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Posted April 6, 2022 | Published in Dispute resolution

Outer Space Law, Legal Policy and Practice

The second edition of Outer Space Law, Legal Policy and Practice will be published this month.  Much has happened since the first edition in 2017, with space activities continuing to gather interest and serious business activity.  Three Mars missions, billionaire space tourism and the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope are just some of the highlights. 

Private aerospace companies have reduced the costs involved, brought about by developing reusable launch vehicles. This is not just for the launch of satellites; in 2021. Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit rocket and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin both had a low Earth orbit cruise, with William Shatner (Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame) tagging along on the Blue Origin ride.

The $9 billion James Webb Space telescope was successfully placed in orbit 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.  This was developed over 26 years and will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope in providing new and more detailed insights into the universe. The USA, China and the UAE all successfully reached Mars to study atmosphere and microbiology. From the USA’s Perseverance Rover, the Ingenuity Helicopter began the first powered flight on the red planet. This is in addition to the more than 100 launches of satellites and supplies to the International Space Station. While these are just some of the highlights, there is a growing need to consider the framework and legal implication for these ventures.

Outer Space Law covers all the topics that you might encounter, commencing with a review of the international law governing outer space activities before then focussing on national laws.  The original, albeit caveated, purpose for space activities was for the benefit of humankind generally. As, of course, you can imagine, it is the interaction between the military activities in outer space as well as the licensing of the private sector for space activities, in particular satellites, that has created most of the innovative research and substantial budgets.  These aspects are covered in the book, as well as the concept of owning property in outer space and even the legal challenges for exploration and colonisation.

" I drafted the final chapter dealing with dispute resolution in relation to outer space activities. This is essentially an across-the-board study of how to resolve international disputes arising from such activities. "

Sustainability is a key issue, and attention has also turned to planetary protection as well as issues in relation to the exploitation of the natural resources that can be found in outer space.  Perhaps of greater and current relevance are issues related to artificial satellites. The regulation of satellites as well as remote sensing activities is given in depth coverage within the 2nd edition.  Key legal issues relate to the protection of intellectual property, as well as the insurance of outer space activities with the ever increasing role of commercial enterprises entering the arena.

A related topic is space debris, which has certainly been in the news recently.  This arises not just from many rocket launches, but also decommissioned satellites, which together have led to an estimated 200,000 pieces of debris of less than 100mm circling the earth in low Earth orbit at around an average speed of 15,700 mph. Given the increased number of satellites, the likelihood of collision with this debris becomes more important, and innovative ideas in relation to removing that debris are being developed.  For example, the ELSA-d (End of Life Services by Astroscale) is a test mission that will attempt to push decommissioned satellites towards Earth so that they burn up.  A chapter in the book is dedicated to space debris and the environmental responsibility arising from it.  This is, however, a developing area.  

Consideration is also given to the extra territorial application of human rights in potential outer space colonies, whilst, at home, the financing of current space activity is given some legal consideration.  The ability to gather new data from space and use this data as evidence in cases before international courts and tribunals is also considered.  Such is the ability to gather high quality data and photos from space, that it can now be relied on as evidence.

I drafted the final chapter dealing with dispute resolution in relation to outer space activities. This is essentially an across-the-board study of how to resolve international disputes arising from such activities. The Outer Space Rules are based on the 2010 Edition of the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (the 2010 Rules), with certain modifications for application to the outer space component of disputes. The 2010 Rules are widely used, and a significant amount of case law has been developed since their first edition was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1976. The Outer Space Rules are intended for use in a wide range of disputes between States, international organisations and private entities where there is a connection with outer space activities.

Outer space law is a growing area and I hope you enjoy the second edition of Outer Space Law, Legal Policy and Practice which you can order now.


Outer Space Law: Legal Policy and Practice, Second Edition

Consulting editor(s): Yanal Abul Failat and Anél Ferreira-Snyman

Publication date: April 2022
Format: Hardback
Pages: 495

Price: £195.00
Discounted Price: £146.25

ISBN: 9781787424821


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