ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Space Law

Updated on April 22, 2010
Photo by Harry Fodor
Photo by Harry Fodor

Space law is a branch of international law concerned with the regulation of activities in outer space. Man's ability to penetrate beyond the earth's atmosphere, demonstrated in 1957, gave rise to intense speculation about the nature of the legal order under which outer-space activities would take place. From the outset, statesmen and scholars agreed that the bulk of the pertinent rules of international law, which govern relations between nations on earth, would apply to human activities beyond the atmosphere- that, in fact, there was no "legal vacuum" in space. Space law has been modeled in part on the agreements concerning the peaceful use of the oceans and Antarctica.

International Agreements

Most of the present pattern of space law originated with UN General Assembly resolutions, adopted unanimously in 1961 and 1963, and the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The UN resolutions called for international cooperation in outer space; the treaty prohibited nuclear testing there. Answers to many legal questions were provided by the general outer-space treaty of 1967, a 1968 agreement on astronauts, and a 1972 treaty on liability.

Broadly paraphrased, the nations are in agreement that each has equal legal rights of access to outer space for peaceful activities; that no nation may claim sovereignty in outer space or to a celestial body; that international law, including the UN Charter, applies to activities in space; and that nuclear testing, the stationing of nuclear weapons in space, and the placing of military bases on celestial bodies are barred. The nations have also agreed that astronauts and space vehicles remain under the jurisdiction of their state of nationality and that astronauts are to receive every assistance in the event of accident.

States are to consult together before undertaking potentially hazardous activities. In addition, states are generally responsible for national spacecraft and have agreed to accept absolute responsibility for damage caused by their space vehicles to persons, property, or aircraft on the earth's surface, including airspace, and to accept liability, based on fault, if another spacecraft or its occupants are harmed. Thus, an embryonic but rather extensive regime for cooperative, peaceful space activities exists.

Unresolved Questions

A number of legal questions remain, including a definition of the outer limit of national airspace, in which states have absolute sovereignty. The U.S.-Soviet contention over the flying of military "spy" satellites largely disappeared by the late 1960 s, when it became clear that both states were using them. But the development by the United States of civilian resource-sensing satellites raised questions about the right to "view" possibly unwilling nations and about the processing and "ownership" of such information.

Questions about a specific right to use and even to "mine" areas of the moon and about national (or private) claims of ownership of materials brought from the moon have arisen. Future questions will have to do with traffic control, direct broadcasting or use of space "areas" especially suitable for communications satellites, access by corporations, "cluttering" and "pollution" of space, and other matters not readily foreseeable.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)