In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Space Law

  • Introduction
  • International Space Law
  • National Space Law
  • European Space Law
  • The Military Uses of Outer Space
  • Launching Activities
  • Satellite Communications
  • Satellite Remote Sensing
  • Satellite Navigation
  • Space Station Operations
  • Space Debris and its Mitigation
  • Space Resource Utilization
  • Space Project Financing
  • Private Human Spaceflight
  • Dispute Settlement Regarding Space Activities

International Law Space Law
Frans von der Dunk
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 October 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0041


Space law is best defined as the law dealing in a substantial manner with human activities in outer space. Traditionally conceived as a branch of general public international law, space law was originally taken to refer in particular to a handful of United Nations–originating treaties of general scope, UN resolutions, and special multilateral or bilateral agreements specifically addressing space activities (such as establishing international space organizations or the framework for the international space station). Due to the indispensability of the use of radio frequencies for all space activities, certain aspects of international telecommunications law, developed in the context of the International Telecommunication Union, were also considered part of space law. Finally, in view of the political and military overtones of many space activities, major arms control agreements came to be considered part of space law. In the early days of space law, there was only a marginal body of customary international law that applied to it, and no jurisprudence. Over time, increasing technological developments gave rise to commercialization, and ultimately privatization, in many areas of space activities. Thus, on the one hand, other legal regimes became part of space law as they started to impact (certain) space activities, such as copyright law as a tool to protect investments in satellite remote sensing, international trade law to handle commercial satellite services being offered around the globe, or international financing law when it came to handling risks in satellite projects. On the other hand, the incursion of private entities into many areas of space activities resulted in a growth of national law and regulation (and in the specific European context, both European Union and European Space Agency law and regulation) in order to make sure such private activities would be appropriately subjected to, as well as accommodated by, the applicable international rules. Consequently, this article will address space law at international, national, and European levels, as well as address the major areas of space activities, including the military uses of outer space, launching, satellite communications, satellite remote sensing (including disaster monitoring), satellite navigation, space station operations, space debris and its mitigation, space resource utilization, space project financing, private human spaceflight (also known as space tourism), and dispute settlement issues regarding space activities.

General Overviews

Space activities continue to be subject to rapid developments in a technological and operational sense. In addition, the scope of space law as the law dealing in a substantial manner with human activities in outer space has continuously widened over the last decades. This has resulted in a dearth of up-to-date handbooks comprehensively covering all of space law in a meaningful and coherent fashion. This applies to Handbooks, strictly speaking, as well as substantially comprehensive Essay Collections.

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