Outer Space – The scope of Laws

This article has been written by Eashwari Nair. Eashwari is currently a student in Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.


The robust development of the space industry has called upon the domain of law in order to regulate and maintain order within the field.  It has been seen so far that every domain where law has played a role there has been a specific vicinity to which it applies, but it is seen that this very domain doesn’t seem to.  The fact that the jurisprudence is in question can be understood by the fact that there has been no uniform acceptance on the definition of “outer space”. Thereby the jurisprudence of space activities seems to be highly challenging.

This field of law seems to be highly intriguing and triggers several questions since there is no boundary been put with respect to the subject itself.


This very part of law opened up when the first artificial satellite in 1957 built by the Soviet Union Sputnik was launched. This event directed the United nations to create an organisation that deals with the sector of space age. The department in charge also referred to as The Committee on peaceful useful uses of outer space.(COPUOS).  With respect to the creation of the mentioned organisation , the 103  member nations [1] had negotiated 5 major agreements or treaties that serve as fundamentals when it comes to rules and regulations in the atmosphere of international law spoken in relation to space law. The 5 major treaties that were formulated are listed as follows:-

  1. The outer space treaty
  2. The Rescue Agreement
  3. The liability Convention
  4. The registration Convention
  5. The moon treaty.

The above listed agreements were formulated keeping the following parameters in mind.

  1. The non – appropriation of outer space by any country
  2. Arms control
  3. Freedom of exploration
  4. Liability for damage caused by space objects
  5. Safety and Rescue of spacecrafts and astronauts
  6. Harmful interference with space activities and the effect caused to the environment.

Various countries ever since the emergence of the first artificial satellite have taken the task of exploration of this other dimension of the world. This trend of exploration has lead to a new field of work and now has called upon the gods of law to help develop this field in a regulated manner.


Not many countries have seen to be actively taking part in this expensive field of exploration, and the nations that do have significantly contributed to our understanding of this fascinating concept of what lies beyond planet earth. Since the enthusiastic participation is limited, few countries such as Russia , Japan and The United States have taken initiative in the creation of laws and legislations that help the industry to function smoothly.

Where does India stand in all of this? The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has done a phenomenal job in making India a signatory among one of the elite space-faring nations. Especially the year 2016 has seen this organisation dominating the channels of news when it came to science and space.  And in order to not just keep this industry thriving but to encourage it as well, certain guidelines must be set in the form of a legislation in order to also open up the possibility of private entities entering into the field of space. Like the other well-to-do nations in this field regulated and governed by their respective national laws, India as a nation must formulate, codify and implement a legislation that will encourage this industry. [2]

As  a nation that seems to be the Emerging global space power, there is heavy emphasis on the codification of laws that guide the nation to continue to make strides in this field. Our codification should include but not be restricted to the following aspects:-

  1. The aspect of launch services( to introduce private companies and regulate them)
  2. Satellite Communications and broadcasting
  3. Analysis of observation and the distribution of this very observation.
  4. IPR regime and the transfer of technology
  5. The aspect of safety of space activity
  6. Liability and Responsibility
  7. The concept of Insurance
  8. There is also scope for the possibility of space tourism in the future.

We as a nation when it comes to space, satellites etc legally speaking currently base the regulations fundamentally on the principles put forth in the constitution of India. Furthermore it is seen that space and the inventions that the curiosity with respect to space ignites holds strategic significance from the eyes of the military. [3]

Also as students of law ,  we should take the initiative to explore and understand this field that has been devoid of active participation.

[1] The numerical estimate is to the number of member countries is subjected to correction.

[2] It is seen that national interests always outweigh the international interests especially with respect to international laws.

International laws with respect to space are seen to be very ineffective, since the issues addressed are not only few in number , but lacks variety of coverage.

[3] There could be the possibility of a space war in the future ( though this may seem to be a derivative of fiction)

The December book bucket

court-room-genius                    Learning the law.jpg                     legal-eagles

One response to “Outer Space – The scope of Laws”

  1. Prof Prem raj Pushpakaran writes — 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Outer Space Treaty!!!


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