The Outer Space Treaty represents the primary basis for legal order in the space environment, establishing outer space as a domain to be used by all humankind for peaceful purposes. Nonetheless, many technical issues related to the international governance of outer space security remain unresolved, including questions about the placement of conventional weapons or use of force in outer space, means of international cooperation and universal access, long-term sustainability of the space environment, space traffic management, and such emerging issues as the utilization of space-based mineral resources.

Within the United Nations, there is no single responsible for the continued governance of outer space. The General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security and the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) provide restricted mandates to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) respectively.

National space law, policy, and regulation are the primary vehicle for the implementation of international law, principles, and guidelines. More states are adopting regulatory measures as part of their international responsibility to license and oversee national space activities, including commercial actors. The development and publication of national policies and the strategies to implement them are also important measures for transparency and predictability of space activities. However, as space activities expand, some national laws and regulations are being established in the absence of international legal consensus.

A growing number of diplomatic and governance efforts relate to bilateral or regional collaborations in space activities, as well as commercial initiatives. Civil society and academic experts are also engaged in space governance discussions and mechanisms.

Recent Issue Guides

Space Treaties and Principles

Click to Download Full DocumentIssue Guide Available for PDF Download (539KB) INTERNATIONAL LAW IN OUTER SPACE In addition to the United Nations Charter, five treaties negotiated at the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) are considered to form the basis of international space law. The…

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Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities

Click to Download Full DocumentIssue Guide Available for PDF Download (350KB) ABOUT The Guidelines for the Long-term Sustainability [LTS] of Outer Space Activities are a set of 21 voluntary best practices negotiated and adopted by consensus at the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS). The…

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Space Security and The Conference on Disarmament

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) is one of several bodies associated with the United Nations (UN) that share responsibility for protecting the security of outer space. For more than 35 years, the CD has repeatedly attempted to address the issue of the weaponization of outer space.
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