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Space Treaties: Space Explorations v/s Establishing Sovereignty

Space is a region above the atmosphere and outer space starts from the Karman line. when the celestial bodies and space was recognized newly back then there was no need to need the space as there was no much interference or exploration from the state's side but the trauma aroused when the technology started to flourish.

The state's wanted to establish jurisdiction over it for there own purpose and research.but this would create a lot of issues hence the need of regulating the outer space arose. What if a pilot enters outer space? Then a pilot would be considered as a astronaut.

Problems of outer space regime:
From when the issue arouse was when the state's started to develop their own technology for example., satellites. post world war II there were several cold wars that was going on among the states. So in 1957 UN intervened and thought of formulating law that would govern outer space. General assembly resolution was conducted to establish UN committee on peaceful uses of outer space (UN COPUOS). it was the first time that world organization responded promptly UN committee was established for ad hoc basis in 1959 again a general assembly resolution which declared the committee to be permanent body.

Now When talking about How the legal regime evolved so there are certain principles

There are 4 important principles:
  1. UN General assembly resolution 110 1947

    This resolution was basically to maintain peace and security among the states and to stop all kind of misinformation misrepresentation to create image of a state or individual any sort of missing should not be indulge to even in any form of outer space activity.
  2. UN General assembly 1712, 1961

    Here there various concepts that were pointed out that is a state shall have no sovereignty over space.and international law would be applicable to space and not domestic use of space shall be allowed but in a useful way for the common interest of mankind.
  3. UN GA resolution 1802, 1962

    It was brought forth when the need for development was felt and the emphasis on formulation of roadmaps was needed. and the need was felt when the Russian astronaut(urie gagerin) was sent to space.
  4. UN GA 1962, 1963

    With the idea of 1962 this resolution was brought forth. the basis moto of this resolution was to formulate principles that would govern the activity of state while exploring space.

Few principles where drafted:

  1. Outer space activity shall be carried on in the benefit and interest of all mankind.
  2. The outer space exploration shall be allowed for the purpose of research only condition is that it should be done on basis of equality.
  3. No country can claim sovereignty over outer space.
  4. International law shall be given respect while doing any activity.
  5. State shall have international responsibility for their national activity.
Further in order to make state's liable the need for outer space treaties were felt as these treaties would be binding on state's.

Outer Space Treaty 1967

This was the first document at the international level and is considered as the most important one as well.this treaty mentions several legal regime and principles as to how the outer space activity shall take place. this treaty in binding on the states and the state cannot derogate from it.

Treaty on principles governing the activities of state in exploration and use of outer space including the moon and other celestial bodies 1967

Outer space treaty is considered as the backbone of all the other treaties that was come up certain principles required more elaborations and to fill the gap more treaties have come up.
The legal sub-committee of UN COPUOS works on legal issues and helps the UN to draft the provisions.

Article I (para 1) - Exploration shall be carried out for the benefit and interest of all countries. And it stated that outer space shall be treated as the province of all mankind.[1]

Article I (para 2)- Exploration of the outer space shall be done without any discrimination to any country.

Article II- this article clearly depicts that the states cannot claim any ownership over the outer space and celestial bodies.

Outer space activity shall be done in the sense of cooperation and coordination to maintain international peace.

Article V - this states that all countries shall render support incase of emergency this was added based on humanitarian principle.this article is also part of recue agreement as it further describes about the situations of emergency.

Give support to the astronaut whenever there is state of emergency.
Article VI & VII - this emphasizes on liability regime that whatever harm or destruction is caused to outer space due to the state's activity that shall be compensated by the state itself.

Rescue Agreement 1968

Agreement for recue of astronaut ,the return of Astronaut and return of objects launched in space 1968
This agreement has 10 articles.Article 5 of Outer space treaty is elaborated in this agreement.

This agreement makes it very clear that the meaning of astronaut is different and the astronaut shall be rendered support by the countries in case of emergency landing. This agreement lays out 3 mandates- rescue the person ,return the person to the respective state and the object through which they were flying also shall be returned.

This agreement is quite humanitarian in nature. the term astronaut is only mentioned in the title later it was replaced by the term personnel which will include researchers ,photographers but not tourist.[2]

Article II - this article simply states that whenever the rescue operation is launched and after the conclusion of such operation the state has 2 duties - that is to inform the respective state and the state government have the duty to make this information public.

Liability Convention 1972

This convention is based on the Article 6 and 7 of outer space treaty 1967 which talks about the liability issue.

Provisions of Article 6 & 7 are state oriented approach.

Article 2 - The state cannot be held liable absolutely when they have taken all precautions and followed all standards.exceptions - in case of negligence state would be liable or incase of intentional damage as well state would be liable.[3]

Article 3 - this article states that when 2 parties are involved in the launch activity and there is fault in the launch of one party then that party cannot make the other party liable for its fault.

Article 4 & 5 - when both parties jointly launch any object and the harm is caused to the third party then both the parties would be jointly and severally liable for the damage caused.

Registration Convention 1975

This convention has 12 articles.There is no clarity as to registration. firstly the nationality of the object shall be recognized. registration basically happens in 2 levels -domestic level and international level.

Article 2 - the state shall maintain a national register.all private and public players shall register themselves with national registry. whereas this article does not speak about the contents of register but the state can decide onto it.

Article 3 and 4 - international register shall be maintained at UN is basically maintained by secretary is a global register and states are free to register and visit. There are few requirements for the global registry.[4]

Moon Agreement

The agreement recognises that the moon, as a natural satellite of the earth, has an important role to play in the exploration of outer space. - Promote basis of equality, the further development of cooperation among States in the exploration and use of the moon and other celestial bodies. The main purposes, according to Article XI, section 7: The orderly and safe development of the natural resources of the moon, The rational management of those resource. The expansion of opportunities in the use of those resources. An equitable sharing by all States in the benefits derived from those resources.

Conclusion and way forward
We shall strive to protect and safeguard space from destruction by states and the principles and the provisions shall be made more effective when it comes to the implementation part.UN shall put legal recursions on the state rather than just compensatory measure.

The preservation of the space and Earth environment, liability for damages caused by space objects, the resolution of disputes, the rescue of astronauts, the sharing of information about potential dangers in outer space, the use of space-related technologies, and international cooperation are all topics covered by space law. The notion of space as the domain of all humanity, the freedom of exploration and use of outer space by all states without discrimination, and the principle of non-appropriation of outer space are all important principles that drive the conduct of space activities.

  1. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs ,treaties and principles ,( 1st march 2022 )
  2. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs ,treaties and principles ,( 3rd march 2022)
  3. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs ,treaties and principles ,( 2nd march 2022)
  4. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs ( 3rd march 2022)

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