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Universe - A Space of Disorder

Numerous conventions, treaties, International agreements make Space Law, the only legal structure which regulates activities in space. Still unclear about the extent the universe is spread through, but Space Law is applied to every celestial body, which means all planets, asteroids, and moons. It seemed that there was a need for a regulatory for activities in space after the Soviet Union launched their satellite Sputnik in the year 1957, not just their first satellite but Sputnik was the first artificial-satellite ever launched by the humankind.

United Nation then immediately saw a need to introduce an international understanding of the use of space when the United States of America and U.S.S.R began their race for the Moon; the preponderance for Space Law has been growing since then.

The Outer Space Treaty was introduced on 27th January 1967, and was declared to be a branch of International Law. Few principles on which the Outer Space Treaty was propounded were to maintain:
  1. Freedom of use and exploration of outer space.
  2. Non-appropriation of outer space.
  3. Protection of astronauts.
  4. Authorisation and supervision of private space operations.
  5. Responsibility for potential damages caused by space objects, and
  6. Jurisdiction and control.
Few years into its adoption, Space law has encountered a significant change in the year 1980, when States were making national laws regulating space activities which were in operation by private companies. While the international legal framework for space activities still in existence, it was observed that national regulations were governing the activities by the companies and international regulation remains general. In France all space activities fall under LOI n° 2008-518 du 3 juin 2008 relative aux opérations spatiales[1], which is a French authority regulating private operations in space.

In later years there was active involvement of the entrepreneurs hoping to develop this field. Countries like the United States of America holding a space regulation of their own let the private companies and its involvement in space development.

Introduction of national regulations on space activities created uncertainty between the national and international existing frameworks.

Gradually the importance of the international framework was seen diminishing. We can refer to with an example of Elon Musk launching his personal Tesla Roadster car to mars with the help of his SpaceX rocket Falcon Heavy. This launch was of a belief that it was primarily to showcase the industry’s capability[2].

There were many criticisms made by renowned professionals questioning the reasons to execute this mission and its acceptance by the Government of the United States of America.

Here we can encounter the fact that the national regulations were not per the international frameworks. Evidently, there is minimum control by the international framework over the national laws. Having control of one international framework over national laws is crucial when it comes to the matter of common areas like space and sea.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a department of U.S.A government needs the satellites to maintain a radio spectrum and the satellite has to take a license from the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) which ensures that the mission is not causing damage to humans. It was then observed that the Tesla mission was launched because they have confirmed there will be no damage to any celestial bodies or satellites in space.

But it does not hold any beneficial factor to the people. That leads to neglect of the articles of the Outer Space Treaty which mentioned that any activity in space should be beneficial to people. This raised further concerns that there is an immediate need of legal provisions on an international level where the activities are governed and the said provisions should be backed by sanction.

In October 2016 an announcement was made by a micronation called Asgardia[3] also known as The Space Kingdom of Asgardia. The founder of this nation is Igor Ashurbeyli, who is a Russian scientist. This nation is formed by a group of people who were successful in launching a satellite named Asgardia-1 into the earth’s lower earth orbit (LEO) where they have already declared sovereignty over the space the satellite has occupied.
  • They have made a constitution of their own.
  • The nation has adopted a constitution and will access outer space[4].
  • A company has been incorporated on the name of Asgardia AG[5] and is being marketed to people to buy their shares, which in turn will be used to fund the project.
  • The citizens are called Asgardians.
  • Plans to permanently settle on the moon by 2043.
The Asgardia-1 satellite was sent into space with the help of few U.S based companies and NASA has funded this mission. It was also clearly mentioned that Asgardia is not going partner with any Outer Space Treaty signatories to state a reason that they do not fall under the restrictions imposed by the treaty.

A group of members appropriating the area occupied in space questions the extent of power the Outer Space Treaty and the governing authorities can impose on activities like these. It has also raised many questions if Asgardia was competent enough to be recognized as a state, as it lacks a stable population, boundary, Government and an ability to enter into contracts with other states.

The author tends to believe there’s a compelling need for the introduction of statutes or treaties binding all nations for proper use of outer space, treaties like:
Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty) and the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (The Moon Treaty) were created in the years the 1960s and 1980s and the treaties bear numerous loopholes, as to execute its power over the nations who are planning any space activity which might be against the framework, any activities related to the appropriation of space, or an activity which has no benefit for the humans. Current governing authority the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs has to see to what extent the national regulations are following the international framework and to see the space entrepreneurs make sure to follows the imminent statutes.

Many scholars believe there is no environment that a law cannot be applied to, that including space can be handled with laws; it’s just a framework away from human activities. In the same way, there must be agreements or treaties or provisions which are relevant for the present and the future developments.

End-Notes:
  1. Matignon Lde G, The Difference between Space Policy and Space Law (Space Legal IssuesOctober 7, 2019) accessed March 24, 2020
  2. Grush L, Elon Musk's Tesla Overshot Mars' Orbit, but It Won't Reach the Asteroid Belt as Claimed (The VergeFebruary 7, 2018) accessed April 24, 2020
  3. Giacomin N, What Is Asgardia and Who Are Asgardians? (Space Legal IssuesDecember 29, 2019)accessed March 24, 2020
  4. Giacomin N, What Is Asgardia and Who Are Asgardians? (Space Legal IssuesDecember 29, 2019)accessed March 25, 2020.
  5. Giacomin N, What Is Asgardia and Who Are Asgardians? (Space Legal IssuesDecember 29, 2019)accessed March 24, 2020

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