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Real-Time Challenges for the Registration Regime: Where to?

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 9 2018
Authors Georgia-Eleni Exarchou, Yvonne Vastaroucha, Pelagia-Ioanna Ageridou, e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Registration is the sole basis for “jurisdiction and control” in outer space (Art. VIII OST) and also constitutes the basis for responsibility over a space object. It is therefore evident that ambiguities regarding registration are crucial for the safety of space operations. The discussion about registration has been escalating lately as space is becoming increasingly accessible with the diversification of space subjects. Simultaneously the practice of States indicates reduced diligence in registering their space objects. Initially, the present paper briefly recapitulates the different registries and processes based on the general rule that a launching State shall register a space object set by Art. II of the 1976 Registration Convention. It then turns to current challenges concerning the registration procedure as well as its consequences. Firstly, the term “launching State” is scrutinized, aiming to address several cases of private launches where registration was omitted. Subsequently, the challenges posed by the transfer of ownership of in-orbit space objects are discussed. In this context, it is examined whether there is a rule of international law allowing for the transfer of registration where the registering State has no effective control over an object. Secondly, the paper analyses the notion of “launching State” in light of joint launching and launchings realized by international organizations. It further attempts to answer the relevant question of registration of mega-constellations. The paper concludes by reviewing the possibility of the desirable harmonization and standardization of the registration regime under the Registration Convention, the UNGA Resolution 62/101 and the newly added Guideline 6 of the Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities in light of the aforementioned developments.


Georgia-Eleni Exarchou
National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Yvonne Vastaroucha
National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Pelagia-Ioanna Ageridou,
National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Iliana Griva
National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.

    From ESA’s Moon Village to Elon Musk’s Martian cities, there is increasing talk of establishing permanent human settlements or outposts in outer space. November 2018 will mark 18 years of continuous human presence in space via the International Space Station (ISS). However, these new proposals are different for several reasons. They are intended to have a permanence never envisioned for the ISS, they are intended to be ‘home’ to more than professional astronauts and fewer than a handful of space tourists, and they will be located on the Moon and other celestial bodies. The ISS is treated by the existing space law regime as a space object, or an assembly of separate space objects, regarded as functionally no different from any other space object. However, whether this approach could be taken for facilities on the Moon and other celestial bodies is the proposed focus of this paper. None of the space law treaties provide a precise definition of the term ‘space object’, however the generally accepted understanding is that “space objects may be defined as artificial man made objects that are brought into space and are designed for use in outer space.” That is not to lament the lack of a specific definition, as it would most likely be disadvantageous to have been lumbered with the 1967 conception of ‘space object’. The nonspecificity of the treaties allow scope for development and adaptation to deal with the uses now proposed. Article VIII of the Outer Space Treaty potentially provides aid in this quest as it indicates that ‘objects constructed on a celestial body’ fall within the scope of ‘space object’. Therefore, it is most likely possible to construct a regime providing a legal basis for governance of space settlements and outposts utilizing the existing ‘space object’ concept. However, there will still be potential issue around the nonappropriation principle codified in Article II of the Outer Space Treaty. Which this paper will also explore. This is a topic which is vital for the maintenance of the existing space law regime and is of growing relevance as more proposals for permanent human presence are made.


Thomas Cheney
Northumbria University, United Kingdom; thomas.cheney@northumbria.ac.uk.

    This article studies five category of malicious cyber activities against space assets in order to assess to what extent the existing international telecommunications law and space law address such activities and identify which rules should be pursued to effectively solve them. Five category of such activities include jamming, hijacking, hacking, spoofing, and robbing the control of telemetry, tracking and control (TT&C) of a satellite (a kind of anti-satellite (ASAT)). Actual incidents are selected for analysis. Those are: (i) jamming: Iranian deliberate harmful interference to the Eutelsat satellites solved in the ITU; (ii) hijacking: a terrorist organization, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) hijacking US Intelsat-12 satellite solved by diplomatic negotiation between the Sri Lankan and US Governments using international telecommunications law developed by the ITU and individual national laws; (iii) hacking: alleged Chinese hacking of US NOAA’s information systems; (iv) spoofing: Iranian spoofing of the GPS signals to guide a US/CIA’s RQ-170 UAV into the Iranian territory; and (v) robbing the control of TT&C: alleged Chinese taking control of US remote sensing satellites including Landsat-7 and Terra AM-1. Concluding remarks include: 1) international telecommunications law developed in the ITU can adequately address harmful interference or hijacking as a result of malicious cyber activity as long as that is conducted by a non-State actor; 2) efforts have started in the ITU to strengthen its fact-finding ability in line with the TCBM measures taken in space activities. This orientation may be remembered as a beginning of the new stage that international space law and international telecommunications law would be merged into one field of law: 3) It remains unclear about the implications of an intangible damage occurred to a satellite when its TT&C is robbed of as a result of malicious cyber activity, while it is clear that such an action constitute the violation of the principles of respect for state sovereignty, national jurisdiction and non-intervention. Thus, for promoting peaceful uses of outer space, the elaboration of relevant Articles of the Outer Space Treaty is urgently needed to formulate clear conditions for national space activities.


Setsuko Aoki
Professor of Law, Keio University Law School, Japan, saoki@ls.keio.ac.jp.

