Opinion on Derelicts in Space

and Space Station Jurisdiction

Date: Fri, 9 Dec 1994 11:32:54 CST
From: Joanne Gabrynowicz 
Subject: Space Law

Some points of information regarding the recent space law
discussion in the group:
 1. Maritime law is the fundamental conceptual basis of
    international space law. The "high seas" was a natural
    concpet upon which to build analogs for space. But like
    all analogs, it has its limits. For example, there is no
    right of salvage in space. This has political motivations
    and its legal basis in in the Registration Convention
    which requires launching nations to register all space
    objects with the UN and in a domestic registry. The act
    of registration is the legal "link". Registration, which
    is also a maritime analog. The registration renders the
    launching state internatioanlly responsible for the object.

 2. The orignal space station intergovernmental agreement (which
    took 4 years to negotiate) requires each nation to register
    its own module. Therefore, each module is the functional
    equivalent of territory. For example, the national patent
    laws of the registering nation applies to its module. Yup,
    a discovery/innovation in the US module is governed by US
    law and a discovery/innovation on the Japanese module is
    governed by Japanese law. If it occurs on the ESA module
    it is as if it occurred in the territory of ALL ESA member
    nations participating in the program. It is then up to them
    to figure out which law controls.

    BTW, points 1 and 2 above could refute the position someone
    took that orbiting bodies are not treated legally, but more
    as a whim.

 3. Criminal jurisdiction on the space station: Like the patent
    laws, it is national jurisdiction that exists on each module.
    UNLESS the result of the criminal act endangers the wellbeing
    of the station and/or crew AS A WHOLE. Then, the US has
    additional jurisdiction and the responsibility to discuss
    extradition-type provisions with the accused's nation.
    regarding crimes committed by a national of one country on
    the module of a different country, in addition to the
    foregoing statement, there are conflict of law rules that
    would apply.
      This agreement mitigates somewhat the ambassadorial status
    endowed on all astronauts by the Assistance Agreement. But
    that status would still be an element in a criminal

  The space station agreement continues to evolve (devolve?). But
  I think that some of the basics discussed above would continue
  to be primary elements in any future versions of the agreement.

  in addition to the OTA publication mentioned, i recommend:

    "Law and Policy in the Space Stations' Era" by Andrew J. Young
     published by Martinus Nijhoff Publishers
     for the best all-round starting point on space law, Carl Christol's
    "The International Law of Outer Space" published by Pergamon.

                             Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, J.D.
                             Associate Professor, Space Law & Policy
                             Space Studies Department, Univ. of ND