Date of this Version
Published as a chapter in Ownership of Satellites: 4th Luxembourg Workshop on Space and Satellite Communication Law, Mahulena Hofmann and Andreas Loukakis (editors), Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft and Hart Publishing, 2017, pp. 29–43.
For many years, the concept of transfer of ownership of a satellite in orbit was not something on the radar screen of anyone seriously involved in space law, if indeed it was not considered a concept of an essentially fictional nature. Space law after all developed, as far as the key UN treaties were concerned, in a period when only States—and only very few States at that—were interested in and possessed the capability of conducting space activities, and they did so for largely military/strategic or scientific purposes. The idea of transferring ownership over satellites or other spacecraft involved in such endeavors simply did not make sense. Leapfrogging the years, however, such transfer of ownership is no longer fiction but rather an increasingly frequent fact of life on orbit. This in turn raises the question of what legal or other issues such events, not having been taken into consideration at all in the formative period of the major space treaties, would raise. This is essentially what the current contribution undertakes to investigate in a more or less comprehensive, albeit summary fashion.