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Space Law in the 21st Century -Unique Structure and Future Strength

India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world and at a growth rate of 7.5% which has fared better than many other developing countries. As we march ahead in all spheres of human endeavor, we are also making immense forays in the field of space exploration and its research. With recent accomplishments in this highly specialized area, we are now claiming our place amongst the elite nations who are the recognized world leaders in Space technology. This article describes a comprehensive analysis of current trends in development of space law.

Our country has tried to bring in all possible legislations, rules ,regulations and guidelines to stimulate growth .Even as we make – in-roads in the area of Space technology and research through various Space agencies instituted by the Central Government ,appropriate space legislation in a sphere that has largely been neglected or overlooked for a long time by the law makers. In an increasingly Competitive global business environment, every nation would want to set its own priorities even in the use of the Stratosphere and beyond. Again cooperation among nations in the use of Space ,sharing of information and Space technology would become a need rather than a contentious issue.

To make this happen, it is imperative that suitable legislation and a unified governance system recognized by all the nations of the world is put in place. As Space flights funded by the Private Organizations in different Countries are becoming a reality, it is high time that we take precautions to ensure that a system of governance is in place to resolve any possible issues or calamities that might occur in outer space.

Significant Events In Space Research Development:

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is a Space agency that was created by the Government of India. Since its establishment in 1969, it has launched may successful lunar and mars missions. This Organization has been able to launch 83 satellites in a span of 47 years for various research purposes. The Chandrayaan I mission brought us laurels with the pioneering discovery of water in the moon.

The Mars mission was another feather in the cap for our Space Scientists. India today has opened up Foreign Investment in almost all the sectors enabling direct Private investment in Space research as well. In the absence of appropriate legislation, our contributions may become dulled or unrecognized as funding and investments particularly Private, becomes an obstacle. As an enabler appropriate legislation should be put in place.

Formation Of The United Nation Treaties:

Space law can be described as the body of law applicable to and governing space –related activities.The term  Space law is the most often associated with the rules ,principles and standards of international law in the five international treaties and five sets of principles governing outer space which have been enumerated under the patronage of the United Nations Organisation and various other national laws. Soviet Union was one of the very first countries in the world to launch a satellite named Sputnik 1 in 1957 and this led to the famous Space race between the USSR and USA during the cold war Period.
  • The first famous treaty  Outer Space treaty' was drafted, which was ratified by 24 UN member states. This piece of legislation made exploration of space free for the states and also raised the importance nuclear weapons which was prohibited to be placed in outer space.
  • The Second treaty is the Rescue Agreement, which deals with making potential support available to the astronauts who have landed in other state's territory during re-entry, due to an accident , distress, emergency and or unintentional landing. In 1968, the number of human spaceflights or any manned mission to space was very few. So, this treaty was designed keeping in mind, the frequent visits to the outer Space by humans in the future.
  • The third treaty is the liability Convention of 1972 which is an elaboration of the outer space treaty, 1968.This imposes liability on States for the damages it creates in the Space and in other State territory through its space activities.
  • The Fourth treaty being the Registration Convention has been ratified by 62 member states of the UN in 1976.This requires all the states to maintain a register of every bit of detail about the particular countries space objective. India has been a signatory to this treaty and has been abiding by the above mentioned standards by providing information to the Secretary general of the United Nations for inclusion in the United Nation register.
  • The fifth and last treaty is the Moon Agreement that regulated the state from using any nuclear weapons on the Celestial bodies as well as bans all exploration of the Moon without the permission of other nation for the benefit of the entire human race.

Till now Indian Space activities have been governed by the International Principles and treaties which the United Nation has laid down. So far there has been a lack of initiative by our legislations to introduce similar laws in our country.

The Constitution of India also plays it part in governing these Space activities. Article 51 of the Constitution strives for international peace and Security. The Clause (3) of this Article pursues the state to respect all its international treaties and Conventions it is party to. As India has been a signatory to above said treaties, it also makes its maximum to effort to embrace the same.

