Regulating Outer Space

What Is Space Technology?

“Any technology for use in space.”

What Is The History Of Space Technology?

  • 1903 – Theoretical space discoveries.
  • 1919 –Engineering space discoveries.
  • 1944 – First rocket to space.
  • 1957 First unmanned satellite .
  • 1961 First man in space.
  • 1963 First woman in space.
  • 1969 First man on moon.
  • 1981 First reusable spacecraft.

The post Space Race period saw more international cooperation and non-government organizations enter the industry…

What Are Some Types Of Space Technology?

  1. Flight.
    • Rockets.
    • Launch.
  2. Satellites.
    • Data collection.
    • Communications.
    • Observation.
    • Military.
  3. Exploration.
    • Rovers.
    • Manned Missions.

Why Is Space Technology Important For Society?

Australia’s ongoing social, environmental and economic well- being depends on the continued and cost effective access to satellite data.

  • Telecommunications.
  • Communications.
  • Weather.
  • Tracking.
  • Observations.
  • Television.
  • Radio.
  • Navigation and planning.
  • Internet.
  • Scientific Collection.
  • Transport.
  • Logistics.
  • Environmental incidents.
  • Urban development.
  • And much, much more…

What Is Emerging Space Technology?

 “A new technology being developed for space.”

What Are Some Types Of Emerging Space Technology?

  1. Flight.
    • Reusable Launch Systems.
    • Reusable Rockets (Single Stage to Orbit).
    • Robotics (Space Clean-up).
  2. Satellites.
    • CubeSats.
  3. Exploration.
    • Asteroid mining.
    • Transport.
    • Space Tourism.
    • Planetary Colonization.
    • Space-Based Solar Power.
    • Space Manufacturing (3D printing).
    • Computing.

Why Is Emerging Space Technology Important For The Future?

  • Same reasons as why current space technology is important for society?
  • Reduce the costs for the same benefits?
  • Better weather and environmental data and prediction?
  • Allow for new technologies such as self- driving cars?
  • Resource and environmental management?
  • Derive benefits of advancements in Big Data?
  • Solve some of our resource issues?
  • Solve our overpopulation issues?
  • Open up and encourage innovation and investment for economic prosperity?
  • What else?

What Are The Current International And Domestic Frameworks That Regulate Emerging Space Technology?

A Treaty is: “An agreement between States and Nations.”

  • Not between Citizens or between a Nations States and Territories.
  • They serve as a way to practice stable and organized international relations.
  • Binding at international law.
  • A contract (contracts needs intent).
  • It is consent-based governance.
  • A State can only abide and enforce a treaty by if they consented.
  • If they didn’t consent then they can ignore it.
  • Ratification means confirmation.
  • This maintains State sovereignty (independence).
  • No State prosecutes treaties unless it’s after a major war like WWI or WWII.
  • Reality is national shaming, sections, diplomats etc.
  • Creates issues for Regulating Technology!

Two types:

  • Bilateral treaty – between two States.
  • Multilateral treaty – between many States (UN Chatter).

Treaties help:

  • Create alliances in an interdependent, globalized, tech enabled work.
  • With international issues that cannot be solved by States alone.
  • Maintain State sovereignty (independence).
  • With Australian national interests.
  • Middle ranking power with finite negotiating resources.
  • Military and economical stake so we are not vulnerable.
  • Geo-isolation and population size means we benefit.

Some areas regulated by Treaties:

  • Space.
  • Post.
  • Shipping.
  • Defence.
  • Nuclear non-proliferation.
  • Environment.
  • Civil aviation.
  • War.
  • Sea and maritime boundaries.
  • Human rights.
  • World heritage.
  • Terrorism.
  • Drug trafficking.
  • Border protection.
  • Refugees and asylum seekers.
  • International organisations.
  • Etc…

Treaties are established (very simply) by:

  1. Power to enter into treaties is granted under s51 and s61 of The Australian Constitution.
  2. In the jurisdiction of Executive not Legislature (Parliament).
  3. Signed then tabled at Parliament to discuss the benefits and effects of and obligations on Australia and required implementation.
    • Consultation with States and Territories, industry and other interest groups.
    • Ratification makes the treaty binding, but in domestically.
  4. New domestic laws are not required.
    • If current legislation is adequate, then no domestic laws are created.
    • If current legislation is inadequate, then commonwealth to state laws are created.
  5. Implementation through Executive action.

