Subjects of international space law

Subjects of international space law

Khorsheva Yuliia

National Technical University of Ukraine “Kyiv Polytechnic Institute”


It is common knowledge that practically every new social phenomenon of special importance leads to creating a new branch of law. Nowadays we live in the period of high technologies and scientific discoveries. Space era has begun since 1957, when on the 4th of October the USSR launched the first artificial Earth satellite. As a result, a new branch of international law has been created – international space law. It should be noticed that even prewar lawyers foresaw the birth of this branch in their doctrines. We can find such formulae as “interplanetary law”, “interstellar law” in the works of E. Laude, E. Korovin and others. As a relatively new and constantly developing branch international space law has its own difficulties in the theoretical part. One of such problems is the definition of subjects in this sphere.

Firstly, states and international intergovernmental organizations are the subjects of international space law. [2, 484] In this case, states are the main subjects and previously mentioned types of organizations are secondary subjects. Novation is that a lot of lawyers define legal personality of international space organizations of commercial and production type (for example, such organizations as Intelsat and Inmarsat).

There are usually conditions according to which organizations can get legal personality. For example, according to Convention on responsibility of 1972, the international organization should obey additional conditions to be able to use its rights and discharge its obligations:

  1. The organization should officially announce its acceptance of obligations according to this Convention;
  2. The majority of members of this organization should be members of the Space agreement 1967;
  3. The organization should put space activity into practice.

International space law does not exclude ability to put space activity into practice by NGO (non-governmental organizations). However, such space activity is under governmental control. [1, 215]

Nevertheless, there is discrepancy in the laws of different countries. For example, according to article 1 of the law of Ukraine “On space activity” 1996, enterprises, institutions and organizations, including international and foreign, can be subjects of space law, while the law of Sweden “On space activity” also define national physical and judicial persons as subjects.

Cosmonauts can be defined as subjects that are under the jurisdiction of their countries. That is why a certain country takes the responsibility of its cosmonauts and spaceships in general.

However, our science is constantly developing. Even nowadays, simple people can get into the space (of course this procedure is rather complicated, but who knows what will be in the nearest future).

In general, subjects of international space law coincide with subjects of international law. But it does not mean that the list will not be widened.


1. Birukov P.N. – 2002, International law. – Moscow, “Yurist”. – 416 p.

2. Butkevich V.H. – 2004, International law. – Kiev, “Lybid”. – 814 p.

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