Law, College of


Date of this Version



Published in Proceedings of the International Institute of Space Law, IISL 2008. IAC-08.E8.4.3. Copyright 2008, Frans von der Dunk. Used by permission.


It may seem to be an obvious, instinctive distinction, the one between (natural) near earth objects and (man made) space objects. However, the very recent proposal tabled by the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China for a treaty on the de-weaponisation of space apparently makes reference in this context to a prohibition to use or threaten the use of force against "outer space objects." Such varying use of terminology may raise appropriate concerns about the applicability of any such agreement, or indeed other present or future rules of space law, to the specific case of NED's and any possible future actions to protect the earth against their potentially devastating impact. The present paper represents an effort to clearly outline the definitional issues involved, in the hope of precluding any potentially stifling confusion about the applicability or non-applicability of relevant rules of international space law.

Thus, the issue of the definition of 'space object' will be revisited and discussed in juxtaposition with such definitions as those of 'celestial bodies' and 'near earth objects', with reference to the applicability of relevant rules of international space law.