International Institute of Space Law

Article

Developments that Could Create a Fragmented Space Law Regime

Authors Henry R. Hertzfeld
Author's information

Henry R. Hertzfeld
Director and Research Professor, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University, Washington, DC; hhertzfeld@law.gwu.edu.
  • Abstract

      Since its inception, space law has been governed by principles and rules established by governments and primarily applicable to government activities. Today we are experiencing policy changes to encourage private sector initiatives to carry out government missions and to expand potential profit-making opportunities. The space treaties allow for nongovernmental activities in space but only under the auspices of a nation. Each nation approaches legal solutions in their own way. These variations in national law may create challenges for all space-faring nations. If there are no international agreements, they may create a more fragmented, unpredictable, and unsustainable environment for all participants, both governments and private companies in outer space.
      The fragmentation of international law is defined by the development of sets of rules pertaining to specific subject areas that may claim autonomy from principles of general international law. Those subject areas reflect the larger global issues that include the environment, energy, resource availability, migration, health, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Space law is unique and may be considered one of the fragmented areas of international law. The principles of the now 50-year old treaties have been formally acknowledged by all space-faring nations. New developments may threaten that.
      At issue are many areas of space law including liability, property rights, and environmental harm. Different on-orbit space activities such as satellite servicing, exploiting resources, and removing debris highlight the types of space activities with many similar legal concerns but which may result in different rules in different nations and even for different rules within a nation. New and growing legal tensions among space-faring nations will arise.
      Solutions to this problem are all suboptimal. Neither top-down oversight nor separate bottom-up rules or guidelines will suffice as stable, predictable, and long-lasting regimes that create a favorable legal environment for future public and private space exploration and use.

Please sign in to access the article



Did you receive an activation code but no access yet? Please activate your code here.

Forgot your password? Request new password.

Purchase access

You can purchase online access to this article. You will receive 24 hrs access @ € 17,50 (excl. VAT).

24 hrs access € 17,50 (excl. VAT)

Activate your code

If you have an access code, please activate it here.