Although we have long moved on from a spacefaring environment dominated by the actions of two State powers, modern space law is still centred on the notion of ‘launching States’, including as the basic concept for applying the Liability Convention. This chapter asks whether the legal framework established at the time of adoption of the Liability Convention is still efficient for the regulation of commercial space ventures, in particular by questioning the continuing relevance and definition of the concept of ‘launching State’. This question will be considered in four steps, discussing in turn (1) the importance of the notion of launching States; (2) the interest of holding States liable for damage caused by a space object; (3) the implications of private entities getting involved in this framework; and (4) the entity carrying the risk created by private space activities. Keywords: launching State; liability; private actors
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Legal and Policy Aspects
Legal and Policy Aspects
Jan Wouters, Philip De Man and Rik Hansen
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.