Beyond Earth: A comparative exploration of space laws in India and beyond

Beyond Earth: A comparative exploration of space laws in India and beyond.

Alongside the developments noticed in many sectors and increasing contribution of India in those sectors for instance Medical, Infrastructure, Education, Defense etc., a prominent sector which is growing enormously is the Space industry. India’s Space industry is also ranked among the world’s fastest growing sectors by the strategy and management consultancy Arthur D Little in a report released on 21 June 2023. The current Space market is worth approximately $8 billion, which is expected to touch at $40 billion by 2040. It is also noticed that the said market is growing at a CAGR of 4% compared to 2% globally.

India’s Enduring Legacy in Space

India asserted its domination in the international space industry by becoming the first and the only country to land its rover near the South Pole of the Moon. Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) which is the nodal agency for all the primary research and development in the field of space, it has contributed majorly in the development of the space industry ranging from the development of India’s first satellite Aryabhatta in 1975 to the latest Aditya-L1 in 2023 which is India’s first mission aimed to observe the Sun and also aims to have successful projects like Gaganyaan sight to send humans to space and Shukrayaan which is proposed orbiter to Venus. ISRO has also mothered space projects like Chandrayaan, Mangalyaan, Gaganyaan programme and The Bharatiya Antariksha Station which is a planned space station to be constructed and operated by Indian space Research Organisation and many more.

ISRO was established in 1969 under the Indian Space Research Organisation act, 1969. With increasing development, the Department of Space (DoS) was established by the Indian Government in the year 1972 and ISRO was bought under it.

Indian Space Jurisprudence

Contrary to the gigantic development in the space field there is no set of legislation or rules and regulation which can be said to be Space Laws. India lacks a powerful body of rules to direct and govern this expansion. Only a handful of legislation is passed in the Indian Parliament, some of them are ISRO Act, 1969 and National Remote Sensing Centre Guidelines, 2011.

Currently, only the government has a power to launch satellite or conduct space research, many concerns have been voiced against this stand and demands for  granting the permission to the private sectors to enter in the space industry, for the same Space Activities Bill, 2017 was proposed forward which encourages the participation of non-governmental sector agencies in space activities under the guidance of Department of Space. Under the said proposed bill, a  non-transferable licence shall be permitted by the central government to the person seeking permission to carry out commercial space activity, which will also include a specific charge for licence, eligibility criteria etc. as of the current state of the bill, it has been completed public and legal consultation and sent forward for further approvals. The need for legislative development is seen in the realm of space activities. According to the Indian Space Policy, 2023 issued by ISRO with the vision “to augment space capabilities; enable, encourage and develop a flourishing commercial presence in space” to achieve the said aim the policy calls the strategy and points out, “Creating a stable and predictable regulatory framework to provide a level playing field to Non-Government Entities in the Space sector through IN-SPACe.”, this policy also points out the need for a developed legislation in India pertaining to Space. Adding to the mentioned points, in June 2020, government has also introduced a new organisation named, IN-SPACe which stands for, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre, this is a nodal agency established to boost the commercialization and promotion in the sphere of Indian space activities

From Stars to Statutes: Necessity of Space Legislation Explored.

With the increasing growth of the Indian Space industry mentioned previously, there are many questions pertaining to who is allowed to launch a spaceship or to conduct any space research, according to the demands proposed by the Space Activities Bill, 2017, if the private sectors are given the permission to conduct and to take part in the Space activities then what will be the licensing process, the eligibility, whether or not there will be presence of insurance, certification of the spaceship, educational qualification required for developing or leading a space mission etc. All the mentioned questions are unanswered or unaddressed until date. All these questions could have a defined answer if there was an assemblage of legislatures that mentioned and laid down a certain protocol that was to be followed.

Natural resources like Air, Land and Sea are used overly by the human race according to their own comfort and have been exploited on a large scale. Space, like these resources, is emerging as an alternative source for humanity that can be exploited, and legislation for regulating space laws is critical to preventing this massive problem and exploitation of space research and technology. This was also seen when the USSR and USA used space technology as a tool or parameter to show their power during the Cold War era. To avert this situation in the years to come and to ensure that no space research is taken advantage of for whatever purpose, substantial legal measures are required. Also there is a need for an universal law, concerning the remaining parts of spaceships which are still in existence in space.   

