Space law

Space law is the body of law governing space-related activities, encompassing both international and domestic agreements, rules, and principles.[1] Parameters of space law include space exploration, liability for damage, weapons use, rescue efforts, environmental preservation, information sharing, new technologies, and ethics.[2] Other fields of law, such as administrative law, intellectual property law, arms control law, insurance law, environmental law, criminal law, and commercial law, are also integrated within space law.[3]

Partial Test Ban Treaty (1963), the first international space law treaty.

The origins of space law date back to 1919, with international law recognizing each country's sovereignty over the airspace directly above their territory, later reinforced at the Chicago Convention in 1944.[4][5] The onset of domestic space programs during the Cold War propelled the official creation of international space policy (i.e. the International Geophysical Year) initiated by the International Council of Scientific Unions. The Soviet Union's 1957 launch of the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, directly spurred the United States Congress to pass the Space Act, thus creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).[3][6] Because space exploration required crossing transnational boundaries, it was during this era where space law became a field independent from traditional aerospace law.[5]

Since the Cold War, 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") and the International Telecommunications Union have served as the constitutional legal framework and set of principles and procedures constituting space law.[7][8] Further, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), along with its Legal and Scientific and Technical Subcommittees, are responsible for debating issues of international space law and policy. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) serves as the secretariat of the Committee and is promoting Access to Space for All through a wide range of conferences and capacity-building programs.[9] Challenges that space law will continue to face in the future are fourfold—spanning across dimensions of domestic compliance, international cooperation, ethics, and the advent of scientific innovations.[3][10][11] Furthermore, specific guidelines on the definition of airspace have yet to be universally determined.[3]