Law, College of


Date of this Version



Published in the Proceedings of the Thirty-third Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space (1990): 370-374. IISL-90-065. Copyright 1990, Frans von der Dunk. Used by permission.


The legal place and role of national space agencies in general has not yet been the subject of much debate. This paper tries to argue however that this problem is of some relevance indeed. Concurrently with debating it namely, by concentrating on the case of some European agencies the problems of defining a "national space agency" and of the relevance of such definitions as to such a place and role will be answered to some extent.

Thus, Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty is seen as providing for a subdivision of space agencies in 'governmental agencies' and 'nongovernmental entities.' The combination of legal and practical analysis, though undertaken only superficially in this paper, seems to put most agencies in the latter category, with due consequence in regard of international responsibility.

Similar consequences also arise in regard of Article VII of the Outer Space Treaty, which is found to provide for another relevant borderline, this time between national space agencies and private enterprise. Again, legal and practical analysis provides for some clues as to its relevance, this time in the field of international liability for damage.

Apart from the responsibility- and liability-problems thus dealt with in a space law-setting, both borderlines become relevant in regard of the general international legal doctrine of 'state immunity.' Of necessity, lack of law and practice in this regard make the conclusion a provisional and general one as to the problem of European national space agencies under international space law.