimes are in place, governing common spaces outside of a state’s territory, and developed in light of technological advancements in the 20th century. The 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation (also known as the Chicago Convention) is an international treaty between states which regulates commercial civil air travel. States have absolute sovereignty over their airspace, so the idea of letting foreign aircraft enter into, land, pick-up or drop-off passengers, and take off again would otherwise be very difficult were these ideas not addressed in an international legal context. Additionally, the majority of the Earth’s surface and therefore airspace is outside of any state’s territory, so there must be rules for the transit of aircraft through those spaces. Aircraft, like ships, have a “nationality,” and even when they are outside of that state’s territory, part of their flag state’s laws continue to apply (Haanappel, 2003).

The Chicago Convention is a very successful treaty, being very widely ratified (191 states are party to it), well-observed and complied with, and a treaty that has allowed the commercial aviation industry to grow to be the global, multibillion industry that it is today. The Chicago Convention also established a governing body, the International Civil Aviation Administration (ICAO) as an organization within the United Nations system tasked with coordinating the regulation of civil (non-military) air travel. As a treaty governing the activities of states in their conduct outside of their territory, the Chicago Convention is a great example of successful international law in an analogous regime, and aviation law has concepts with overlap in space law.

Another treaty system governs the Antarctic, another place on Earth outside of any particular state’s territory. The 1959 Antarctic Treaty governs the Antarctic as an international commons as a treaty between 12 states with pre-existing claims or activities on the Antarctic continent (Buck, 1998). A number of provisions of the Antarctic Treaty were carried over into space law, including the requirements that the Antarctic be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, the freedom of scientific investigation in the Antarctic, and that scientific observations and inspections be open to other states who are party to the treaty.

Additionally, the Antarctic Treaty is similar in scope and aims to the Outer Space Treaty, as each are relatively brief when compared to other treaties on international spaces. The Antarctic Treaty is a mere 14 articles, while the Outer Space Treaty is 17. This could be compared to the much longer Chicago Convention, and with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, the Antarctic Treaty has been supplemented with a number of subsequent documents such as the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS), as well as the main regulations for the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty. Together this list of documents forms the Antarctic Treaty System. In turn, the Outer Space Treaty was augmented and expanded with a few subsequent treaties which supplement a few of its main articles.

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is another treaty governing another zone outside of state territory (these places are sometimes called international commons, or global commons.) In distinction to outer space or the Antarctic, UNCLOS is a very comprehensive and detailed legal framework for the high seas. Additionally, humankind has used the seas for millennia, so there is a large amount of practice and custom to look to when determining the applicable law. Consequently, before UNCLOS came into force, it was not the case that there were simply no laws applicable to the high seas. However, the treaty was created to formalize and to make clear what rights and obligations states have in this domain. The situation was quite different for outer space, which was—and continues to be—a new domain for activities.

The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

In 1958, the U.S. State Department proposed to the United Nations that a committee should be established to consider the legal implications of spaceflight and space exploration. The Outer Space Treaty, along with the various resolutions and principles (as well as the subsequent treaties expanding the Outer Space Treaty) were all negotiated and drafted by COPUOS, a specialized body of the UN organized under the United Nations General Assembly, and currently comprised of over 80 states. All the major space treaties, as well as many subsequent instruments on space are products of COPUOS. COPUOS originally met at United Nations headquarters in New York and Geneva, but now meets at the United Nations at Vienna in Austria. COPUOS has two subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, and the Legal Subcommittee, which both meet for two weeks every year before the larger COPUOS plenary body meets for a week and a half in the summer, also in Vienna.

The core space treaties drafted and negotiated by COPUOS are the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the 1968 Astronaut Agreement, the 1972 Liability Convention, and the 1975 Registration Convention. A later treaty, the 1979 Moon Agreement, is also in force, but only for a small minority of states, none of which are important global space powers. COPUOS was also the home for a number of non-binding sources of space law, including UNGA Resolution 1721 (XVI) B of 1961 on international registration, and UNGA Resolution 1962 (XVIII) of 1963, the so-called “Principles Declaration” on space activities, both of which were developed before the Outer Space Treaty and whose texts contained language which was used in the Outer Space Treaty.

Subsequent to the creation of the core space law treaties, work within COPUOS led to the development of various principles related to direct television broadcast, remote sensing, nuclear power sources, and the various guidelines related to space debris. Two important international sets of guidelines exist concerning space debris: the (more technical) guidelines from the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) done outside of COPUS, and the COPUOS Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines, which are a more political and less technically-detailed version of the IADC guidelines. Recent work within COPUOS has continued to focus on pressing issues in space activities, including sustainability in outer space and the development of guidelines on the long-term sustainability of space activities (Hitchens, 2016; Martinez, 2016).

Development of the Outer Space Treaty

The initial impetus for the development of a treaty on outer space began with a realization within the U.S. government that in order to ensure the possibility of peaceful civil space exploration as well as national satellite reconnaissance, and to prevent nuclear proliferation in Earth’s orbit, certain minimum obligations must be placed on states. The first development in this area was within COPUOS, with the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space. This “Principles Declaration” was subsequently enshrined in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1962 (XVIII) of December 13, 1963. The drafting and negotiation of this Principles Declaration outlined many of the important provisions and principles governing space activities which were to make their way into the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

In 1966, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson sent a letter to the acting U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Arthur Goldberg, to begin work on a space treaty. His rationale, for certain minimum guidelines and a delineation of basic rights and responsibilities, and for these rights and obligations to be placed into an international legal instrument with binding force upon states (Johnson, 1966), made sense to other state actors in the space domain, most importantly to the other major power, the USSR.

