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Conventions on Outer Space Laws

In order to keep peace, freedom comes with responsibility[1]. In general, all countries have the right to use the space arena according to their needs, thus adequate regulations are made for just use. As space technology has advanced over the last few decades, so has the demand for space laws. Space laws are those that govern activities that take place in space. International space law is made up of a variety of norms, principles, and standards. The United Nations oversees the development of several of the treaties. Certain countries have their own national legislation covering space-related activity.

International Space Law

Since space activities have an impact on all states, laws are enacted at the international level to prevent their unauthorized use. In comparison to Earth, no nation has sovereignty or superiority in space. In simple terms, space law refers to a collection of legal rules that govern interactions between sovereign governments and other entities in space. Space legislations are based on International integrity and does not relate to the principles of air law.

It also addresses issues such as astronaut rescue, liability for damages caused by space objects, the preservation of the space and Earth environment, and dispute resolution. The General Assembly established the Committee known as Peaceful Use of Outer Space to oversee the peaceful use of outer space. There are further subcommittees for legal, scientific, and technical matters. It is also supported by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), which serves as the committee's secretariat.

There were just a few conceptions connected to space law in the first half of the twentieth century. However, these ideas served as a springboard for concerns about implementing a new law in space, as well as a foundation for the ideals that would later emerge. The United States of America and the Soviet Union both took an active role in the formation of space law.

In 1957, President of the United States introduced the concept of space law to the United Nations as part of disarmament negotiations. After the successful launches of the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1 in 1957 and the American satellite Explorer 1 in 1958, Later, for the peaceful exploration of space, a permanent outer space committee was established, which governed according to the applicable space rules.

The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963, followed by a resolution by the Outer Space Committee prohibiting nuclear weapons testing in space. There are five important treaties that are regarded as the "five United Nations treaties on outer space.[2]" With 63 signatories, the United Nations enacted an Outer Space Treaty in 1967. This is the first treaty created by COPUOS, and it is considered the foundational treaty, containing broad concepts that were later followed in subsequent treaties.

Outer space, the moon, and other celestial bodies, according to this convention, shall be open to exploration and use by all states, including all humanity, and shall not be subject to any claim of sovereignty over them. It places a deliberate priority on space exploration in conformity with the United Nations Charter, which incorporates the related principles. Furthermore, it encourages collaboration and mutual support in space endeavours. COPUOS drafted a new pact known as The Rescue Agreement in 1967.

This treaty covers any disaster or emergency situation that occurs during the landing of astronauts from one country who, owing to a mishap, arrive in a foreign country. The agreement then emphasises their rescue as well as the return of astronauts, as well as providing them with help and essential assistance. This agreement covers not only the return of astronauts, but also the return of spacecraft and its components. In the 1970s, there was a need to establish culpability for acts performed in space.

As a result, in 1972, the liability convention was established, which serves as a legal framework for dealing with any damages, injuries, or deaths caused by space activities. It establishes a framework for determining liability and compensation. When damage occurs on the Earth's surface or to an aircraft in flight, it emphasises the principle of absolute liability.

All negotiations and settlements are conducted in a diplomatic manner, and an International Claims Commission has been established for this purpose. The International Claims Commission's judgement is definitive and binding only when the parties are in agreement. COPUOS also created The Registration Convention in 1974, which advocates for a global registration system for all space objects deployed.

As a result, the UN Secretary General will be in charge of the registry. As a result, each state-launched object must be registered, and the state must give the following data as quickly as possible: The name of the launching state or states, the space object's suitable designator or registration, the launch date, and the space object's territory or location. The Moon Treaty of 1979 was the most recent basic treaty. Because of ideas like "shared inheritance of mankind" and "equitable sharing," it is likely to be the most contentious.

According to these principles, an international government must be in place to manage and govern the resources that can be collected or used from the Moon. As a result, every state will benefit from the resources extracted from the Moon. Considerably, neither the Soviet Union nor the UN became the signatory of the Moon Agreement.

Need For International Space Law

During the Cold War, there was a power battle between the USSR and the United States not just on the ground but also in space. Following the launch of Sputnik, there was an urgent need for a legal framework for activity in space. The launch of Sputnik created a slew of political, military, and economic challenges. Following the launch of Sputnik, there was concern that both countries would attempt to explore new areas in order to demonstrate their superiority, with conjecture that space could become one of those sectors.

As a result, many clauses in contemporary space laws ban military actions in space. With the passage of time, space activities were no longer limited to these two countries; other sovereign states began to explore space as well, resulting in a competition for space resources.

It is true that there are enough resources to meet everyone's needs, but not enough to satisfy everyone's greed[3]. As a result, laws governing the justified use of space arena were enacted to curb the hungry mentality of mankind.

As society evolves, new challenges to society emerge, as was the case when the space arena was discovered. Effective regulation and mutual cooperation amongst sovereign entities are the only reasons for the current state of peace in outer space. Because space activities have a direct or indirect impact on us, international space regulations must be followed. Because the space arena was new in the 1950s, legislation was enacted in parts.

The notion of space as the domain of all humanity, the freedom of exploration and use of outer space by all states without discrimination, and the principle of non-appropriation of outer space are all important principles that drive the conduct of space activities. International space law not only helps to keep the peace in space, but it also fosters a spirit of fraternity among states.

  1. Eleanor Roosevelt
  3. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Written By: Abhishek Singh Solanki - A student of B.A. LL.B. (Hons.)

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