Legal support for enterprises in the private space sector

The United Nations’ Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), through its consensus process, has accomplished much over the decades, most notably helping to produce the five space treaties and related guiding principles. But it has been unable to produce the international framework of laws to regulate private activity in outer space.

As of January 2020, there is no internationally recognised mechanism for granting property rights to anyone for any location or natural object in outer space. The current controlling international law is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which, in Article II, prohibits any one country from appropriating anything in outer space: “Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

Many countries agree that the prohibition against appropriation prevents any one country from granting property rights on its own authority. Some disagree, enough to create a potential for conflict and uncertainty for businesses and investors. Since the functions of law include avoiding conflicts and reducing uncertainties, it is imperative to create an international legal framework for private activity in outer space.

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