International Space Law
The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is the forum for the development of international space law. International treaties provide a basic set of rules and principles regulating the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space. In addition, the international legal framework also includes other non-binding instruments, such as Resolutions of the UN General Assembly, state practices and customary international law.
Luxembourg ratified the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty or OST) of 1967, and the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (Liability Convention) of 1972.
In 2021, Luxembourg intends to ratify the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (Registration Convention) of 1975, in line with the national law voted on 10 December 2020 by the Chamber of Deputies.
Finally, Luxembourg is also working on becoming a party to the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space (Rescue Agreement) of 1968.
Luxembourg is not party to the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Moon Agreement) of 1979.
More information on Space Treaties can be found on the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs Website.
National Space Law
Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty prescribes as follows:
“<…> The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State party to the Treaty.<…>”
The current legal framework for space activities at national level is composed of:
- the Law of 15 December 2020 on Space Activities, and
- the Law of 2017 on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources.
- the Law of 1991 on Electronic Media, as modified,
Changing technologies and diversification of business models require adaptations of the legal basis for space activities. Since 2018, the government was working on a draft comprehensive law addressing space activities authorization and supervision.
On 10 December 2020, the Chamber of Deputies voted the Law of 15 December 2020 on Space Activities. This new legislation, effective as of 1st January 2021, marks an important milestone in enhancing the Luxembourg legal framework for both space activities authorization and supervision. It will further allow the growth and diversification of activities carried out by space players, especially from the private industry, in Luxembourg.
The Law of 15 December 2020 on Space Activities offers a clear legal framework for the authorization and supervision of space activities allowing the management of risks related to space activities and state liability. It contributes to providing a safe and attractive environment for operators, investors and entrepreneurs and will, as such, be a valuable tool for the economic development of the dynamic and competitive space sector in Luxembourg.
In this framework, the authorization and supervision of space activities have been tasked to the Ministry of the Economy and the LSA along with the registration of space objects launched into outer space. The latest will be ensured, as established by the Law on Space Activities, thanks to a National Register of Space Objects which will include all objects for which Luxembourg assumes registration obligation under the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
The national register will be public and accessible on the LSA website in the coming months. The current list of Luxembourg launched space objects, provided voluntarily based on the General Assembly resolution 1721 B (XVI) by States launching objects into orbit or beyond, can be found on the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs Website.
Among other provisions, the Law on Space Activities includes the tax exemption of insurance contracts covering the space objects registered by Luxembourg and an adaptation of the rules regarding the tax credit for investments in order to allow operators of space objects to benefit from tax credit.
The Law on Space Activities does not apply to missions involving the exploration and use of space resources falling under the Law of 20 July 2017 on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources, except for what concerns the registration of launched space objects and tax related provisions.
The Law of 27 July 1991 on Electronic Media remains in effect and will serve as a legal basis for the frequency’s allocation.
While further details regarding the law implementation are under preparation, a written, free-format preliminary application for authorization to carry on space activities must be submitted to the LSA at least six months before the planned launch of a space object.
When planning the transfer of space activities to another operator, a written application for authorization must also be submitted to the Ministry at least three months before the transfer.
The further details and procedures regarding the implementation of Law on Space Activities are under preparation by the LSA and more information will follow in the coming months.
The English translation of the Law on Space Activities is available here.
Law on Space Resources
International space treaties remain untested regarding who would own the rights to minerals, gases and water found in outer space. Until now, this has not been an issue since most missions have been for scientific purposes. But for commercial space projects and space mining to be viable, future explorers and investors will need to be certain of their rights to extract, consume and commercialize the materials they discover.
In 2017, Luxembourg has established an efficient legal and regulatory framework with a dedicated space law that ensures stability and guarantees a high level of protection for investors, explorers and miners.
The Grand Duchy is the first European country, and the second worldwide, to offer a legal framework on the exploration and use of space resources, ensuring that private operators can be confident about their rights on resources they extract in space.
The law does not have an objective, purpose or effect of paving the way for any national appropriation of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies themselves. The law clarifies Luxembourg’s national position on the status of the resources that can be extracted from those celestial bodies and in space in general.
The Luxembourg law also lays down the regulations for the authorization and the supervision of private space exploration missions, including both exploration and utilization of space resources. Whoever intends to undertake a space resources utilization mission will be required to obtain a prior authorization issued by the competent minister or ministers for each mission.
The full text of the legislation can be found in the Official Journal of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (in French).
The English translation is available here.