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This article is written by Anshal Dhiman, from RGNUL, Patiala. The article compares space laws in the US, the UK, and India.


When the Sputnik-I satellite of the USSR reached space in 1957, it opened many new possibilities for humans back on earth. Despite previous beliefs and claims of some agencies, humans had found a way to leave the planet. The dream of a human in space also didn’t take too long to be completed when soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin reached space and orbited the earth in the first manned space mission ever. Man’s missions outside the planet were a great bit of excitement, but it also meant that humans have explored a new dimension, a new thing to exploit.

To prevent any such exploitation or any unhealthy activities related to space, there was an obvious need for space laws. Over time a few bodies have been developed, some laws have been enacted, and some policies have been made to regulate human activities in space. Different countries have made different progress in the space sector. This article will talk about the space laws of some countries and how they have shaped their laws, compared to others.

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United Nation Office for outer space affairs

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) was established in 1958, given the developments that have been made in the USA and the USSR in the space sector. The UNOOSA works with all the 193 members of the UN to make sure there is a peaceful exchange of affairs amongst different countries relating to space. The establishment of the body is also necessary because of the concerns of developing countries. Many developed countries are of the view that space exploration and space materials can be of economic help to themselves, and that these resources must be distributed equally by the developed countries so that all countries in the world are on the same path. Toward the beginning of the 21st century, UNOOSA embraced a few activities and projects to satisfy its command of advancing far and wide and tranquil international association in space.

In 2005, the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG) was set up to advance similarity, interoperability, and straightforwardness between all the satellite navigation systems, especially for agricultural countries. The next year, the UN-SPIDER program was made to give an open stage to creating states to utilize space-based innovations for the fiasco, the board, and crisis response. The body is also responsible for maintaining international treaties and international agreements related to space laws. The body has done well in increasing awareness through events online and offline.

Space laws in different countries

The US legal framework

The United States was one of the first countries to start working on space legal structure and has been leading the world in the matter. The United States has the most powerful and definite public space law and administrative system tending to space exercises of any country. Numerous countries have displayed their laws on those of the United States. The country is also part of four international space treaties. The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 set NASA, and also showed the world that the USA is ready to develop and research more about space exploration, and obtain resources from outer space.

Commercial space launch capabilities are important to the United States for many reasons. The 2010 National Space Policy reflects this importance; one of its six goals is to ‘energize competitive domestic industries to participate in global markets and advance the development of space launch. The 2013 National Space Transportation Policy established five goals, including promoting and maintaining a dynamic, healthy, and efficient domestic space transportation industrial base; and encouraging and facilitating the US commercial space transportation industry to increase industry robustness and cost-effectiveness.

The 2013 Policy also directs agencies to purchase and use US commercial space transportation capabilities and services and facilitate multiple US commercial providers of space transportation services across a range of launch vehicle classes, to the maximum extent practicable. The United States has done so in many ways, including NASA’s use of Space Act Agreements. Because commercial space launch capabilities are so important, there is a very detailed statutory and regulatory regime applicable to such activities.

In 2015, the US embraced the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (the Act). The Act, in addition to other things, receives arrangements identifying with mining procedure on divine bodies including the Moon and space rocks. As per this Act, the President, through federal offices, will ‘encourage commercial investigation for and commercial recuperation of space assets by US residents’.

Besides, ‘a US resident occupied with commercial recuperation of a space rock or space asset will be qualified for any space rock asset or space asset got, including to have, own, transport, use, and sell, as per appropriate law, including the global commitments of the US.’ The Act unequivocally permits US residents to ‘take part in a commercial investigation for and commercial recuperation of space assets, as per the worldwide commitments of the US and subject to approval and proceeding with management by the Federal Government’.

The USA has one of the widest legal frameworks related to space in the world, because of its deep research history in the field, and the success it has achieved in space exploration. Another big advancement that the US has achieved in the field is the successful commercialization of space exploration. In the past years, the country had tried to privatize land remote sensing but it did not work out as well. The country has stood as a model for others to follow in their legal frameworks and continues to set examples for others to follow.

UK space legal framework

The United Kingdom is another country that has done well in the field of space and has a good legal structure for the same. Although the country has not been as successful as others in the execution of its space activities, its legal regulations have done well and are well framed. The body that controls space affairs in the UK is the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA), which was established only in 2010. The agency replaced the British National Space Centre. Space activities completed by the English government are outlined by two lawful structures. Right off the bat by the international arrangements in which the United Kingdom participated, and also, by the Outer Space Act of 1986 which is an immediate utilization of international standards in English law. 

