Outer space inventions are known to be the beginning of all Intellectual creations. Space technology is known to be the most advanced technical area in the world.
Russia in October 1957, launched the unnamed satellite Sputnik-1 into outer space which marked the beginning of space exploration. The United States of America followed Russia with the launch of satellite Explorer-1 in 1958. The first manned satellite Vostak-1 was sent into the Earth’s orbit by Russia in April 1961, which was later followed by the United States a month later.
Activities related to space and its technologies are operated under international co-operation schemes, which requires a strict and reliable legal framework. There is a clear need for a reliable framework to determine the applicability of the appropriate national law to protect the outer space inventions. This leads to the Chicago Convention in 1944 which reinforced the International law to recognise each country’s sovereignty over the air space directly above their territory. Outer space region constitutes of 100 kilometre upward beyond the surface of the Earth. Beneath this region, there is air space. Air space is the air available to an aircraft to fly in, especially the part subject to the jurisdiction of a particular country. The boundary between air space and outer space region has not been explicitly defined by an International law.
Presently there are five space treaties that govern the International Space Law, viz.,
The Outer Space Treaty,1967
The Rescue Agreement, 1968
Convention on International Liability for damage, 1972
The Registration Convention, 1957
The Moon Agreement, 1979
Outer Space Treaty:
The outer space treaty was largely based on the Declaration of Legal Principles governing the activities of states in the exploration and the use of outer space, which had been adopted by the General assembly in its resolution 1962, in 1963. The treaty entered into force in October 1967 and it was opened for signature by the three depository governments i.e., The Russian Federation , The United States of America and The United Kingdom.
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The outer space treaty provides the basic framework on the International Space Law which includes the following principles
The use and exploration of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit of all countries
The use of outer space shall be free for all states
States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the orbit or celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner
The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used for peaceful purposes
Astronauts shall be regarded as envoys of mankind
The states shall be held accountable for national space activities be it governmental or non-governmental
In case of any damage caused by their space objects, the states shall be held accountable
States must avoid harmful contamination of celestial bodies
The agreement was entered into force in December 1968. It elaborates Articles 5 and 8 of the outer space treaty, which provides that states shall take all possible steps to rescue and assist astronauts in distress and promptly return them to the launching state, and upon request states shall assist the launching states in recovering space objects that return to Earth outside the territory of the launching state.
Convention on International Liability for Damage, 1972:
Otherwise known as the Liability Convention came into force in September 1972. This convention states that the states shall be liable for any damages that are caused by its space objects to the aircraft or the surface of the Earth. It elaborates on Article 7 of the outer space treaty which provides that a launching state shall be absolutely liable to pay compensation for damage caused by its space objects on the surface of the Earth or to the aircraft and it shall also be liable for the damages caused in space.
The Registration Convention, 1957:
The Registration convention came into force in September 1976. The convention addresses the issues regarding the responsibilities of the state parties regarding their space objects. The Secretary General was requested to maintain the register and ensure full and open access to the info provided by the states and international intergovernmental organisations.
Moon Agreement, 1979:
The agreement governing the activities of the states on the moon and other celestial bodies was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 and the convention came into force in 1984. The agreement reaffirms and elaborates on many of the provisions of outer space treaty as applied to the moon and other celestial bodies providing that those bodies should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, that their environment should not be disrupted and the United Nations should be informed of the location and purpose of any station established on those bodies.
There are five legal principles which govern the outer space, viz.,
The Declaration of Legal Principles, 1963
The Broadcasting Principles, 1982
The Remote Sensing Principle, 1986
The Nuclear Power Sources Principle, 1992
The Benefits Declaration,1996
The beginning of the journey of space exploration started with Russia’s launch of Sputnik-1 and ever since there has been a great expansion I the discovery of celestial bodies and inventions regarding the outer space. The need to govern these inventions arose due to the progressive nature of space exploration. Although WIPO has not yet identified a governing body for regulating the discovery and inventions of objects in outer space, the treaties hold the states liable and protect their inventions.
Author: Aishwarya Gowda
BA LLB, Ramaiah College of Law
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