Law, College of


Date of this Version



Published by von der Dunk in Proceedings of the Forty-Sixth Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space 349-359 (1993). Copyright 1993, F.G. von der Dunk. Used by permission.


Present day developments in international space activities in a way provide many opportunities for private entities to become more involved therein. One interesting phenomenon which seems to arise on the horizon in relation to these developments concerns the possibility of leasing a spacecraft. Questions arising in this regard focus on such issues as ownership, whether state or private, in view of the registration-obligation, and liability for damage and its close link to the launching of the spacecraft in question.

An effort will be made in the paper to briefly analyze the legal ramifications of leasing a spacecraft. Hence, firstly a factual introduction into the issue of the lease of spacecraft and an attempt to define "lease" will be made.

Secondly, a short survey of relevant elements of the corpus juris spatialis will be made, such as Articles VI, VII and VIII of the Outer Space Treaty, and parts of the Liability and Registration Conventions. As a preliminaty conclusion it will be submitted that those provisions of outer space law create a link between launching and liability which in some respects is rather illogical, especially as far as private enterprise is involved, and therefore to a certain extent already bodes ill for any occurrence of leasing.

By way of an illustration in the third part of the paper a short overview will be given of the ways in which especially the United States and France, as the two prime launching states of the capitalist world, cope with this illogical link through national provisions concerning liability.

Finally, in the fourth part the leasing-phenomenon will be entered into the equation. The result will be, inter alia, that the illogicality of especially the link between launching and liability comes to the fore more clearly and strongly, making for a perhaps unnecessarily complicated framework for private activities in space. Hence, the notion of leasing seems to provide an interesting argument for amending or at least reinterpreting the relevant parts of space law.