Space Law: The Laws Surrounding Space


Never heard of the term ‘Space Law’? You might be surprised to know that there are laws to govern activities that are related to outer space. These laws relate to the principles, rules and regulations of international law. There are five international treaties where these laws have been stated and all the countries are expected to follow them without any negligence. Strict actions are taken if any country goes against these laws. According to the laws, outer space begins at the lowest altitude (approx 100kms) above the sea level.

How it All Began

There was a time when no one could have imagined about space laws. But it all began when Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite was launched by the Soviet Union in the year 1957. This was something new and hence, it was decided that there will be laws for handling issues that might arise in future.

Few nations came together and discussed the need of introducing laws so that there are no conflicts between countries and everyone uses outer space in an appropriate way. These discussions took place between the USSR and USA and the issues were further taken to the UN. In the year 1959, UN agreed to the facts and established a committee. This committee was soon divided into two sub-committees: one associated with the legal aspects and other to the technical and scientific aspects.

The Five Treaties

As there were developments in technology, every country started working on projects related to outer space. This was when the need for some international treaties were felt. These treaties focused on particular segments and thus ensured that there are no conflicts on any activity. Every country was expected to follow the rules strictly. The five treaties are:

  • Treaty on activities related to exploration and use of space: This was introduced in 1967 and included all celestial bodies like the moon.
  • Treaty on safety, rescue, return of objects and astronauts: The treaty came into existence in the year 1968.
  • Convention on liabilities of countries if some damage is caused by space objects: Introduced in 1972.
  • Convention on need and process of registering objects launched by countries in outer space: In the year 1975.
  • Agreement on the activities conducted on the moon and other celestial bodies: This was bought in the year 1979.

The Convention on the Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (Launch Registration Convention)

Under this convention, a registry is maintained by the UN Secretariat. Here the countries need to be registered and during the launch a National space agency must record the activity. Complete information about the launch date, place, essential parameters and functions should be provided to the UN Secretary General. The object can be launched only after the UN Secretariat agrees.

The Future

Every country has been working on different projects. There has been an immense development since every country wants to get more information about resources available in the space. Attempts are about to introduce commercial transportation to space. This is indeed a challenge for UN since there will be need to regulate the activities. There have been some controversies which clearly indicate that there is need to introduce some new laws to avoid any wrong action and misuse of outer space.

Author Bio: Lorna Jackson works with the team over at and regularly contributes as a guest author to a variety of law and legal related blogs around the web offering tips, advice, and interesting trivia!




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