The Outer Space Treaty

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty is regarded as the Magna Carta of space law and its primacy, scope, and lasting utility lives up to that moniker. As of 2017, the Outer Space Treaty has been ratified by (and is therefore binding upon) 105 states in the world, and is signed by an additional 25 states (United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, 2017). States which are party to the Outer Space Treaty are all the most important and powerful spacefaring states, including the historical space powers such as the United States, Russia, and China, as well as emerging space powers. It is often the case that when states which are new to space activities wish to signal to the international community that they are now serious and committed actors in the space field, they sign and ratify the Outer Space Treaty along with the subsequent space treaties which expand and refine its provisions.

In addition to the text of the treaty creating rights and binding obligations for the states which have signed and ratified it as a legal instrument, some core provisions of the Outer Space Treaty can also be cited as a source of customary international law. This is because states have consistently observed and adhered to the treaty and have made statements that their actions in observance of the treaty are because they, as sovereign states, see it as their international legal obligation to do so (Larsen & Lyall, 2009; Jakhu, 2010; Mann, 2017). Consequently, core provisions of the Outer Space Treaty arguably reflect the rights and obligations of states which are not party to the underlying textual treaty instrument itself. In that sense, the treaty is global and a widely successful treaty.

The most fundamental articles of the Outer Space Treaty include the freedom held by states to explore and use outer space without seeking preauthorization or permission from other states or from the UN. These great freedoms are balanced with the prohibition against national appropriation, the prohibition on the placement of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction into space, and the obligations placed on states in the oversight of their national space activities and for protecting the space and Earth environments during their space activities.

The Preamble of the Treaty

The preamble to the Outer Space Treaty is not operative, meaning that it does not create rights and obligations. Rather, the preamble in the Outer Space Treaty (as with many treaties) states the object (subject matter) and purpose (intention, vision) of the treaty. The preamble reflects the drafters’ and negotiators’ intentions, why they have taken this step—the creation of a new treaty—to change (and they believe, improve) the pre-existing international legal status quo.

The States Parties to this Treaty,

Inspired by the great prospects opening up before mankind as a result of man’s entry into outer space,

Recognizing the common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes,

Believing that the exploration and use of outer space should be carried on for the benefit of all peoples irrespective of the degree of their economic or scientific development,

Desiring to contribute to broad international cooperation in the scientific as well as the legal aspects of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes,

Believing that such cooperation will contribute to the development of mutual understanding and to the strengthening of friendly relations between States and peoples,

Recalling resolution 1962 (XVIII), entitled “Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space,” which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 1963,

Recalling resolution 1884 (XVIII), calling upon States to refrain from placing in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction or from installing such weapons on celestial bodies, which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly on 17 October 1963,

Taking account of United Nations General Assembly resolution 110 (II) of 3 November 1947, which condemned propaganda designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression, and considering that the aforementioned resolution is applicable to outer space,

Convinced that a Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, will further the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Have agreed on the following: … (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

This preamble, containing the treaty’s object and purpose, is useful in interpreting the articles of the treaty. Looking at the preamble of the treaty, we see that the drafters were inspired by the “great prospects opening up before mankind as a result of man’s entry into outer space,” and recognized the “common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes …” The preamble also reflects the belief that the exploration and use of outer space should be carried on “for the benefit of all peoples irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development.”

It should also be mentioned that the treaty, in both its title and preamble, make clear two points which might be otherwise overlooked. This is a treaty “on principles” and therefore it is not a comprehensive nor exhaustive set of exacting rules. Rather, the treaty is the first foray into attempting to articulate basic foundational concepts for the exploration and use of space. Secondly, the treaty is an international legal instrument between states and on the activities of states. States are the sole contracting parties to this treaty, and while the treaty addresses both international intergovernmental entities and non-governmental entities, this treaty exists as a contract between sovereign states with international legal personhood.

Lastly, the phrase near the end of the preamble shows the conviction that the treaty will further “the purposes and principles of the UN.” This is a UN treaty negotiated within the bureaucratic machinery of the UN’s organs and committees, and using UN style structures and phrases. As such, it is linked to the overarching principles and aims of the UN, most especially those of securing international peace and security.

The aspirations and intentions of the preamble should inform (and if necessary, correct) any interpretation of the subsequent operative articles of the treaty. No interpretation and application of the articles of the treaty should subvert, contradict, or defeat the preamble’s purpose, nor should the treaty be applied to topics and activities that it was not created to regulate.

Freedom of Exploration and Use

Article I of the Outer Space Treaty establishes the all-important rights held by states parties to the treaty, to access, explore, and use outer space.

Article I

The exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.

Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.

There shall be freedom of scientific investigation in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and States shall facilitate and encourage international cooperation in such investigation. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

This article requires that space exploration be conducted in a way which is in the benefit and interest of all countries around the world. It mandates that the activity of exploration and use of outer space shall be the “province of all mankind.” Next, Article I establishes the broad freedom of states to access, explore, and use outer space without prior consent or permission from other states. Article I uses plain language which can be approached and understood by anyone with a command of English, but its concrete and precise implications may remain unclear. Does the first sentence mean that when space exploration is undertaken by any state, it should somehow benefit all countries? What is the nature of this benefit? This has never been specifically defined or delineated, but is a general sense it can be said that space exploration furthers humankind’s competency and technological prowess, and furthers our collective understanding of the universe. Certainly 60 years of spaceflight and space exploration have caused us to rewrite our textbooks and revolutionized our understanding of the basic structures and origins of the universe. Considering not just spin-off benefits from developing space applications and technologies implemented elsewhere, space exploration and use have a myriad of benefits which underpin our globalized world, benefitting both spacefaring and non-spacefaring societies.

