Legal status of outer space and celestial bodies

Stephan Hobe, Kuan-Wei Chen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Outer space is that part of the Universe which lies beyond air space and is accessible for human activities. Space law governs all human activities related to the use and exploration of outer space, which includes celestial bodies such as the Moon and asteroids.1 It is a field of international law,2 and not a self-contained legal regime,3 which governs and regulates space acvities

Space law governs all types of human activities pertaining to the exploration and use of space, including access to and transit through space, space applications, such as telecommunications and use of orbits, mining of celestial bodies, and any space-related activity that is yet to develop in the future. As outer space provides great socio-economic, political and strategic value, and with the shift away from State-led and government-funded space missions to commercial space ventures conducted by an increasing number of private space actors,5 the formation of space law is naturally thereby shaped by concerns and interests from the public, private and technological, economic, security and political domains. Space law comprises a number of international treaties and resolutions adopted by States under the auspices of the United Nations. Chronologically, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies6

(commonly known as the Outer Space Treaty) is the first international space law instrument. It contains the basic principles for space activities, provides the basis for the next four treaties,7

and with 104 ratifications and 25 signatories as of January 2016, the Outer Space Treaty is one of the international treaties with significant support.8 With widespread support, and the fact that several provisions of the treaty reiterate and codify rules established under an earlier General Assembly resolution,9 the Outer Space Treaty is considered to contain principles of customary international law which bind not only State parties to the treaty but also nonsignatories. In addition, more than 25 countries have enacted their national space legislation which might be seen as an expression of opinio juris,10 if coupled with State practice, can be evidence of custom.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Space Law
EditorsRam Jakhu, Stephen Dempsey
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781315750965
ISBN (Print)9781138807716
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


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