The 1986 Act is the path for the United Kingdom to control the utilization of outer space and the activities done in it by associations or people from its domain. Subsequently, this act is roused by the points and standards set in the United Countries’ space arrangements, similar to the Outer Space Deal of 1967.

The Outer Space Act is of most extreme significance to the United Kingdom as it permits the nation to go along with its activities with the standards set up by international law. Additionally, it builds up a security net around general wellbeing and edges the issue of the UK government’s responsibility for harm. Other than it additionally sets up a convention to be followed. On the off chance that you need to dispatch or work a space article or complete any activity in outer space, you should apply for an OSA license.

The convention initiated the Traffic Signal Framework (TLS): by giving a specific tone – red, golden, or green – it will give the individual or association applying for the license an approach to know the likelihood of achievement of their application. When the license is true, the licensee should satisfy various commitments, for example, abstaining from sullying space, trying not to meddle with space activities did by others, dodging any break of the UK’s international commitments yet, also, saving the public safety of the United Kingdom just as protecting themselves against outsider liabilities.

The Space Industry Act, 2018, makes arrangements for space activities and suborbital activities; and associated purposes. In addition to other things, it explains that all offenses that would be an offense whenever submitted in the ward (the UK), to be an offense whenever submitted on any space created from this country. This is like the arrangements that apply to boats and planes.

The enactment likewise covers necessities like spaceflight authorizing, protection prerequisites, and wellbeing responsibilities, which have gotten principal in the time of SpaceX and Virgin Galactic where space is not, at this point inaccessible outskirts, however one set to be popularized in a manner not seen previously. 

The Act is essential for the Public authority’s Mechanical System, which means to build up the UK’s little satellite manufacturing industry into a worldwide center point for satellite activities and innovation – with admittance to space. They guarantee that it will make many profoundly gifted positions and result in billions of limits for the economy. The improvement of little satellite capacity and moderateness implies that there is a developing business sector for minimal effort private dispatch offices, and it is trusted that the Space Business Act will encourage the turn of events and speculation needed for the UK’s first spaceport.

Indian space laws

India has one of the biggest space organizations in ISRO, but it still doesn’t have any strict legal structure for the same. Internationally India is part of 5 treaties, and a signatory to the Moon Treaty of 1979.

Nationally, India has some policies which are followed during space exploration activities. The technology policy of ISRO is an all-around characterized and methodical strategy for the exchange of skill of advancements and items created by the Indian Space Places to sustain Indian ventures and their application in the business domain relating to different space projects. Remote Sensing Data Policy of 2011 is for all actions identified with allowing the obtaining, dispersal as well as executives of far off detecting information on the side of formative activities, embraced inside the domain of the approach. 

The goal of the approach is to encourage client admittance to high-goal information needed for formative activities. In addition to this, the Satellite Communication Act was enacted in 1997 to regulate and develop satellite communications. Recently ISRO approved the setup of IN-SPACe, which is thought to be set up to involve private players in the space industry and to spread awareness regarding space activities. It is basic to refer to that notwithstanding IN-SPACe, there are two different associations, in particular, New Space India Limited (NSIL) and Antrix Corporation Limited (ACL), made by the public authority to invigorate the development of Indian enterprises in the space area and advance space exercises, NSIL capacities under the regulatory control of DoS and means to industrially use the innovative work works of ISRO and other constituent units of DoS. ACL, then again, likewise performs comparative capacities.

The Draft Space Activities Bill was made public to the people in 2017, but the bill is yet to become a working Act. Article 51 and Article 253 of the Indian Constitution provide for the promotion of international peace and any space law that the Indian government plans to bring must be in line with these two provisions. It is very much clear that India needs a strong legal framework to join the elite organizations at the top.


The article talked about the space law framework in some of the biggest democracies in the world: The US, The UK, and India. It was observed that the US has a very balanced and well developed legal structure for space activities, while the UK, although does have a good legal framework for outer space activities, it still lacks in various ways, which is also because it still lags behind the space agencies of other big countries. India on the other hand, is seen to be different from both the UK and the US, because of its undeveloped legal workaround space activities.

Although India has some policies and rules regulating the work of ISRO regarding satellites etc. there is still need for a proper legislation that regulates outer space activities as a whole in India, and helps India reach the likes of the US and Russia in the space sector.



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