Satelliability - A study of the intersection between international responsibility and international liability for private satellite launches
Abstract: In this thesis I study international space law’s rules on international responsibility and international liability for private satellite launches. I have used a legal dogmatic method to interpret these rules, before subjecting them to an economic analysis on how they will affect the behaviour of private actors and States. Finally I propose solutions to increase the economic efficiency of three different situations that involve private satellite launches meeting with international space law. This is done in the following way. Chapter two presents the main framework for private satellite launches within international space law, which consists of the Outer Space Treaty (OST), the Liability Convention (LC) and the Registration Convention (REG) and how these correlate. In short a State party to the OST has international responsibility over private space activities it has jurisdiction over. According to the LC, which is lex specialis to the OST, the international liability is borne by a launching State. A State is qualified as a launching State if it launches or procures the launch of a space object, e.g. a satellite, or if a space object is launched from its territory or facility. There can be multiple launching States which are jointly liable under the provisions of the LC. One of the launching States must register the satellite in their national register and with the UN, thus making it possible for others to know of the satellites existence and legal status. A private satellite launch will as a general rule always have a launching State, that will be liable if the satellite crashes and causes damage, but in chapter four I present some exceptions to this rule. In chapter three I present how the end of the cold war and the economic and political development of the world has introduced new actors in space activities. These are private companies and developing nations that want to take part of the many benefits of space. Chapter four presents three different situations that have sprung from the entrance of private enterprise into the realm of space law. Finally, in chapter five I analyse these situations and the regulatory framework covering them with the method of law and economics. My proposed solution to the uncertainties of space law that can cause economic inefficiency is to adopt national space law and establishing a mandatory insurance regime. By harmonizing national space law and establishing an insurance regime for all private satellite launches, it is possible to attribute the liability for a private activity from a launching State back to the company performing it, while still enabling private space enterprises.
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