Skimming the Surface: National Space Legislation

Last post was focused on international space law. This post will focus on national space law. National space law can be defined as national legislation governing space related activities.[1]

National legislation is relevant vis a vis space law because of the increase of private actors in the exploration and travel to space.  It is estimated that private actors will spend close to 1 trillion dollars, this year alone, in conducting space related activities. These private actors need to be regulated. The treaties mentioned in my previous post, cover only state activities in space, not the actions of private parties or companies, as such “government oversight is essential to protect public safety, property, the environment and to fulfill state obligations under international law”.[2]

At least twenty-six (26) states have enacted national space legislation. Some are: Algeria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria Norway, Russia South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.[3]

As we all know, different countries have different laws and different ways of promulgating and enforcing them. However some of the common themes among many countries when it comes to national space legislation are; licensure and registration of both citizens of that particular country and of foreign citizens and organizations operating under that particular country’s jurisdiction; technical and financial requirements; insurance; security of the state; public order; safety of persons and goods; and fulfillment of international obligations of the State.[4]

For  instance, in the United States, the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 (CSLA) authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates the launch and re-entry of  expendable and reusable vehicles as well launch activities  by U.S. citizens and other persons within the territory of the United States. The application process consists of; pre-application consultation; policy review and approval; safety review and approval; payload review and determination; financial responsibility determination; environmental review; and compliance monitoring.[5]

This topic, like most other topics in space law, is exhaustive, and I have simply provided a cursory road map as to what to expect when doing research.  What I am sure of is that states are currently promulgating national space legislation mindful of the need to protect their citizens, property and the environment. National space legislation also serves as an incentive for actors in the commercial use of space while imposing structure and limits upon these actors. However, the end goal, based on my research, seems to be the use of various national space legislation to establish a synchronized body of international law that is recognized, accepted and utilized by all space faring countries.



[2] Paul Stephen Dempsey, National Laws Governing Commercial Space Activities: Legislation, Regulation & Enforcement, 36 Nw.J.Int’L L.&Bus 1 (2016)

[3] Id. at 15-18

[4] Id.  at 34

[5] Id. at 6

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