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 10: Legal aspects of satellite navigation

Lesley Jane Smith

Subjects: law - academic, public international law


The application of satellite information for navigation purposes (more precisely: positioning, navigation and timing, PNT) has taken great strides since GPS and GLONASS signals became easily accessible to civil users in the 1990s. The added value of such satellite information was recognized early on, in not only the aviation, but also the maritime sector. Initial observations addressed Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) largely as a system exclusively for use in aviation; accompanying considerations for introducing a suitable legal regime at that stage were primarily driven by the concerns of the aviation sector. Viewed historically, the single-state governance of the above systems has precluded the development of any international overarching unified regulatory regime for GNSS as a system. With the advent of other (GNSS) such as EGNOS/Galileo (Europe), Beidou/Compass (China), GAGAN/IRNSS (India) and MSAS/QZSS (Japan), many other applications – in other transport sectors, in time-dependent business sectors such as banking, telecommunications and energy, as well as many leisure sectors – are now beginning to use GNSS. This has revived discussions as to whether all aspects and uses of GNSS should be addressed in a single upstream, general international regime, rather than leaving each sector to regulate the use of GNSS independently. In terms of the current law, the absence of a tailor-made specific global legal framework for GNSS means that its legal parameters are driven by a maze of sector-specific international obligations (such as those under the international space treaties) and sector-specific frameworks (such as that for aviation). The application of these rules has to be viewed in relation to the individual upstream operations and downstream services of the specific sector in question.

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