space law

In this article, Anu Bhatnagar of Amity Law School, Amity University Madhya Pradesh discusses India’s Role in International Space Law.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.   

                                                                                                             -Albert Einstein

With a beautiful start of the Year 2017, in the month of February where youth were celebrating Valentine’s Day Indian scientist on 15 February made it possible to launch 104 satellites in a single take which were indeed record breaking event. It was a phenomenal achievement performance by the Indian scientist that overtook and defeated the Russian record of 37 in single launch quoted by the Current Prime Minister.

Currently, India does not have any legislation in the field of space law. Now the question arises that who governs or regulate national laws in the field of space. What are the provisions that ensure the peaceful environment and prohibition? This article has covered the above questions and laid down the suggestions as well for better implementation of legislation.

International Space Laws

  • As we all know that Law is the rule and regulation that govern or make that framework which helps to regulate things properly. Let’s understand this law in the field of space. Technically speaking space is the place where waves don’t travel through vacuum.
  • Space Law in an ordinary language can be understood as a practical approach to deal with the day to day problems that are happening in the outbound space.
  • Another precise definition for space law “the body of regulations in international law that governs conducts in and related to areas of space above Earth’s lower atmosphere.”[1]

Legislation that governs International Space laws

Laws regulating the provision of space activities in India are divided into two points:

  1. Laws related to space which are concerned at International level.
  2. Laws related to space concerned at national level (i.e. Space Laws In India).

With that great initiative, there are five International agreement and treaties that regulate all the activities in the space.

It is to be noted that, it is a legal obligation and mandatory law for only to those countries or the member states that have signed it or ratified it.

At the United Nations Committee the agreements and treaties drafted with the objective of the harmonious and balanced uses of outbound space.

The Outer Space Treaty  of 1967  

Aim of the treaty

Regulate and supervise the actions and affairs of the member states. Moreover, all the activities which are related to the surveys or study and the use of outbound space (including all celestial bodies, and moon).

Effect and Year of Ratification right

Since October 1967, after going into the effect approx 103 countries have become signatory and ratified the treaty, which also includes UK, Russia, and US.

Functions and accountability

  • It is an important and foremost treaty among the rest five treaties. Subsequently, the whole structure of the treaty is based on the laws which are beyond the planet (Earth).
  • The deed which was signed by the member states lay down that those who are parties to treaties shall keep the peaceful environment and the non-militaristic area in the space. Also, the consensuses were given to the point that there shall not be any use of nuclear weapon in the space orbit or around the planet (Earth).
  • Parties to the treaty shall not establish any form of military base, insert, or barricade and check any sort of weapons on celestial bodies.The principle of outer space treaty is stated as like space or the universe is not personal property it is defined as the common heritage of all mankind. All nations may with due diligence avail the all beneficial services but with the restrictions pertaining to the protection of the celestial bodies.
  • The stated prohibitions do not bound the legal entities and the private individuals.One disadvantage has been noted that the treaty doesn’t specifically mention the exact address at which the non-nuclear-weapon is supposed to be placed.

The Rescue Agreement of 1968

Aim of the treaty

The Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space.

Effects and Year of Ratification

Since 19 December 1968, As of May 2013, 92 States have ratified the Rescue Agreement, 24 have signed, and two international intergovernmental organizations (the European Space Agency and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) have declared their acceptance of the rights and obligations conferred by the agreement.[2]

Functions and Accountability

  • It elaborates and expands the duties and responsibilities which are mentioned in outer space treaty.
  • The can be understood as the aid or an assistance must be provided by the member states to the respective astronauts in their distress time. For Example: if an astronaut gets struck during his/her journey to space, then it the responsibility of the member state to provide assistance to the astronaut.

The Liability Convention of 1972

Aim of the treaty

International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.

Effects and Year of ratification

Since 1 September 1972, As of 1 January 2013, 89 States have ratified the Liability Convention, 22 have signed but not ratified and three international intergovernmental organizations (the European Space Agency, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, and the European Telecommunications Satellite Organization) have declared their acceptance of the rights and obligations provided for in the Agreement.[3]’

Functions and Accountability:

  • Same as the Rescue Agreement, the Liability Convention was taken into the consideration to define liabilities which were mentioned in the outer space treaty.
  • The principle of this Convention says that the party or the member state whosoever launching any space objects would be absolutely liable for any cause damage caused by the space objects on the earth or aircraft or any damage which caused in the space itself. For example: if any space object launch by the party due to some negligence or mistake damage caused. The damage caused either at the surface of the earth, aircraft or in the celestial bodies itself; there shall be an absolute and strict liability of the launching party. Possible damages could be collision of any two satellites, personal injury, loss to the property etc.