The broad and expansive freedom in Article I means that all states, and therefore all peoples, have the freedom of access, exploration, and use of outer space, including the Moon and celestial bodies. This freedom of Article I is the first and most important principle of international space law. No state can deny another state access to or exploration or use of space, and there is no prior permission required from international authority before conducting space activities. The phrase “province of all mankind,” though anachronistic and vague, means that the activity of exploring and using space is a right all states enjoy. As all states, both large and small, landlocked or seafaring, have territory and airspace which directly border outer space, all states can look up for inspiration as they begin to amass and develop their own space technology and space competency. From Article I, the Outer Space Treaty thereafter goes on to establish a series of fundamental principles of space activities, creating broad freedoms, and then attaching limited and explicit prohibitions and obligations to those freedoms.

Non-Appropriation

Article II of the Outer Space Treaty contains the first important limitation of the rights enshrined in Article I.

Article II

“Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means” (Outer Space Treaty, 1967).

Article II contains a kind of restriction on the freedom of Article I, by prohibiting national appropriation of outer space and of celestial bodies. The prohibition is comprehensive in stating that no methods or means (sovereign claims, use, occupation, etc.) will legitimize national appropriation or otherwise make national appropriation of space and celestial bodies lawful under international law.

What Article II prohibits and what it permits is subject to considerable debate, and many feel that while prohibiting national sovereign claims in a territorial (or “colonial”) fashion, other uses of celestial resources by states and private entities is permitted (or at least not explicitly prohibited). Indeed, any logical understanding of Article II would necessitate that some powers of use, utilization, and re-use are permitted in space—otherwise, how could many activities in space happen? Article II is a limitation on Article I rights, and this limitation should not and does not severely restrict those rights.

It is possible to understand the Article II prohibition as existing at the far end of a continuum, where national appropriation analogous to territorial expansion is clearly prohibited. At the near (and permissive) end, Article I freedoms of access, exploration, and use remain lawful and legitimate, and somewhere along that continuum, governmental, private (or mixed governmental-private) use of celestial resources to derive fuel, water, air, or useful resources is also not prohibited. Many other commercial uses of space exist, and the use of celestial resources should be included in that list.

An interpretation of these rights has recently taken place on the national level with national space legislation, such as in the United States and in Luxembourg, and it is likely that other nations will follow this clarification of their Article I freedoms on the national municipal level with domestic regulation.

Overlap With International Law

Article III of the Outer Space Treaty incorporates the space law within the larger body of international law:

Article III

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, including the Charter of the United Nations, in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation and understanding. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Article III incorporates the Outer Space Treaty within the broader body of public international law, establishing a lex specialis–lex generalis relationship whereby issues directly addressed by space law and general international law are therefore concretely adjudicated by space law. Nevertheless, for other space-related issues, this broader body of international law may be both valid and applicable.

Other areas of international law might impact the special regime of space law, though the limits and contours of that overlap is mostly undefined. The law of armed conflict, also called International Humanitarian Law, governs both the laws before an armed conflict occurs and the law to be observed during armed conflict, and is deemed to have some overlap in topics and concerns with space law. International telecommunications law, including the Convention and the Constitution of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), also overlaps with space law and is essential in the coordination and use of both radio frequencies used for space communications and the provisions of orbital slots in the geostationary arc. To the extent that other areas of international law impact space activities, they will likewise apply, subject to the aforementioned rule of lex specialis.

Some general principles of international law are also relevant. One general principle is the so-called Lotus principle, whereby restrictions on the sovereign rights of states are not to be assumed. In other words, “that which is not explicitly prohibited is thereby permitted.” This principle, famously used in the maritime context and later amended by maritime treaties, persists as a gap-filler provision to questions of international law where precise and applicable law “on point” does not seem to exist. When international law seems to be silent on any particular issue (such as the legality of resource use in space, asteroid mining, or the use of lunar resources), the Lotus principle, or “permissive principle,” might be applied to fill the gap in the law and therefore permit an activity which is not explicitly prohibited. However, the International Court of Justice and other adjudicators of international legal disputes might not mechanically rely on this gap-filling function of the Lotus principle, instead finding that the law remains unclear, and therefore despite being tasked with finding the law, modestly concluding that international law is unfortunately and frankly unclear on the issue. Rather than asserting the Lotus principle in an otherwise permissive system with only limited and clear prohibitions, perhaps space law is frankly silent and therefore unclear on many resource use questions. Considering the treaty’s limited scope as a treaty of principles which were subsequently refined, this modest approach seems as compelling and sound as any other approach.

Non-Weaponization of Outer Space

The crucial security provisions of Article IV deal with the prohibition of placing weapons of mass destruction in outer space.

Article IV

States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.

The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military [maneuvers] on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the Moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Article IV is a disarmament and security provision, prohibiting the placement into Earth orbit any objects “carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction” or from installing them on celestial bodies, or stationing such weapons in outer space in any other manner. This article concerns weapons of “mass destruction” and it may therefore permit other types of weapons. Rather than completely de-militarizing space, Article IV significantly de-weaponizes the space domain, as national militaries have used outer space for military purposes since the beginning of the space age. It could be said that all the civil and commercial space activities are outgrowths of the original military uses of space, and are conducted against the backdrop of national security interests and a geopolitical situation which has so far allowed these activities to continue. Indeed, the drafting and negotiation of the Outer Space Treaty was at a time of tensions between global “cold war” superpowers, and the treaty was initially proposed, developed, and received as a landmark disarmament and security treaty (McDougall, 1985; British Pathé, 1967).