Importance Of India's Position In Space Law:

India is now gaining momentum in every sphere of human endeavor and is growing by leaps and bounds in the race to become a global economic power. In the field of Space research and technology too, India has made great strides and is in an envious position today vis-a- vis – the acknowledged space super powers so to speak. India has shown immense enthusiasm and has been very supportive at various discussions and debates at conventions to promote the development of international space law.

Heated deliberations have taken place in various forums regarding the formation of a well- defined space law in India. The extent of India's space activities have far surpassed expectations and are advancing at a rapid rate. Space law being the next most significant area of research and experimentation requires a robust and well –defined internal legal framework to guide the space agencies irrespective of the extent of activities undertaken.

Increased Civilian applications of Space technology will require support from private sector and in such a scenario, national Space , legislation becomes indispensable. The launching of satellites and other Vehicles into outer Space has been the greatest Scientific and technological achievement of our era. However, Space law is a precarious ground to set foot in. As much as it is necessary, it is important to design the laws in a way beneficial to mankind and not harmful to the country's progress.

Functioning And Implementation Of Space Laws:

From the inception of Space exploration , Soviet legal experts have expressed the view that countries must be guided by the International laws and as prescribed by the United Nations charter. Of course, the general agreement is that Space research and technology should be used for the benefit of the peoples of the world. However, it is observed that almost 75% of the satellites stationed in outer Space orbiting the earth are primarily performing military tasks such as Surveillance, early warning, communication and navigation.

The military capability of Satellites have inspired military planners to develop anti-satellite systems. Article 253 of the Constitution of India that Confers power on the parliament to make laws for the implementation of India's international obligations arising from treaties, agreements, Conventions or decisions made at international conferences, associations or bodies. The Probe will include 19 experiments in Space, including in microgravity fluid Physics, microgravity combustion, Space material, Space radiation effect, microgravity biological effect and Space technology , before returning to earth with results.

In the Coming years, innovative methods to use outer Space will Originate. Using outer space for weather forecasting involves the issue of weather control in which all nations have vital interest. Military campaigns, medical emergencies, telephone calls, weather forecasts, Online maps, news materials and other forms of information and Communication all rely on highly advanced and sophisticated satellites that hover above the Earth's atmosphere.

Presently more than 40 countries of the world have atleast one satellite in Orbit. There is the issue of Space debris, which needs to be addressed within the broad framework of Space legislation.

With the advances in Space technology and with the increase of Space traffic and Proliferation of nations in the Space race, there will be a pressing need to device and formulate an internal legislative framework that will act as a safeguard and provide reasonable safety standards. Outer Space laws that are codified will bring in much more clarity and will provide direction to nations as well as individuals researching and experimenting in outer space related activities.

Enacting an efficient legislation at this stage will help the country to make use of the law in an efficient manner presently and also will make it easier to make amendment in the future to adapt to the changing world scenario. In depth studies are to made in this emerging field and the law makers should have the far-sightedness to enact legislations well ahead and be in a state of preparedness.

When the legal framework and boundaries are clearly defined, it will only bode well for the growth of space technology and research in India for the benefit of all. Therefore launching of new satellites will only help India Progress and advance towards greater Success in the field of Space law.

  1. Chandrashekar , Schandra .Space, war and Deterrence : A strategy for India
  2. Astropolitics, The International Journal of Space Politics & Policy,vol.14,Issue 2-3 2016 :135-157
  3. Sachdeva, Gurbachan Singh, Space doctrine of India . Astropolitics: The International Journal of Space Politics & Policy, Vol .14, Issue 2-3,2016 :104-119
  4. Walsh,Justin St.p.Protection of humanity's Cultural and historic heritage in Space, Space Policy , Vol . 28 Issue 1, 2012 234-243
  5. S.Subramnian and Y.Mallikarjun,First human being will land on Mars in 2037 says NASA official ,HINDU DAILY ,(Mangalore edn) 25th September 2007 at 13.
  6. MALCOLM N.SHAW ,INTERNATIONAL LAW ,4th edn,541 (1997)
  7. Melissa Kemper force ,Sub-orbital Space flight in Europe ,I AJASL 47,51 (2011)

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