View Full Version : Outer Space Treaty supervision of private acts

2013-Mar-03, 04:02 PM
Precisely what are the State Parties committed to with respect to supervision of, and liability for, private deeds in space?

Article VI

States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty.

Responsibility for private activities, equally with governmental activities.

The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty.

Private activities which are not specifically authorized are a direct violation of the treaty - though presumably, if no specific damages are caused, there is no specific liability, and not to any specific state. Also, precisely who is entitled to claim damages from failure by the appropriate State Party to continue supervision?

Article VII

Each State Party to the Treaty that launches or procures the launching of an object into outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and each State Party from whose territory or facility an object is launched, is internationally liable for damage to another State Party to the Treaty or to its natural or juridical persons by such object or its component parts on the Earth, in air space or in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies.

If an object is launched from the "territory" of any State Party by completely unauthorized private parties, in violation of the laws applicable there, and does damage to another State Party, then the state from whose territory the object was launched is still liable. Note that States are not, generally, liable in the same way for damage done by their registered and flagged private ships in high seas or in waters of other States - the liability for damage for collision, for example, ends with the private shipowner. Nor are States liable for damage done by their registered private planes in foreign or high seas airspace.

Do the "facilities" of State Parties include private ships registered in State Parties while located in high seas (or in waters of non-Party States)?

Are State Parties liable for authorization and continued supervision of private launches undertaken by natural or legal persons who are citizens, domiciled, resident or registered in State Parties AND such launches are made from territory of a State not Party to Outer Space Treaty, or from high seas ship registered in a State not Party? Such ships are in fact common - Liberia has never signed Outer Space Treaty, Panama has signed but not ratified.

States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.

If State or private party causes "contamination" on Moon, precisely how is this "contamination" proven to be "harmful contamination" rather than "harmless contamination"? And if the contamination is "harmful" then precisely who would be the recipient of damages? No one owns Moon, remember.

If a State Party to the Treaty has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by it or its nationals in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities of other States Parties in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, it shall undertake appropriate international consultations before proceeding with any such activity or experiment.

Does it mean that there have to be "activities" of other States Parties in order to cause harmful interference? Moon just being there cannot be harmed? For example, and "contamination" is by definition "harmless" unless there are specific activities by other States Parties which such contamination interferes with?

Article XII

All stations, installations, equipment and space vehicles on the moon and other celestial bodies shall be open to representatives of other States Parties to the Treaty on a basis of reciprocity. Such representatives shall give reasonable advance notice of a projected visit, in order that appropriate consultations may be held and that maximum precautions may be taken to assure safety and to avoid interference with normal operations in the facility to be visited

Depends on whether "normal operations" exist which may be interfered with. "Protection" of Apollo landing sites sounds like an illegal attempt to wriggle out of the obligation under Article XII to permit visits.

Article VIII

A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body. Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the Earth. Such objects or component parts found beyond the limits of the State Party of the Treaty on whose registry they are carried shall be returned to that State Party, which shall, upon request, furnish identifying data prior to their return.

"On whose registry"? Then precisely who has jurisdiction over objects launched into outer space by unauthorized private persons?

Since there are people boasting of "private spaceflights" having happened... how many Article VI authorizations have been issued by all State Parties?

2013-Mar-03, 04:22 PM
Somehow, I suspect that someone needs to write a "leave no trace" pact for exploration and then "Who does what to whom" becomes much clearer.

I would equate backpacking in Canada to space travel. If I go to some one else's land and throw garbage all over the place, I am going to be dealing with the Canada authorities. When I get home to the US, I get a bonus round of US authority intervention.

Space is problematical because I am traveling to an unowned area and who supervises that area is questionable. It should be me, but what if I don't do it. I could totally understand that if Canada and India plans a mission to Shackleton crater, and I sneak in as a tourist and contaminate the area before the Canadian/Indian science mission occurs, I will find myself experiencing some sort of legal Conga line of punishment in various courts around the world.

I serious doubt it works like that, but that is how I think it should work.

2013-Mar-03, 07:54 PM
In my op, the fuzzy boundaries of space law will have to wait for an actual legal precedent before we know where to go and what to limit.