Protection of Astronauts

Article V addresses the concerns that the United States and the USSR had about the treatment of astronauts.

Article V

States Parties to the Treaty shall regard astronauts as envoys of mankind in outer space and shall render to them all possible assistance in the event of accident, distress, or emergency landing on the territory of another State Party or on the high seas. When astronauts make such a landing, they shall be safely and promptly returned to the State of registry of their space vehicle.

In carrying on activities in outer space and on celestial bodies, the astronauts of one State Party shall render all possible assistance to the astronauts of other States Parties.

States Parties to the Treaty shall immediately inform the other States Parties to the Treaty or the Secretary-General of the United Nations of any phenomena they discover in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, which could constitute a danger to the life or health of astronauts. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Article V concerns the protection of astronauts, referring to them as “envoys of mankind” and requires that states give them protection and assistance in emergency situations, and also that states inform other states parties and the United Nations of space phenomena which might endanger astronauts. These protections and duties were more fully developed in the 1968 Astronaut Agreement, which was being negotiated almost simultaneously with the Outer Space Treaty, and discussed below.

National Oversight and International Responsibility

One of the most important provisions of the Outer Space Treaty is contained in Article VI, dealing with national governmental oversight of national space activities, whether they be governmental or non-governmental.

Article VI

States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Article VI creates a very important responsibility regime which all actors in space, whether governments, private entities, academia, and even individuals, should be aware of in their planning and execution of space activities. Article VI (in conjunction with Article VII, addressing liability) makes sovereign states the final and ultimate responsible entity for all activities in space, whether those activities are purely governmental (such as space exploration, or military activities—both traditionally national undertakings), or whether they are purely commercial and with limited governmental oversight.

Because of these stringent duties placed on states to carry international responsibility for non-governmental national space activities, including the state’s duty of authorization (licensing) and continuing supervision, and the duty to assure their conformity with international law, states have a keen interest in what their private sector is doing in space. As such, the requirements of international law should be of vital and lasting interest to any private actor or firm undertaking space activities. Legal counsel to a private space company should be aware of these public international law concerns, and of the method of their implementation on the national level (and even across multiple states). Because of this strong incentive to oversee national space activities, many states around the world have created national space legislation, setting standard and clear rules and regulations for national activities in space. As of 2017, over 30 states across the world have national space legislation (United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, 2017).

International Liability

The liability provisions in Article VII of the Outer Space Treaty create obligations for launching states for damage their space objects cause.

Article VII

Each State Party to the Treaty that launches or procures the launching of an object into outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and each State Party from whose territory or facility an object is launched, is internationally liable for damage to another State Party to the Treaty or to its natural or juridical persons by such object or its component parts on the Earth, in air space or in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

As a corollary to the Article VI international responsibility, Article VII addresses liability, a related but distinct concept. Article VII delineates four categories of Launching State: (1) a state which launches; (2) a state which procures the launch; (3) a state from whose territory a space object is launched; and/or (4) a state from whose facility an object is launched. Note that there can therefore be more than one “launching state” and this is especially common today. Nevertheless, each launching state is internationally liable for damage to any other state party to the treaty (or their natural or juridical persons) caused by its launched space object or its component parts.

This international liability for damage may accrue on the surface of the Earth, or in airspace, or in outer space (including on the Moon or other celestial bodies). The type of damage is widely considered to be physical damage, or at least have a physical aspect of the damage (and not merely financial, political, electronic, etc.) The categories of launched state were reiterated without modification in subsequent space treaties, and the provisions on liability were also expanded upon in the 1972 Liability Convention, as discussed below.

Jurisdiction and Control in Outer Space

Article II makes it clear that there is no national appropriation of outer space, and state sovereignty in outer space is thereby severely restricted. A component of sovereignty is jurisdiction, and Article VIII establishes the important jurisdictional link between states and their space objects in outer space. Jurisdiction is the power of a state to create laws, hear claims and settle disputes, and enforce its laws and judicial decisions. In order to facilitate to the duties of national licensing, oversight, and continuing supervision, jurisdiction must be extended into outer space. Article VIII establishes the mechanism for states to extend their municipal jurisdiction in an extraterritorial fashion, namely, using national registries of space objects.

Article VIII

A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body. Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the Earth. Such objects or component parts found beyond the limits of the State Party to the Treaty on whose registry they are carried shall be returned to that State Party, which shall, upon request, furnish identifying data prior to their return. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Consequently, states have the right (some see it as an obligation) to assert domestic jurisdiction over space objects by placing them on national registries. Those space objects may be objects they launched (from their territory or facility, or otherwise), or they may be space objects whose launching they procured. And while there may be more than one launching state in any particular launch, there should be just one state which lists any one object on its national registry. Their jurisdictional powers are over the personnel and over the craft itself. It would appear that these jurisdictional powers largely match in personam (the person), in rem (an object itself), and quasi in rem (interests in the object) jurisdiction, at least in those common law countries which see jurisdiction in those terms.

A distinction must be made here between national registration of space objects on a national registry, and international registration of space objects with the United Nations. Article VII of the Outer Space Treaty addresses national registries, and state jurisdiction linked to these registries. There is also international registration, as called for in UN General Assembly Resolution 1721 (XVI) B of December 1961, and subsequently made mandatory in the 1975 Registration Convention. UNGA Resolution 1721 (XVI) B calls upon “States launching objects into orbit or beyond to furnish information promptly to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, through the Secretary-General, for the registration of launchings” and requests the Secretary-General to “maintain a public registry of the information furnished[…]”

Pursuant to this UN resolution, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) maintains a public registry of space objects, accessible on its website (United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, n.d.). Additionally, pursuant to the 1975 Registration Convention, OOSA also maintains a similar and largely identical public registry of space objects, also accessible online.

