Legal framework

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.

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, and the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (Registration Convention) of 1975.

Luxembourg is not party to the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Moon Agreement) of 1979.

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 basis for space activities authorization and supervision at national level is composed of:

1.    the Law of 1991 on Electronic Media, as modified, and

2.    the Law of 2017 on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources.

The Law of 1991 on Electronic Media states that no one can establish and operate a Luxembourg satellite system without a prior written concession agreement from the government. Changing technologies and diversification of business models require adaptations of the legal basis for space activities. Since 2018, the government is working on a comprehensive law addressing space activities authorization and supervision.

The draft law establishes general rules on compliance with international law and environmental protection, including space debris. It sets up a system of authorization, monitoring and sanctions, making it possible to ensure that the risks incurred by the state are limited. The project also introduces a national registry of space objects, thus laying the foundation for the approval of the Registration Convention.

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.

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