Thursday, June 20, 2013

Exploring The Liability Convention

     In outer space objects from time to time will bump into each other and/or fall back to Earth causing damage to some other object. When the property of entity 1 is damaged by the property of entity 2, it is expected that one of the entities would be liable. The treaty known popularly as the Liability Convention outlines when a launching state is laible for damages caused by a space object. The full text of this treaty can be found  on the website for the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (the "Liability Convention"), adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 2777 (XXVI), opened for signature on 29 March 1972, entered into force on 1 September 1972.

The Liability Convention is one of the off shoots of the Outer Space Treaty:
The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the "Outer Space Treaty"), adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 2222 (XXI), opened for signature on 27 January 1967, entered into force on 10 October 1967.

     As more and more entities are placing objects in outer space the Liability Convention is becoming more popular, especially in the area of outer space environmental concerns. These environmental concerns will be discussed in a future blog post as the focus of this post is just to introduce the Liability Convention.

     Rather than recreate the wheel and annotate the whole treaty, the following article by Michael Listner provides a good breakdown of the various provisions of the Liability Convention along with situations in which the Convention was invoked.
Michael Listner, Examining Space Law and Policy Part 3: the Liability Convention of 1972,, March 27, 2011,

For the academics out there, the following law review articles offer more in-depth research and analysis on the Liability Convention. If you do not have access to these law journals contact your closest librarian for assistance: 
Michael Smirnoff, The Problem of Security in Outer Space in Light of the Recently Adopted International Convention on Liability in Outer Space, 1 J. Space L. 125 (1973).
Herbert Reis, Some Reflections on the Liability Convention for Outer Space,
6 J. Space L. 125 (1978).

Susan Trepczynski, The Effect of the Liability Convention on National Space Legislation,
33 J. Space L. 221 (2007).