Environmental Protections and Due Regard in Outer Space

Space activities must be conducted with consideration to the interests of others who are also conducting space activities, including the potential interests of future uses and users of space. These duties are established in Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty.

Article IX

In the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, States Parties to the Treaty shall be guided by the principle of cooperation and mutual assistance and shall conduct all their activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, with due regard to the corresponding interests of all other States Parties to the Treaty. States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose. If a State Party to the Treaty has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by it or its nationals in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities of other States Parties in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, it shall undertake appropriate international consultations before proceeding with any such activity or experiment A State Party to the Treaty which has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another State Party in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, may request consultation concerning the activity or experiment. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Article IX is admittedly a complex and long article. Its four sentences reflect concerns which may have been difficult to fully conceptualize and regulate at the time of their negotiation, and were therefore not easy to condense with the brevity of previous articles. However, this important article addresses environmental issues, including issues for both the terrestrial environment and the space and extraterrestrial environments. Article IX speaks of states observing principles of cooperation and mutual assistance, and of due regard to the corresponding interests of other parties to the treaty. States exploring space shall conduct exploration “so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial material …”

The article also mentions consultations between states when issues of environmental protection arise. As space activities become more advanced, this due regard principle has expanded into issues of planetary protection of unique and pristine celestial environments. Growing concerns about the protection of the space environment, and of the increasingly urgent issues of space debris, crowded orbits, and crowded electromagnetic spectrum used by space actors, continue to increase the salience of Article IX. Space sustainability has emerged as a pressing topic in the last few decades of space activities, and those urging for space sustainability look to Article IX for hard treaty law obligations. However, this complex article may require further elaboration and refinement. As previous articles in the Outer Space Treaty were subsequently expanded with their own separate treaty, it may one day become necessary for the provisions of Article IX to receive the same expansion and elaboration.

Further Provisions of the Outer Space Treaty

The subsequent articles of the Outer Space Treaty deal with other advanced issues such as information sharing between states regarding their space activities, rights of visitation on Moon bases, and the responsibilities of international intergovernmental organizations conducting space activities.

Article X

In order to promote international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, in conformity with the purposes of this Treaty, the States Parties to the Treaty shall consider on a basis of equality any requests by other States Parties to the Treaty to be afforded an opportunity to observe the flight of space objects launched by those States.

The nature of such an opportunity for observation and the conditions under which it could be afforded shall be determined by agreement between the States concerned. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Article XI

In order to promote international cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, States Parties to the Treaty conducting activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, agree to inform the Secretary General of the United Nations as well as the public and the international scientific community, to the greatest extent feasible and practicable, of the nature, conduct, locations[,] and results of such activities. On receiving the said information, the Secretary-General of the United Nations should be prepared to disseminate it immediately and effectively. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Article XII

All stations, installations, equipment[,] and space vehicles on the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be open to representatives of other States Parties to the Treaty on a basis of reciprocity. Such representatives shall give reasonable advance notice of a projected visit, in order that appropriate consultations may be held and that maximum precautions may be taken to assure safety and to avoid interference with normal operations in the facility to be visited. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Article XIII

The provisions of this Treaty shall apply to the activities of States Parties to the Treaty in the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by a single State Party to the Treaty or jointly with other States, including cases where they are carried on within the framework of international intergovernmental organizations.

Any practical questions arising in connection with activities carried on by international intergovernmental organizations in the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be resolved by the States Parties to the Treaty either with the appropriate international organization or with one or more States members of that international organization, which are Parties to this Treaty. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Final Articles

Final provisions of the treaty deal with the treaty’s ratification, entry into force, amendments, and state withdrawal from the treaty. They are common to many international treaties. Articles XV and XVI deal with withdrawal and amendment to the Outer Space Treaty.

Article XIV

  1. 1. This Treaty shall be open to all States for signature. Any State which does not sign this Treaty before its entry into force in accordance with paragraph 3 of this article may accede to it at any time.

  2. 2. This Treaty shall be subject to ratification by signatory States. Instruments of ratification and instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Governments of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland[,] and the United States of America, which are hereby designated the Depositary Governments.

  3. 3. This Treaty shall enter into force upon the deposit of instruments of ratification by five Governments including the Governments designated as Depositary Governments under this Treaty.

  4. 4. For States whose instruments of ratification or accession are deposited subsequent to the entry into force of this Treaty, it shall enter into force on the date of the deposit of their instruments of ratification or accession.

  5. 5. The Depositary Governments shall promptly inform all signatory and acceding States of the date of each signature, the date of deposit of each instrument of ratification of and accession to this Treaty, the date of its entry into force[,] and other notices.

  6. 6. This Treaty shall be registered by the Depositary Governments pursuant to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Article XV

Any State Party to the Treaty may propose amendments to this Treaty. Amendments shall enter into force for each State Party to the Treaty accepting the amendments upon their acceptance by a majority of the States Parties to the Treaty and thereafter for each remaining State Party to the Treaty on the date of acceptance by it. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Article XVI

“Any State Party to the Treaty may give notice of its withdrawal from the Treaty one year after its entry into force by written notification to the Depositary Governments. Such withdrawal shall take effect one year from the date of receipt of this notification” (Outer Space Treaty, 1967).

