Handbook of Space Law

Handbook of Space Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Frans von der Dunk

Handbook of Space Law addresses the legal and regulatory aspects of activities in outer space and major space applications from a comprehensive and structured perspective. The book fundamentally addresses the dichotomy between the state-oriented character of international space law and the increasing commercialization and privatization of space activities.

Chapter 1: The background and history of space law

Peter Jankowitsch

Subjects: law - academic, public international law


Space law in any meaningful sense started to develop immediately following the launch of Sputnik-1 in October 1957, and ever since has presented a fascinating new body of (essentially) international law. The human space endeavour started with the two superpowers the Soviet Union and the United States, then increasingly involved other states as well. Firstly this remained confined perhaps to the European and Anglo-Saxon parts of the world (France, the United Kingdom, West-Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia), but then also industrial powers from other parts of the world (Japan, the People’s Republic of China) and finally increasingly also from major developing countries (India, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria) as well as a range of smaller countries across the globe entered the arena. These developments resulted in a continuous need to extend and update relevant areas of the legal regime in order to keep abreast of those developments and ensure the continued accessibility of outer space for peaceful purposes for the benefit of mankind – in spite of all the individual military, strategic and political, and then increasingly also economic and social interests at stake. Today’s concerns regarding, for example, space debris and the long-term sustainability of space activities, and the role of private enterprise in space activities respectively themselves arose from more general geo-political and geo-economic developments, but fundamentally require being addressed by law and regulation, firstly on a global scale. Chapter 1 addresses how the overarching issues of space law arose as a consequence of this background and history of space activities and the major political, military, scientific and economic developments guiding them, taking account of the major milestones in this respect such as the first man in space, the first landing on another celestial body, the first re-usable space vehicle, the first long-term space station operations and the first space tourists.