Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of the International Institute of Space Law 2010: 53rd Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space


Private companies are playing an ever-larger role in the use of outer space and their presence in space will continue to expand in the coming years. For example, increased private activity in space will likely be encouraged by the new U.S. space policy proposed by the Obama administration which would require the U.S. government to rely on private companies for the delivery of crew, cargo, and satellites into space. This paper examines the effect that this increased private activity will have on the future development of the international law of outer space. One question that emerges from increased private activity in space is whether (and to what extent) existing space law applies to private activity. For example, whether the existing duty to rescue and return spacecraft applies to such activities. A second question that presents itself is what effect private activities will have on the shape of future space law treaties under the Vienna Convention's doctrine of taking into account state action in the interpretation of treaties. A third question concerns the effect of private activities on the evolution of customary international law. Ultimately, this paper considers the proper roles of treaty law, soft law and domestic regulations in the regulation of private space activity.