Article XVII

This Treaty, of which the Chinese, English, French, Russian[,] and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the Depositary Governments. Duly certified copies of this Treaty shall be transmitted by the Depositary Governments to the Governments of the signatory and acceding States.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, duly authorized, have signed this Treaty.

DONE in triplicate, at the cities of London, Moscow[,] and Washington, D.C., the twenty-seventh day of January, one thousand nine hundred and sixty-seven. (Outer Space Treaty, 1967)

Articles XV and XVI deal with withdrawal and amendment to the Outer Space Treaty, with withdrawal taking a year from notice received by depository governments to effective withdrawal. Amending has a similar cost, as it requires a majority of the states parties to the treaty to agree to the amendment. With over 100 states now party, this seems a high hurdle. As of 2017, no state has withdrawn from the Outer Space Treaty, and no efforts or even talks to amend the treaty have been discussed or brought to COPUOS.

Signing and Entry Into Force

Having been finalized by COPUOS, a subsidiary body to the United Nations General Assembly, the Outer Space Treaty was thereafter included as an annex to UNGA Resolution 2222 (XII) and adopted unanimously by the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York on December 19, 1966. In its adoption at the General Assembly, UN Secretary-General U Thant remarked that the treaty was a significant step in advancing the goals of the United Nations, but that the “door was not yet barred against military activities in space” and that space disarmament was part of the overarching problems of disarmament and international peace and security (United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law, 1966).

The preamble to Resolution 2222 requests depository governments “to open the treaty for signature and ratification at the earliest possible date,” and “expresses its hope for the widest possible adherence to the Treaty” (United Nations General Assembly, n.d.). Signing ceremonies were then held in Moscow, London, and Washington, D.C. on January 27, 1967, and the treaty entered into force for all signatory countries later that year, on October 10, 1967.

Subsequent Treaties on Space

Subsequent international space treaties were to expand, refine, and modify the rights and obligations of the Outer Space Treaty in important ways. This process seems to confirm the understanding that the Outer Space Treaty is a treaty “on principles” and is therefore not comprehensive and final in its articulation of the rights and obligations of states. It also seems to show that space law itself is an “open” legal system, still subject to further refinement and elaboration.

The Astronaut Agreement

The 1968 Astronaut Agreement clarifies and expands Article V of the Outer Space Treaty. Many of its provisions deal with the treatment of astronauts as “envoys of mankind,” although this phrase, also used in the Outer Space Treaty, is nowhere defined and there is no guidance as to what are the tasks and rights of envoys. The language may be seen as hortatory, but the duties to render assistance to astronauts, and for them to be given a speedy return to their governments, is more binding.

The Astronaut Agreement does have a few provisions which may impact other un-crewed space activities. Article 5 of the Astronaut Agreement obligates states to return space objects of other states which have landed on their territory, or in areas of the high seas or otherwise outside state jurisdiction. This duty to return space objects also addresses situations where space objects are of a hazardous nature, and a provision for the reimbursement of expenses incurred in the recover and return of space objects. With many of its provisions in line with previous instruments from COPUOS, including the just concluded Outer Space Treaty, the Astronaut Agreement was finalized in quick time, with adoption by the UN General Assembly on April 22, 1968 and entering into force December 8, 1968.

The Liability Convention

The 1972 Liability Convention expands upon and refines liability provisions in the Outer Space Treaty. Firstly, it defines damage as “loss of life, personal injury[,] or other impairment of health; or loss of or damage to property of States or of persons, natural or juridical, or property of international intergovernmental organizations.” It should be noted that these types of damages are physical in nature, and thus a lesser set of compensable damages found in most legal systems.

The Liability Convention defines what constitutes a “space object” for the purposes of the convention, but the definition is not comprehensive. It merely states that a space object includes “component parts of a space object as well as its launch vehicle and parts thereof.” Article II establishes absolute liability to pay compensation for damage caused by a space object on the surface of the Earth or in aircraft in flight. Article II addresses damage in space between states, establishing a fault-based regime. However, it goes no further in elaborating what standard that fault-based regime is based upon, who bears the burden of proof, or other legal elements in the determination of fault.

Subsequent provisions of the Liability Convention delve further into scenarios of joint liability between states causing damage to a third state. Articles VIII through XII discuss how claims for compensation are to be presented, with Article XII establishing restitution as the extent of damages awardable under the Convention. Further provisions relate to recourse to a Claims Commission if the normal diplomatic negotiations are not arrived at within one year of the submission of claims documentation. The Liability Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly on March 29, 1972 and entered into force on September 1, 1972.

The Registration Convention

The 1975 Registration Convention, which fosters general transparency amongst nations regarding their space activities, is also an important source of space law. It calls for the creation of a central registry of space objects, which is administered on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA). OOSA keeps both this registry, and one called for in UNGA Resolution 1721 (XVI) B, both in physical form and available in searchable form online.

In terms of national registries, the Registration Convention also requires, per Article II, that states parties establish their own national registries (as mentioned in the Outer Space Treaty, Article VIII). As of 2017, there are 63 states that are a party to the Registration Convention, and 31 of them have notified OOSA of their establishment of a national registry, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, and Canada, and other important space powers. International organizations such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) have also established registries. Some states place the task with their national space agency, others with their federal aviation office. Some states also create an online site for their national registry, although this is not called for in the treaty. The Registration Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly on January 15, 1975 and entered into force on September 15, 1976.

