The Responsibility for Private Activities in Outer Space: Where is the Clue to this Puzzle?

di Diego Zannoni


SUMMARY: 1. Introduction. – 2. The responsibility for private acts under international law. – 3. The content of Article VI Outer Space Treaty. – 4. Traditional and divergent interpretations of Article VI Outer Space Treaty. – 5. “National” space activities. – 6. The “appropriate State”. – 7. The plurality of responsible States. – 8. An obligation of result or an obligation of conduct? – 9. Final remarks.


The need to resolve the question of State responsibility for private space activities has gained urgency in recent decades in parallel with the increasing number of private corporations participating in space ventures. According to Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty, States shall authorise, supervise and bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including private ones. This provision nonetheless begs a number of unresolved questions, including whether this responsibility is defined in absolute or qualified terms, the meaning of ‘national activities’ and identification of the State required to authorise and supervise a space activity. With a combination of theoretical and practical approaches, this article seeks to address these issues and to offer an opportunity to assess the latest developments in this rapidly evolving area of human endeavour.

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