Current International Regulatory Frameworks…


  • The Outer Space Treaty (1966).
  • The Rescue Agreement (1967).
  • The Liability Convention (1971).
  • The Registration Convention (1975).
  • The Moon Agreement (1979) .

These originated from the Space Race during the Cold War.

Current Domestic Regulatory Frameworks…


  • Space Activities Act 1998 (Cth) .
  • Space Activities Regulations 2001 (Cth) .

These reflect Australia’s international obligations under treaties and its national interests in space.
The Outer Space Treaty (1966)

  • Peaceful and free for exploration and use by States.
  • Benefit of all people.
  • For common interest of all mankind.
  • Not subject to national appropriation.
  • Maintain security and promoting use of international co- operation.
  • Peaceful purposes.
  • Render astronauts assistance.
  • Launch States are liable.
  • Avoid harmful contamination.

The Rescue Agreement (1967) The Liability Convention (1971) The Registration Convention (1975)

  • Render astronauts assistance.
  • Liable States pay compensation.
  • More than one State is joint and severally liable.
  • Identification of space objects.
  • Registration of space objects.

The Moon Agreement (1979)

  • No international conflict.
  • Applies to other celestial bodies.
  • Not for asteroids.
  • Use for peaceful purposes.
  • Benefit of all people.
  • For common interest of all mankind.
  • Freedom of scientific investigation.
  • Maintain its environment.
  • Establish a station.
  • Free access to whole moon.
  • Safe guard life.
  • Render astronauts assistance.
  • Not subject to national appropriation.
  • To manage its resources.

Space Activities Act 1998 (Cth) Space Activities Regulations 2001 (Cth)

  • Regulates space activities carried on either from Australia or by Australian nationals outside Australia.
  • Provide for the payment of adequate compensation for damage caused to persons or property as a result of space activities.
  • Implement Australia’s obligations under the UN Space Treaties.
  • Supplement Space Activities Act 1998 (Cth)
  • Guidelines that dictate how the provisions of the Act are applied.

Who Are The Various Stakeholders That Influence The Development Of Legal Regulation Of Emerging Space Technology?

International Regulators

  • United Nations.

Domestic Regulators

  • The Australian Executive (Department of Industry, Innovation and Science).
  • Parliament of Australia. Non-Government Organizations
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
  • International Space Station.
  • European Space Agency.
  • Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
  • Shenzhou Program.
  • Indian Space Research Organisation.
  • Etc.

Entrepreneurs & Their Legal Entities

  • Elon Musk (Space X – transportation and colonization of mars).
  • Peter Diamandis (Planetary Resources Inc – prospecting asteroids. X Prize – crowd sourced space technology. Space Adventures Ltd– space tourism).
  • Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic – space tourism).
  • Mars One – colonization of Mars.
  • Jeff Bezos (Blue Ocean – space tourism).
  • Deep Space Industries – prospecting asteroids.
  • Fleet – CubeSats.

Citizens of the World

  • International community.
  • Domestic community.


You have been tasked with creating new regulations around asteroid mining.

Represent each (of five) stakeholder group from before.

  1. Determine your stakeholder groups interests and current regulations (25 minutes).
  2. Negotiate an agreement based on International treaties and Australian domestic law that is lawful for asteroid mining (15 minutes).
  3. Discuss if this is mutually beneficial for all stakeholder groups (10 minutes).
  4. Determine what regulations are needed in the future for mutual benefit for all stakeholder groups (10 minutes).

Are The Current International And Domestic Frameworks That Regulate Space Technology Adequate For Emerging Space Technology?

  • Has the world changed since the Cold War?
  • Are the international guidelines still relevant and accurate?
  • Does the current cost of space insurance slow space innovation?
  • Is public safety, collision and debris risk over regulated?
  • Is trying to regulate launch states futile?
  • Is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty more relevant?

Additional Questions To Consider…

  • Can corporations mine steroids?
  • What regulations come into play when a space tourist is in distress?
  • What jurisdiction handles space tourists if they break the law in orbit?
  • Who is liable if a piece of space junk crashes into the International Space Station?
  • What are the boundaries of outer space?
  • How do policy makers manage space traffic?

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