The Moon Agreement

For the sake of completeness, the 1979 Moon Agreement should also be mentioned. Concluded in 1979, the Moon Agreement did not enter into force until 1984, and is considered by many a failed treaty in the context of regulating and fostering space exploration. As of 2017, only 17 states are parties to the Moon Agreement, and while it therefore constitutes binding international law for them, there are 193 states in the international legal order, which means that 176 states (or 91% of the total) are not affected by this treaty. No major space-faring powers are a party to the Moon Agreement, although some parties to the Moon Agreement are also members of the ESA including Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

The Moon Agreement modifies pre-existing language regarding the exploration and space as the “province of all mankind” found in the Outer Space Treaty with the phrase “common heritage of all mankind,” relating that the Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of all mankind. Additionally, via Article 1.1, provisions relating to the Moon “shall also apply to other celestial bodies within the solar system …” thereby establishing that everything besides the Earth in our solar system is the common heritage of all mankind. The exploration and use of this common heritage shall be carried out “for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development.” Additionally, Article 4.1 requires that due “regard shall be paid to the interest of present and future generations as well as to the need to promote higher standards of living and conditions of economic and social progress and development in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.” This type of language, along with the equitable benefits sharing regime called for in Article 11.6 through 11.8 hint at the troubling nature of the treaty and perhaps is impractical for advanced space activities.

Success of the Outer Space Treaty

As of 2017, 105 states are party to the Outer Space Treaty (COPUOS, 2017). Rather than international treaties wearing out with age, their vintage attests to their continuing worthiness and to the prestige and respect they receive. As stated, many believe that certain foundational principles of the Outer Space Treaty are also reflections of customary international law (Lyall & Larsen, 2009). These principles include the freedoms to access, explore, and use space; the prohibition of national appropriation and the prohibition on the placement of weapons of mass destructions in space; the right of registering states to assert jurisdiction and retain ownership over their space objects; the duties of responsibility and potential liability, and the duty of appropriate states parties to authorize and continually supervise non-governmental entities. Other provisions related to due care and addressing environmental and sustainability concerns may also be gaining normative force. This broad and lasting observance of the treaty’s articles attests to the treaty’s success in shaping a workable and beneficial framework for space activities. Provisions of the Outer Space Treaty being expanded into subsequent treaties on space also shows the importance of the treaty as the foundation of a larger body of international space law.

Gaps, Silence, and the Continuing Adequacy of the Outer Space Treaty

The Outer Space Treaty is a brief 17 articles long and explicitly a treaty on principles. The drafters and negotiators in the mid-1960s did not and could not have envisioned many of the changes and developments (political, economic, and technological) in space activities from the 1970s to the present which were to follow. Space activities continue to change the geopolitical environment (Paikowsky, 2017). After 50 years of time, the treaty therefore does not address every possible activity or set of circumstances in outer space.

It is possible (and indeed likely) that the drafters of the treaty were able to envision certain activities (such as multiple states involved in a single launch, or orbital crowding of the geostationary orbit), but chose not to legislate for them. Looking to the preparatory works of the Outer Space Treaty as it was developed at COPUOS may answer these questions as to what they discussed but decided to leave out of the draft treaty. They may have refrained out of caution, being wary to pre-empt evolving technologies or activities, or merely for the sake of political expediency.

It is also likely the drafters simply did not envision a number of activities in space which were to become reality in the ensuing decades, or of activities which may still be on the horizon and develop in years yet to come. Given that this treaty is 50 years old and encompasses technologies that are literally cutting-edge, this is not unexpected, nor is it a sign that the treaty lacks foresight.

Both of these so-called shortcomings in the treaty may rightly be called gaps in the law, or lacunae. These gaps may arise where the content of the law is lacking, or where the law is simply not clear or explicit enough to give a definite answer. Gaps already commented upon include the lack of an elaboration of the benefit and interest provisions found in Article I, the precise limits on national appropriation found in Article II, and definitions of “province of all mankind,” “peaceful purposes,” “space object,” “harmful interference,” and the phrase “envoys of all mankind” (Masson-Zwaan, 2016).

Another legal gap is that outer space as a zone above national airspace is nowhere legally demarcated or delimited. While the lower border of outer space lacking a legal demarcation has not yet caused a problem, it is possible that emerging technologies and applications such as space planes, high altitude balloons, and platforms may not clearly be governed by aviation law to the exclusion of space law, or vice versa.

Looking to the future, the body of space law may likely need revision and emendation for next generation space activities, especially advanced space activities such as asteroid and moon mining and resource use, crewed international moon bases and commercial stations, 3D printing using celestial resources, and other activities that were not simply beyond the imagination of the drafters of the major space treaties. Other emerging activities, from space debris remediation through the capture of small pieces of space debris or even of large spent rocket bodies orbiting uncontrollably, or even the advanced use of asteroid and lunar resources for a variety of purposes may highlight gaps in the existing international space law regime. The due regard phrases in Article IX may also necessitate expansion and clarification, for both planetary protection of celestial bodies we explore, and for protection of the space environment closer to Earth. However, the process of revising and/or emending the existing treaties on space would be complex, laborious, and perhaps politically impractical. National space law and regulation, along with non-binding “soft law” in the form of UNGA resolutions or other COPUOS documents may be the most expedient option.

Conclusion

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was a visionary document and an example of international diplomacy between rivals who were able to compromise and legally exchange obligations, in treaty form, for mutual benefit. The Outer Space Treaty has successfully permitted and even fostered a half century of successful, peaceful, cooperative, and progressively more sophisticated space exploration and use of space.

If and when issues that have arisen since the treaty was drafted or gaps in the treaty become problematic, it is possible that existing international bodies such as COPUOS may be tasked to develop further governance regimes. Hopefully they will do so in the spirit of the existing space law regime and with the understanding that international law should be drafted to improve and advance space activities, and approached with the idealism and with the overarching principles of peace and international security balanced with pragmatic and utilitarian concerns that foster the development of the access, exploration, and uses of space.

