Press Release

Space Law – Who owns and regulates space and why are space laws necessary? (Vodcast)

By SpaceRef Editor
November 9, 2006
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Prof. René Oosterlinck, ESA Director of External Relations explains how the issues of space law first arose during the Cold War, with the launch in 1957 of the Russian Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, closely followed by the first American satellite. The race was on to be first on the Moon and no sovereignty rights existed in outer space.

In 1967 the Outer Space Treaty, ratified by the UN, fundamentally recognised that space belonged to everyone and in 1969 the US took the lead in the space race with the success of the Apollo mission to the Moon.

Since the end of the Cold War space exploration has totally changed and although the original treaty of 1967 has had four additional conventions, there are many areas where the current regulation is ambiguous, for example in the case of industrial exploitation of minerals from asteroids. Another area of law which is not covered by the existing treaties is that of intellectual property. This is particularly relevant for the International Space Station where developments in research are currently covered by the law of each participating country.

European countries are the only ones covered by a common law on intellectual property in Space.

Last but by no means least is the question of space debris. There are no existing laws that cover this type of pollution at the moment. In these and many other fields, the Outer Space Treaty no longer matches reality and the time is ripe for review.  

SpaceRef staff editor.