Law, College of



Billion-dollar questions? Legal aspects of commercial space activities

Date of this Version



Unif. L. Rev., 2018, uny022, 29pp.


Published:18 May 2018


Copyright 2018 Frans G. von der Dunk. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of UNIDROIT.


Currently, several well-funded companies in the USA are in the process of developing long-term missions to asteroids to harvest mineral resources that are found there, including water. Other companies are getting close to flying manned missions on suborbital trajectories or even into low-earth orbits. Outer space, indeed, is becoming more and more a multi-billion-dollar sector. At the same time, outer space is gradually becoming a riskier environment—so-called ‘space debris’ is increasingly becoming a worry for public and private space activities alike. This raises major questions regarding the legal framework, which was developed initially in the 1960s and 1970s when commercial space activities were hardly on the horizon, yet until today remains the baseline for mitigating any negative or threatening aspects of the growing use of outer space. The present contribution aims to provide an overview of the general aspects of these questions as well as some of the current debates that are trying to move the current legal framework in the right direction.