Space law research

Originally, space law was part of, and based upon, international public law. States played an exclusive role in the development of space activities and space law, which is evidenced by United Nations Treaties and resolutions on outer space.

The main actors are intergovernmental organisations such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and the United Nations Committee for the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), in addition to specialised satellite organisations and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

During the last decades, space activities have increasingly become commercial activities, through the use of satellites in outer space and the exploration of the moon and celestial bodies. As, for example, the website of Space and Society, established by ESA and the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and illustrating the impact of space activities upon society shows, outer space has come down to earth – and so has space law. Private entities, using space know-how, software, hardware and services, are becoming important investors into space activities so that space law now encompasses other legal regimes.

Hence, the following fields of law affect the development of space law:

  • private law, including contractual and third party liability; 
  • financing, insurance and securities law; 
  • environmental law; 
  • social and labour law; 
  • telecommunications; 
  • intellectual property rights law; 
  • database and data protection law; 
  • commercial, trade and economic law; 
  • competition law.

Space law research consequently concerns the following subject matters: 
  • national and international space law and policy; 
  • privatisation of space activities; 
  • satellite communications/GNSS and Galileo; 
  • radio astronomy; 
  • earth observation; 
  • the legal status of the moon.

Last Modified: 12-02-2010