Further Reading

Allison, A. L. (2014). The ITU and managing satellite orbital and spectrum resources in the 21st century. New York: Springer.Find this resource:

Burrows, W. E. (1998). This new ocean: The story of the first space age. New York: Random House.Find this resource:

Cheng, B. (1997). Studies in international space law. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Haanappel, P. P. (2003). The law and policy of air space and outer space: A comparative approach. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.Find this resource:

Hobe, S., Schmidt-Tedd, B., & Schrogl, K.-U. (Eds.). (2009). Cologne commentary on space law (Vol. 1). Cologne, Germany: Carl Heymanns Verlag.Find this resource:

Jakhu, R. S. (Ed.). (2010). National regulation of space activities. New York: Springer.Find this resource:

Johnson, C. (Ed.). (2017). Handbook for new actors in space. Washington, DC: Secure World Foundation. Retrieved from https://swfound.org/media/205710/handbook_for_new_actors_in_space_2017_web2.pdf.Find this resource:

Johnson-Freese, J. (2016). Space warfare in the 21st century: Arming the heavens. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge.Find this resource:

Kleiman, M. J., Lamie, J. K., & Carminati, M.-V. (2012). The laws of spaceflight: A guidebook for new space lawyers. Chicago: ABA Publishing.Find this resource:

Larsen, P. B., & Lyall, F. (2009). Space law: A treatise. Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate.Find this resource:

Malanczuk, P. (1997). Akehurst’s modern introduction to international law. London: Routledge.Find this resource:

McDougall, W. A. (1997). … the heavens and the Earth: A political history of the space age. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Find this resource:

Moltz, J. C. (2014). Crowded orbits: Conflict and cooperation in space. New York: Columbia University Press.Find this resource:

Simpson, M., Williamson, R., & Morris, L. (Eds.). (2016). Space for the 21st century: Discovery, innovation, sustainability (Vol. 5). Houston, TX: Aerospace Technology Working Group.Find this resource:

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. (2013). United Nations treaties and principles on outer space, including related General Assembly resolutions and other documents. Vienna, Austria: United Nations.Find this resource:

References

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Burrows, W. E. (1998). This new ocean: The story of the first space age. New York: Random House.Find this resource:

Cheng, B. (1997). Studies in international space law. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Haanappel, P. P. (2003). The law and policy of air space and outer space: A comparative approach. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.Find this resource:

Hitchens, T. (2016). Forwarding multilateral governance of outer space activities: Next steps for the international community. In M. Simpson, R. Williamson, & L. Morris (Eds.), Space for the 21st century (pp. 75–117). Houston, TX: Aerospace Technology Working Group.Find this resource:

Hobe, S., Schmidt-Tedd, B., & Schrogl, K.-U. (Eds.). (2009). Cologne commentary on space law (Vol. 1). Cologne, Germany: Carl Heymanns Verlag.Find this resource:

Jakhu, R. S. (Ed.). (2010). National regulation of space activities. New York: Springer.Find this resource:

Johnson, C. (Ed.). (2017). Handbook for new actors in space. Washington, DC: Secure World Foundation. Retrieved from https://swfound.org/media/205710/handbook_for_new_actors_in_space_2017_web2.pdf.Find this resource:

Johnson, L. B. (1966, May 6). Statement by the president on the need for a treaty governing exploration of celestial bodies. Retrieved from http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu.Find this resource:

Johnson-Freese, J. (2016). Space warfare in the 21st century: Arming the heavens. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge.Find this resource:

Kleiman, M. J., Lamie, J. K., & Carminati, M.-V. (2012). The laws of spaceflight: A guidebook for new space actors. Chicago: ABA Publishing.Find this resource:

Larsen, P. B., & Lyall, F. (2009). Space law: A treatise. Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate.Find this resource:

Malanczuk, P. (1997). Akehurst’s modern introduction to international law. London: Routledge.Find this resource:

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Martinez, P. (2016). Sustainability, COPUOS and the LTSSA Working Group. In M. Simpson, R. Williamson, & L. Morris (Eds.), Space for the 21st century (pp. 47–59). Houston, TX: Aerospace Technology Working Group.Find this resource:

Masson-Zwaan, T. (2016). The relevance of hard law and soft law in the further development of space law. 10th UN Workshop on Space Law. Vienna, Austria: United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/SLW2016/Panel6/1._Masson-Zwann_UN_soft_law_hard_law.pdf.Find this resource:

McDougall, W. A. (1985). … the heavens and the Earth: A political history of the space age. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Find this resource:

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Paikowsky, D. (2017). What is new space? The changing ecosystem of global space activity. International Astronautical Congress. Guadalajara, Mexico: Mary Ann Liebert.Find this resource:

Simpson, M., Williamson, R., & Morris, L. (Eds.). (2016). Space for the 21st century: Discovery, innovation, sustainability (Vol. 5). Houston, TX: Aerospace Technology Working Group.Find this resource:

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United Nations General Assembly. (n.d.). Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/21/ares21.htm.Find this resource:

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. (2013). United Nations treaties and principles on outer space, including related General Assembly resolutions and other documents. Retrieved from http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/oosadoc/data/documents/2013/stspace/stspace61_0.html.Find this resource:

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. (n.d.). United Nations register of objects launched into outer space. Retrieved from http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/spaceobjectregister/index.html.Find this resource:

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, National Space Law Collection. Retrieved from http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/nationalspacelaw/index.html.