Space Launchers: Legal Aspects

Space Launchers: Legal Aspects

Edmond Boulle (Orbital Witness, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7256-5.ch003

Abstract

This chapter outlines certain core legal topics that arise in connection with the delivery of a separated payload into or beyond Earth orbit. The first part deals with some of the established approaches to procuring launch services, as well as some of the common features of launch service agreements that balance the interests of the launch service provider and its customer. The second part of the chapter looks at governmental authorization required to carry out a launch. While safety standards and success rates continually improve, launching a space object is still the riskiest part of most space missions and is therefore a carefully regulated aspect of space activity, with participants having to obtain prior authorization from a competent national authority. Finally, the third part explores some of the legal consequences in international law of launching a space object, including the maintenance of a register of space objects launched, and the burden of liability that is placed on “launching states.”
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The Launch Service Agreement

A launch service agreement (LSA) is a contract for the provision of certain services directed towards the launch of a payload into or beyond Earth orbit. Two important observations should be made at the outset:

  • A contract is an agreement between two or more natural or legal persons (the ‘parties’) intended to be legally binding and enforceable. Contracts are instruments of private law, not international space law (as explained below). An LSA is no different: typically, the parties involved are a launch service provider (LSP) and a customer who may be a commercial satellite owner/operator, a space agency, a research body, or other private or public entity. LSAs are enforceable in national courts in accordance with the national law chosen by the parties.

  • An LSA is a contract for services, not for goods. The customer does not acquire any ownership rights in the launch vehicle. Instead the customer pays for certain associated services including the assembly, integration, and testing of the payload and launch vehicle; transport of the assembled launch vehicle to the launch pad; fuelling; launch; and delivery and separation of the spacecraft to the proper orbit.

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