About Space Law and Policy

Mankind’s exploration and use of outer space is governed by a legal framework provided by:  

  • International treaties and agreements
  • Documents governing specific space activity
  • General international law
  • National laws
  • Contracts
  • Writing of leading jurists in the field


Opening COPUOS Conference 1968


Space activities are as diverse as the wide range of terrestrial activities that are affected by them.

Space legal and policy issues relate to areas ranging from satellite communications and remote sensing to scientific research and tourism. These may include elements of finance, insurance, navigation, export control, security and the protection of intellectual property rights.

There are layers of local, national and international regulation and jurisdiction. They address matters such as licensing, finance, liability, access to space, debris, interference, space situational awareness and the future development of space policy and space activities.

Human society is now closely linked to space activities. As a consequence, government, academics, commercial bodies in the industry, law enforcement, policy makers and the legal community actively address the issues raised by space activity, in order to understand its uses and limitations and to develop the policies required to meet current and future needs and challenges.

There is much research being undertaken in response to the needs of participants in space activities, and several journals and official documents record the results. These reports and commentary on space sector issues feed into the development of new space law and policy.

For a list of international agreements and other legal documents relating to space activities, visit ISPL.


Image Credit:

Opening Ceremony of the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, 14 August 1968.  Hofburg Palace, Vienna.  Austrian President Franz Jonas standing on the stage as the conference observes a minute of silence in memory of Soviet and US astronauts who lost their lives.  Photo credit:  UN.  Source:  Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, New York, 19 December 1966, Vladimír Kopal, 2008.  Audiovisual Library of International Law, UN website,  http://legal.un.org/avl/ha/tos/tos.html, accessed December 2013.

Author note: Professor of International Law, West Bohemian University, Pilsen, Czech Republic, Chairman, Legal Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (1999 to 2004 and 2008 to 2010)