Rdhima Purwar, Symbiosis Noida

Apoorva Singhal, Ramaiah Institute, Bengaluru

J S Kaushalya, TNNLU

EDITOR: Varshita Girish, CAIL, Bengaluru


Five international treaties govern the space law majorly. Furthermore, these are regulated by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). The first one being the Outer Space Treaty. The follow-up treaties are discussed below.

1. The Rescue Agreement of 1968

The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space came into force on the 3rd of December 1968.[1] This Agreement elaborated on the issues of articles 5-8 of the Outer Space Treaty. It provides that States should take all necessary steps to rescue and assist astronauts who are in distress and return them immediately to their launching country. In case a space object falls on the territory of a non- launching State, that State should assist the launching state in recovering those objects. All such developments should be reported to the Secretary-General of the United Nations promptly.

2. The Space Liability Convention of 1972

The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects came into force on the 1st of September 1972. It elaborates on the 7th article of the Outer Space Treaty.[2]It states that the launching state shall be held responsible for paying compensation for any damage caused by its space object, either on Earth or in space. The convention also lays down procedures that are to be followed for settlement of claims for damages.

3. The Registration Convention of 1976

The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space. It came into force on the 15th of September 1976 came into being to resolve the issue of the identification of space objects. Therefore, this increased the scope of the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space. This Register helps in keeping track of all the space objects that have been launched. The Secretary-General has to maintain this Register and ensure that full and open access is available of information that is provided by the States and international intergovernmental organizations.

4. The Moon Treaty of 1979

The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. It came into force in July 1984. It states that all activities concerning the Moon and other celestial bodies should be peaceful. The environment of these should not be disrupted. The United Nations should be informed of any station that is set up on a non-Earth body. The Agreement states that the Moon is of shared heritage to humankind. If any exploitation of the resource is feasible, an international regime must be set up to govern all such exploitations. As of now, a total of 18 countries have ratified an additional four countries have signed the Treaty, none of these countries are major space players.


The following principles govern the Treatises mentioned above, as well as all other space-related activities.

1. Declaration of legal principles

It governs the activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space. The General Assembly Resolution 1962, the exploration and the use of outer space will be made in good faith and the benefit of states irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development.[3] In believing that such cooperation will contribute to the development of mutual understanding and lead to peace and harmony between nations and peoples. No country may claim the ownership of outer space and celestial bodies. It is free for exploration and use by all states based on equality and under International law with the charter of the United Nations.

2. Broadcasting Principles

In Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting. The General Assembly 37/92, the establishment of principle international broadcasting, will contribute to the strengthening of international cooperation in that field and further the purpose and principles of the charter of the United Nations.[4] The objective for such activities should "promote the free dissemination and mutual exchange of information and knowledge in cultural and scientific fields, assist in educational, social and economic development, particularly in the developing countries, enhance the qualities of life of all peoples and provide recreation with due respect to the political and cultural integrity of States."

3. Remote Sensing Principles

It relates to remote sensing of the Earth from outer space. The General Assembly 41/65 this activity shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic, social, or scientific and technological development and particular consideration of the needs of the developing countries.

4. Nuclear Power Source

It is relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power sources in outer space. The General Assembly47/68 the use of this activity in outer space shall be carried out under international law, under the charter of the United Nations The goal for protection and nuclear safety, "States launching space objects with nuclear power sources on board shall endeavour to protect individuals, populations and the biosphere against radiological hazards. The design and use of space objects with nuclear power sources on board shall ensure, with a high degree of confidence, that the hazards, in foreseeable operational or accidental circumstances…"

5. Benefits declaration

The Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for the Benefit and in the Interest of All States, Taking into Particular Account the Needs of Developing countries. It shall be conducted following the provision of international law, including the charter of the united nations and the Treaty on the principles governing the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies.


The Indian space program has taken a long journey from fishing hamlet to the Red Planet (Mars) with governmental support. Today, the government realizes the private sector's technological and financial potential and is looking to share the burden with them. However, the private sector's inclusion through the activities remains closed, but the liability is always public. International law lays down that the states bear the international responsibility, be it governmental or non-governmental of all their space activities. There has come up with a new political bill that national space legislation will be a great accomplishment for the Indian space program, leading to the participation of private players.

India's relationship with space goes back to the first rocket launch in the 1960s under the guidance of Dr Vikram Sarabhai. Since then, India is leading the path of becoming a space superpower with various missions in areas of communication, broadcasting, meteorology, oceanography, monitoring the environment, and predicting natural disasters. India is now counted in the USA, Russia, and China's league of space giants. [5]

India's only legal framework is the Satellite Communication Policy, 2000, and the Remote Sensing Data Policy, 2011. The lack of domestic space laws has resulted in India to become a victim of loopholes in the international treaties. Taking the example of the growing concern of space debris has been a problem for India as it has led to a dispute with japan cause the Indian space debris was falling on a Japanese village. India being a signatory to the convention on international liability for damage caused by space objects (1972), puts an obligation on India to compensate for any destruction of property created. However, the Treaty does not mention the quantum of compensation to be paid. This loophole allows Japan to extract funds from India that could exceed the actual amount of damage. Had there been a domestic law or a national policy that addressed space debris in India, the verdict could have differed.


The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space under the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs has made five significant treaties that govern all the activities concerning space. The benefits obtained by these outer space activities should be used to enhance the well-being of humankind and all the countries, simultaneously enhancing international cooperation. The UNOOSA had provided five legal principles that inspired the excellent prospects to open up before humankind as a result of man's entering into outer space with the binding on the parties to use outer space only for peaceful purposes. India is currently taking small steps towards contriving accurate space laws. The Space Activities Bill, 2017, has been drafted and is pending approval in the parliament. This bill would promote, support, and regulate space activities in India by allowing private and non-governmental agencies to involve themselves in space exploration.

[1] (2020), (last visited Jul 16, 2020). [2] (2020), (last visited Jul 16, 2020). [3] (2020), visited Jul 16, 2020). [4] (2020), visited Jul 16, 2020). [5] The Need for Indian Space Laws, Medium (2020), (last visited Jul 16, 2020).

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