    This paper analyzes, on the one hand, the legitimate expectations and needs of the industries in terms of intellectual property protection for outer space research, as they need to be protected against violations and be free to grant exploitation licenses. On the other hand, it investigates if the use and exploitation of outer space and celestial bodies is carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries.
    The key issue of the protection of inventions in accordance with national and international regulations will also be addressed in the paper.
    The paper will start from a combined analysis of art. 5 of the IGA, establishing that each Partner shall retain jurisdiction and control over the elements it registers, and art. 21 of the IGA, which regulates intellectual property based on the quasi-territorial principle, and sets out that the regulations of the State in whose registered modules the invention occurs shall apply. The paper aims to examine national intellectual property protection regulations, highlighting possible conflicts of applicable national laws with respect to the place where the invention occurs and inventor nationality, but also regarding the recognition of the different patent systems adopted by ISS Partner States. European Partner States enjoy a privileged position, as set forth by paragraph 2 of art. 21 of the IGA.
    As the unique environment of the ISS calls for quick recognition of intellectual property licenses obtained in other Partner States, the paper will analyze the different Partners’ national legislation, existing International Conventions on the matter, such as the TRIPS Agreement, and European patent regulations, which streamline procedures and introduce stringent minimum protection standards in all the areas of intellectual property.


Gabriella Catalano Sgrosso
University of Rome, Italy, sgrossogabriella@gmail.com.

    From the inception of European integration, a regime trying to regulate and arrange competition as much as considered necessary for the benefit of society at large has been one of the core elements of the European Union’s legal order. While the European Union has over the past few decades become more and more involved in the European space effort, this has so far hardly given rise to fundamental application of this competition regime to space activities, even if space also in Europe increasingly has become commercialized and privatized. The current paper investigates the reasons and rationale for this special situation, addressing inter alia the special character of outer space activities and the space industry and the role of the European Space Agency in this respect.


Frans G. von der Dunk
University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

    The Act on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources (the Space Resources Act) adopted by Luxemburg Parliament in July 2017, in particular Article 1 which stipulates that “Space resources are capable of being appropriated”, has raised various discussions in the international community. Along with the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 (CSLCA), State Parties to the Outer Space Treaty (OST), which prohibits national appropriation of outer space whereby, has taken the first step towards an overall commercial exploitation of space resources by national recognition of private property rights thereon. Yet, such initiative, creating property rights over space resources obtained in missions conducted by private entities, has raised an inevitable question for other space-faring nations who might be State Parties to the OST or the Moon Agreement (MOON) or both of them: what should they do in their domestic laws?
    The CSLCA, in particular Title IV, was deliberately designed in a way that obviously act in accordance with existing international law. However, it grants ownership and other rights of space resources only to citizens of U.S., because of which the controversies raised by this nationality-oriented approach are continuing to focus on if its unilateral interpretation does accord with Art. I and II of the OST. The Space Resources Act, however, by stipulating conformity with Luxemburg’s international obligations in Art. 2(3) in the Space Resources Act, has taken an approach that is heading to the same direction yet different goal. Luxemburg is neither one of the super space powers nor a potential one when it officially announced its ambition on a domestic regulatory framework for commercial space industries. At the current stage, the legal certainty provided by the Space Resources Act works for the blueprint for the promising commercial investment in the space field. This article examines the similarities and differences between the CSLCA, in particular Title IV, and the Space Resources Act. By such review, this article presents the legal interpretation of core principles of international space law which converge to States’ practices on a national basis, and demonstrates to what extent are they in consistency with international space law to try to figure out for other States if there are more options of establishing a national legal framework for exploiting space resources.


Yangzi Tao
Keio University.

Jie Long
Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, longjie@hku.hk.

Nicholas Puschman
DipEU, L.LB (Hons.), L.LM, Graduate Trainee in the International Law Division, European Space Agency and Executive Secretary of the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL).

Elina Morozova
Elina Morozova, Head of International & Legal Service, Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications, morozova@intersputnik.com.

Yaroslav Vasyanin
Yaroslav Vasyanin, Legal Counsel, International & Legal Service, Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications, vasyanin@intersputnik.com.

Akiko Watanabe
Independent Researcher, Japan, akiko.watanabe109@gmail.com.

Sadaf Amrin Fathima
Student of Master’s in Space and Telecommunication Law, Center of Air and Space Law (CASL), NALSAR University of Law, India.

Motolani Fadahunsi-Banjo
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Nigeria

Mahulena Hofmann
SES Chair in Satellite Communications and Media Law, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg

George D. Kyriakopoulos
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

Frans G. von der Dunk
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Law, Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program

Michael Chatzipanagiotis
Associate, Marinos and Partners Law Firm, Greece

Rafael Moro-Aguilar
Head of Legal Affairs, Orbspace, Austria

Olavo de O. Bittencourt Neto
Professor Doctor, Catholic University of Santos (Brazil)

Souichirou Kozuka
Gakushuin University, Japan

Fumiko Masuda
Gakushuin University, Japan

Yuri Takaya-Umehara
Any views in this article pertain to the first author only. Kobe University, Japan, yuritakaya_japan@hotmail.com.

Seiji Matsuda
IHI Aerospace Co, Ltd., Japan, matsuda-s@iac.ihi.co.jp.

Takayoshi Fuji
Japan Space Systems, Japan, fuji-takayoshi@jspacesystems.or.jp.

Mitsuteru Kaneoka
CSP Japan, Inc., Japan, kaneoka@csp.co.jp.

V. Gopalakrishnan
Policy Analyst, Indian Space Research Organisation, Bangalore, India, gopal@isro. gov.in.

M.Y.S. Prasad
Director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation, Sriharikota, India, mys@shar.gov.in.
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