• Space law has its origins in the treaties and principles established by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

    These are set out in the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and in subsequent UN treaties, resolutions, and principles.

    For regulators, the most salient points of the UN Space Treaties are: 

    • the use of space must be exclusively for peaceful purposes 
    • space must be accessible to all countries and used for the benefit of all countries
    • each state is internationally responsible and liable for its space activities, including activities carried out by non-governmental entities of that state
    • each state must authorise and continuously supervise the space activities of its non-governmental entities
    • each state must maintain a register of space objects it launches and furnish details regarding the orbital parameters and basic function of the space object to the UN
    • each state must, in conducting, authorising, or supervising its space activities, avoid harmful contamination of outer space

    States often aim to secure compliance with their international obligations by introducing national legislation and regulations. Typically, national legislation confers licensing or authorisation powers on the state.

    The UK is a signatory to four UN space treaties, and takes seriously its international commitment to the safe, responsible, and sustainable use of space. 

    Before granting a licence for any operator type, the CAA must be satisfied that doing so is consistent with the international obligations of the United Kingdom.

    The UK government is party to a number of international treaties and has entered into a several bilateral agreements with other states which may have an impact on space activities, these include:

    • UN treaties on outer space
    • UK-US Technology Safeguarding Agreement (TSA) US-UK Technology Safeguards Agreement
    • Faroe Islands MOU, which includes provisions for overflight of UK launch vehicles over the territory of the Faroe Islands
    • Iceland MOU, which includes provisions for overflight of UK launch vehicles over the territory of Iceland
    • Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC)

    Additionally, there are a number of international guidelines or best practice that the UK complies with

    • IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines
    • Guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities (found in the annex of the UNCOPUOS report)

    We recommend you discuss which international obligations may apply to your activities during pre-application engagement us.

    Additionally, where your activities involve US technology, we recommend you familiarise yourself with the requirements on ‘Security provisions for the protection of US technology’ set out in the Space Industry Regulations 192 – 202  and the Regulator’s Licensing Rules  before applying for a licence.