Date of this Version
Contracting for Space: Contract Practice in the European Space Sector (2011), L.J. Smith & I. Baumann, eds. Surrey, England: Ashgate. p. 357-366.
Space projects in Europe take place in a complicated environment involving many public, private and intergovernmental actors, where the participation of the private sector, as independent space operators or as sub-contractors to others, is usually subsumed under the label of 'the space industry,' producing hardware, software and services to be used in outer space, in support of space activities, or using products, data or information generated with the help of space activities.
Such private, semi-private and quasi-private actors use contracts as the main mechanism to protect their interests, the freedom to contract within the rule oflaw being the paramount overarching legal principle. However, because of the large measure of governmental and intergovernmental activity and involvement in the space arena and the manifold public aspects of using space those governments might perhaps be expected to subject that freedom to contract to restrictions in the context of the space sector much more than in other sectors.
Moreover, in view of the almost inherent international character of most space activities in Europe, such governmental interference with the private space sector would likely lead to many issues of potentially conflicting jurisdictions. The current contribution attempts to analyse some of these issues from the perspective ofthe national space laws that have been enunciated in European countries and their intricate relationship to the international space law regime.
These national space laws have been drafted at least partly to implement the applicable international regime vis-à-vis the private sector (notably, in this context, the Outer Space Treaty, the Liability Convention and the Registration Convention), which therefore also has to be kept in mind for the current purpose. At the same time, when enunciating their national space laws, the states that did so--Norway (1969), Sweden (1982), the United Kingdom (1986), Belgium (2005), the Netherlands (2007) and France (2008)--did not necessarily limit their scope to covering subject matter covered by the aforementioned treaties. States might well extend the scopes of their national laws to include other areas of the space arena, thus impacting contracts dealing with issues not addressed or impacted by the international space treaties.