Space Law Spectrum: Legislation and Regulations Across the Globe

Space laws govern several of the countries that have leading space technology and developed research agencies. Citing the example of the USA which is the top investor in the global space economy in 2020, USA has a body of developed legislation concerning the space activities, starting from the Communication Act of 1934, National Aeronautics & Space Act of 1958 which established NASA and rolled out the objectives in space domain, some of them were expanding the space knowledge, developing better spaceships and conducting extensive research in the field of space, to the latest legislation developed in the country: National Defense Authorization Act, 2020. All the mentioned legislation are in action and are strictly enforced, as a result a number of cases have been registered for violating the space laws. This strict enforcement of the space law has resulted in NASA to grow and create its dominance in the international field of space.

After a difficult period in their relations, both China and Russia—which are ranked in the top two and fourth places, respectively—thought about developing fruitful space relations and signed an intergovernmental agreement about the cooperation on research and peaceful use of outer space in 1992. Their respective space agencies also signed a similar agreement in 1994. Many such agreements and regulations were established in 1996, 1999, 2003.

Russia also has laws on space which under the name, ‘Law of the Russian Federation about space activity’ which address almost all questions pertaining to space. Article 1 empowers this legislation to be enforced under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation. Whereas Article 17 mentions that a space object should be duly certified by the concerned authority of the Russian Federation, right of ownership are mentioned with many other rules and regulations.

Global Commitments: International Treaties and Legislation on Space Exploration

The United Nations have also conceded the importance of space industry and technology and therefore established the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in 1958, headquartered at Vienna, Austria. This is the body which primarily governs the activities in outer space. Its main functions are:

1. To ensure a peaceful use of space.

2. Space exploration must be regulated.

3. Ensure the use of space science and technology for long-term economic development.

4. The use of space to promote social development.

Space law is a relatively recent subject of international law that arose as a result of humanity’s introduction into the space age. With the introduction of space to humankind by the Soviet Union in 1957 and an immediate response from the USA gave rise for the requirement of space law on international level as well.

Currently, the international space law is governed mainly by The Outer Space Treaty (1967), The Rescue Agreement, The Liability Convention (1972) and The Registration Convention (1978). Alongside  these laws, there are five sets of principles that govern space activity.

The matter of concern is the fact that all the mentioned four laws don’t take any action to prevent exploitation and what the consequences will be. As pointed out previously in this article, there is a need for legislation to prevent space exploitation. Only The Moon Agreement (1979) which was enforced in 1984 after the ratification by Austria takes a stand to provide the legal principles essential to govern the behaviour of nations, international agencies, and individuals who explore heavenly bodies other than Earth, as well as the handling of the resources that exploration may generate. The concerning matter is that this treaty has not been ratified by any country that has its own space agency; those are the USA, Russia and China. This makes the treaty of no or little relevance in international space law.

Also, there is a need to introduce and change many provision in the touch upon legislation, reason been that all these legislations are developed pre Cold War era and many modifications were seen post Cold War like participation of Non-State Actors in every field and on similar tangent, there are no provision regulation the space activities by these entities which is a necessity of this developing industry. Therefore, many modifications should be introduced to regulate space activities more firmly.


As shown, the expanding realm of the Space Industry, India aims to contribute 9% of the global market by the end of this decade. India must establish a comprehensive legal framework to oversee its space endeavours. A legal framework is required in the space sector to minimise ambiguity and confusion, which could have negative consequences. Domestic space legislation of India should encompass the specific use of space for the benefit of humanity. The total scenario highlights the significance of a well-defined legal framework for worldwide acknowledgment of a nation’s space activities. India ranks fifth in the world for space technology, an outstanding achievement, and a solid legal framework will help India preserve its position in the space industry.

Author: Chaitrali Naik

For more details visit :

Indian Space Policy, 2023 

International Space laws and crimes in space


Law of the Russian Federation

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