Conflict Resolution Vis a Vis Outer Space Activities

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has adopted rules for the arbitration of disputes relating to outer space activities.

 The rules are “optional”. As such, parties in a space related dispute may choose to use them or not. Pursuant to the Rules, standing is very broad.  Hence, states, intergovernmental agencies, NGOs, corporations and private parties may use them as a forum.

The Rules provide a forum for various methodologies to be used by parties. For instance, parties may select a panel of arbitrators or just one. Most importantly, awards of the Court are final and binding, which creates certainty and continuity. By continuity I am referring to precedence.

The Rules are a great start, however as space activities become more and more privatized and domesticized, my belief is that states need to create a specific forum, within their court systems, to address  the disputes of  private space faring activities.

Initially I thought this forum. in the United States, should be created under the confines of an Article III Court. However after further review, I concluded that Space Court should be created under the purview of Article I. That is, a court of “special Jurisdiction”.  Space court would be a forum where parties can litigate or arbitrate a particular issue, and clarify legislation. This court would be responsible for hearing ONLY space related issues and would have their own rules.

I also played with the idea of creating a specific administrative agency for space instead of having a specific court, but ultimately administrative agency disputes can and are appealed. Therefore, there needs to be a specialized court to hear and decide these issues. Article I covers all of the bases.

As I have mentioned, the space industry is growing at a rapid speed. Disputes are likely to arise and they will most certainly need to be resolved. Consequently, it would be beneficial for the United States, and other states to start creating an environment where disputes can be heard and decisions reviewed.

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