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date: 22 September 2017

Austrian National Space Law

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Planetary Science. Please check back later for the full article.

The Austrian Outer Space Act, which entered into force in December 2011; and the Austrian Outer Space Regulation, which has been in force since February 2015, form the legal framework for Austrian national space activities. The elaboration of national space legislation became necessary to ensure compliance with Austria’s obligations as State Party to the five United Nations Space Treaties when the first two Austrian satellites were launched in 2012 and Austria became a launching state on its own. The legislation comprehensively regulates legal aspects related to space activities, such as authorization, supervision, and termination of space activities; registration and transfer of space objects; recourse of the government against the operator; as well as implementation of the law and sanctions for its infringement. One of the main purposes of the law is to ensure the authorization of national space activities. The Outer Space Act sets forth the main conditions for authorization, which inter alia refer to the expertise of the operator; requirements for orbital positions and frequency assignments; space debris mitigation, insurance requirements, and the safeguard of public order; public health; national security as well as Austrian foreign policy interests; and international law obligations. The Austrian Outer Space Regulation complements these provisions by specifying the documents the operator must submit as evidence of the fulfillment of the authorization conditions, which include the results of safety tests, emergency plans, and information on the collection and use of Earth observation data. Particular importance is attached to the mitigation of space debris. Operators are required to take measures in accordance with international space debris mitigation guidelines for the avoidance of operational debris, the prevention of on-orbit break-ups and collisions, and the removal of space objects from Earth orbit after the end of the mission. Another specificity of the Austrian space legislation is the possibility of an exemption from the insurance requirement or a reduction of the insurance sum, if the space activity is in the public interest. This allows support to space activities that serve science, research, and education. Moreover, the law also provides for the establishment of a national registry for objects launched into outer space by the competent Austrian Ministry. The first two Austrian satellites have been entered into this registry after their launch in 2012. The third Austrian satellite, launched in June 2017, will be the first satellite authorized under the Austrian space legislation.