Legal Impasse - Commercialisation of Space through Reusable Sub-orbital Launchers

at 47th International Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space, 2004 Vancouver, Canada.

Author: Sethu Nandakumar Menon


Sub-orbital launching is an area that has a vast potential for growth in the commercial front. Till now sub-orbital launching is only used for missile and defense purposes by different countries. A number of entrepreneurs are in the process of making a reusable sub-orbital launch vehicle; this will introduce a new challenge relating to which area of law needs to be used to regulate its use. Whether it needs to be address under the Air law or Space Law? This paper explores how sub-orbital launching is considered under the space law and whether it can be brought under the basic definition of space activity under the Outer Space Treaty, 1967. Furthermore, the paper also looks into the effect of all the main space treaties and some domestic law. The need for further improvement or clarification in the space treaties due to the progress in the space technology is also addressed. The paper concludes with a note on the importance of addressing this issue at the earliest, as Law should always try to get along with the technology and not a back runner.