The international forum for the development of space law is the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space which is under the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). There are currently five (5) international treaties and five (5) declarations to promote international cooperation and understanding in space activities. The five treaties are:
The Outer Space Treaty is the grandfather of all of the other treaties. It sets the conceptual framework for each of the following treaties. All of the treaties provide for the non-appropriation of outer space by any one country, arms control, the freedom of exploration, liability for damage caused by space objects, the safety and rescue of spacecraft and astronauts, the prevention of harmful interference with space activities and the environment, the notification and registration of space activities, scientific investigation and the exploitation of natural resources in outer space and the settlement of disputes. The treaties may not always provide a clear answer to intricate legal questions they do assist in guiding the conversation. It is important to point out that the United States is not a signatory to the Moon Agreement. This will be discussed in more depth in future posts.
The five declarations that outline international understandings regarding the dissemination and exchange of information through transnational direct television broadcasting via satellites and remote satellite observations of Earth and general standards regulating the safe use of nuclear power sources necessary for the exploration and use of outer space are:
- The Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space (General Assembly resolution 1962 (XVIII) of 13 December 1963);
- The Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting (resolution 37/92 of 10 December 1982);
- The Principles Relating to Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space (resolution 41/65 of 3 December 1986);
- The Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space (resolution 47/68 of 14 December 1992);
- 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 (resolution 51/122 of 13 December 1996)
This has been a brief introduction to the international space law framework. If you want to begin your research and understanding of space law this is where you start.