The Registration Convention of 1975

Aim of the treaty

Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space.

Effects and Year of Registration

Since 15 September 1976, As of November 2016, it has been ratified by 63 states[4]. The member states which have signed, but not ratified those are Burundi, Iran, Nicaragua, and Singapore.

Functions and Accountability

  • The objective of this convention is to ensure and protect the peaceful use and right use of space environment by registering the space objects that are going to be used during the launch by the member party.

Following are the information that is required by the Convention:

  • Name of launching State.
  • An appropriate designator of the space object or its registration number.
  • Date and territory or location of launch.
  • Basic orbital parameters.
  • The general function of the space object.

The Moon Treaty of 1979

Aim of the treaty

Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.

Effects and Ratification

Since, July 11, 1984,  As of November 2016, it has been ratified by 17 states. In practical approach, this treaty has failed because the major space powers namely US and Russia hasn’t signed and ratified this treaty.

Functions and Accountability

  • Last but not the least convention, but most controversial treaty. It states about the whole prohibition and restrictions on the use of nuclear weapon and the objects that cause mass destruction in the space.
  • It extends the outer space treaty and states that any claim by the party on the moon and on the celestial bodies would amount to violation of the peaceful use of space because the resources which are available in the space are subject to all mankind.

Space laws at national level (i.e. India)

It is laudable to note that India is a member of the above-mentioned conventions

  1. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967,
  2. The Rescue Agreement of 1968,
  3. The Liability Convention of 1972,
  4. The Registration Convention of 1975, and
  5. The Moon Treaty of 1979.


  • India is the country which has tremendous resources in the field of scientific research with great amount of population of scientist.
  • The person behind this mission and vision of having space law in India was our great leader Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • This initiative first got into process on 1975 under the guidance of United States. A space object called small sounding rockets was launched from the station named Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS).
  • First satellite in 19 April 1975 namely Aryabhatta was launched by India.
  • The launching of SLV-3 in July 1980 brought Asian nation additional near the dream of achieving native satellite launch capability.
  • With the launch of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on fifteen October 1994, Asian nation achieved the native satellite launch capability.
  • Asian nation has currently specially created PSLV and Geosynchrous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

International Space Laws: India’s Role

  • Contributing factors embrace rubble from Associate in Nursing ISRO satellite falling on a Japanese fishing village, rockets berating on the launch pad and damaging alternative payloads from multiple countries, and therefore the large 104 satellites initiated area creating India accountable for any accidents that happen.
  • With Antrix Corporation, ISRO’s business arm, increasing centered on being a launch service supplier, the requirement for a national area policy becomes even additional stark. We have each capability to affix leading nations in gather resources from area, and wish to possess a transparent position and capability to handle legal problems.
  • World organisation treaties from 1967 aren’t any longer capable of addressing the challenges of the weaponization of area and India has to consolidate its position as a world area power that has reached Mars.

India has continuously explored area in an exceedingly peaceful manner and may become a serious moral of demilitarization during this era of killer satellites once the 2007 check by China. If Bharat needs to encourage non-public investment during this sector and transcend its government monopoly on area, it must have an outlined area law on the books. ISRO would be ready to look on the {far side} the day to day activities of satellite launches and invest its time and resources in additional far-reaching endeavours. Current proposals embrace industrial zones close to the area port on Sriharikota further as city. With 100 percent FDI being planned by the govt, this looks to be following massive wave that may catch the imaginations of voters, businesses, investors and researchers to call many.


Space laws are often delineating as that branch of law that is applicable to and governing the house law connected activities. The housing law is that space of law which incorporates all the national and international conduct within the space. The Republic of India doesn’t have any legislation on house and house connected matters.

Our Indian legislation ought to incorporate

  1. The legal problems connected to launch services (space transportation systems);
  2. The legal problems connected to satellite telecommunications, as well as satellite broadcasting;
  3. Analyze problems associated to earth observation services further as processing and distribution;
  4. Satellite steering systems and
  5. Analyzes the property.


1 Definition of Space Law, Encyclopedia Britannica Online: Academic Edition 2011 available at

2 Rescue Agreement available at

3 Space Liability Convention available at

4 Registration Convention available at


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