International Liability of Commercial Space Activities and Space Debris

  • Abhishek Varshney
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  • Abhishek Varshney

    LL.M. student at IFTM University, Moradabad, India

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Space activities are generally sophisticated and involve a high frequency of risk. Notwithstanding the precautionary measures that are taken by the commercial operators in any point of time which include launch , passing through air space , in-orbit manoeuvring and operating and de-orbiting , the rules and procedures are aimed to ensure the prompt payment of a full and equitable compensation for such damage constitute the international liability regime , which is a crucial importance in space law. The very first reference of international liability for damage caused by the space objects and their components on Earth can be traced back to the very beginning of the space era. The United Nations General Assembly had declared the international liability, as one the legal principles , governing the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space , just a few years after the first ever artificial satellite was launched in 1963. This was later made legally binding by the inception in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and has received further development in the 1972 Liability Convention. The latter is generally referred to as lex specialis when the interrelation between the two international treaties is described and introduces several provisions that treat liability for damage caused in specific circumstances somewhat differently. International Space Law imputes liability on states that launch or procure launchings of space objects and states from whose territory or facility space objects are launched. This does now however exclude the liability of damages caused by the space objects that are operated by the private entities. International Liability for accidents involving commercial operators stays with the so-called launching states , as this term is defined by the Liability Convention for same states that are listed in the Outer Space Treaty as internationally liable. The damages and liability issues although are well known and are addressed by the Insurance , however, it is not always mandatory. Often , space-related accidents involve dysfunctional space objects and their parts which are referred to as ‘Space debris’. This may include parts like spent rocket stages and defunct satellites , fragments from their disintegration , etc. Since the non-functional state of a space object does not change its legal status , the relevant provisions of international space law that are applicable to space objects continue to apply to what is called space debris. There are certain practical problems which arise with identification of space debris and consequently , an efficient implementation of the liability regime.


Research Paper


International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 3, Page 591 - 606


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