Good Fences Make Good (Space) Neighbours


  • Dale Stephens
  • Lachlan Blake


Humanity has reached a critical point in its history.  Technological advancements herald a great renaissance for humanity’s reach to the stars.  States and private companies plan commercial and other activities in space and upon celestial bodies, demonstrating that humankind can become an inter-planetary species. Such planning occurs in accordance with the prevailing space law regime and, notwithstanding the undeniable ambition of the planners, it is evident this space law regime does have gaps and ambiguities that must be addressed before these endeavours can be meaningfully fulfilled. This article examines the legal regime encapsulated by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (‘OST’) (ratified by all major space-faring nations) and explores ways in which specific OST provisions can give rise to temporary proprietary and jurisdictional rights, which can be used to avoid future conflict in space. The authors contend that these provisions provide rights of control to States so as to manage ‘facilities’, to exercise jurisdiction and to observe rights of ‘due regard’ that in turn establish basic legal boundaries.  Such boundaries, it is argued, permit confidence and certainty in the conduct of commercial and other activities upon celestial bodies, enabling competing States and companies to delimit areas in which they conduct their operations. Additionally, the article examines the capacity of military forces to operate on these celestial bodies so as to undertake a peacekeeping type role consistently with the provisions of the OST.  Such a function is argued to be necessary, given the unique attribution mechanism of the OST that can give public legal significance to the acts of private companies. It is an underlying theme of this article that respecting legal boundaries on the Moon and other celestial bodies while engaging in commercial activity can create good neighbours which in turn can underpin a peaceful, stable and cooperative space environment.



A Articles/Books/Reports

Anderson, Scot W, Korey Christensen and Julia LaManna, ‘The Development of Natural Resources in Outer Space’ (2018) 37(2) Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law 227

Dembling, Paul and Daniel Arons, ‘The Evolution of the Outer Space Treaty’ (1967) 33 Journal of Air Law and Commerce 419

Ebitz, Amy, The Use of Military Diplomacy in Great Power Competition (Brookings, 2019)

Heise, Jack, ‘Space, the Final Frontier of Enterprise: Incentivizing Asteroid Mining Under a Revised International Framework’ (2018) 40(1) Michigan Journal of International Law 191

Hobe, Stephan, ‘The Meaning of Peaceful Purposes in Article IV of the Outer Space Treaty’ (2015) 40 Annals Air and Space Law 9

Ratner, Stacy, ‘Establishing the Extraterrestrial: Criminal Jurisdiction and the International Space Station’ (1999) 22(2) Boston College International and Comparative Law Review 330

Von Der Dunk, Frans, ‘Effective Exercise of “In Space Jurisdiction”: The US Approach and the Problems It Is Facing’ (2015) 40(1) Journal of Space Law 147

Von Der Dunk, Frans, ‘The Origins of Authorisation: Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty and International Space Law’ in Frans Von Der Dunk (ed), Studies in Space Law (Martinus Nijhoff, vol 6, 2011) 1

Wrench, John, ‘Non-Appropriation, No Problem: The Outer Space Treaty is Ready for Asteroid Mining’ (2019) 51(1) Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 437

Yun, Zhao, ‘Revisiting the 1975 Registration Convention: Time for Revision?’ (2004) 11(1) Australian Journal of International Law 106

B Legislation

Federal Law No 12 of 2019 On the Regulation of the Space Sector (UAE) (2019)

Statute of the International Court of Justice

US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, HR Res 2262, 114th Congress (2015)

United States Government Executive Order No 13914 ‘Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources’, Federal Register, vol 85, no 70

US Department of Defense, Law of War Manual 2015 (General Counsel of the Department of Defense, December 2016)

C Treaties

Agreement Among the Government of Canada, Governments of Members States of the European Space Agency, the Government of Japan, the Government of the Russian Federation, and the Government of the United States of America Concerning Cooperation on the Civil International Space Station, opened for signature 29 January 1998 (entered into force 27 March 2001) TIAS No 12927

Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, opened for signature 18 December 1979, 1363 UNTS 3 (entered into force 11 July 1984) Charter of the United Nations

Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, opened for signature 6 June 1975, 1023 UNTS 15 (entered into force 15 September 1976)

The Antarctic Treaty, opened for signature 1 December 1959, 402 UNTS 71 (entered into force 23 June 1962)

Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, opened for signature 27 January 1967, 610 UNTS 205 (entered into force 10 October 1967)

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, opened for signature 23 May 1969, 1155 UNTS 331 (entered into force 27 January 1980)

D Other

Abrahamian, Atossa Araxia, ‘How the Asteroid-Mining Bubble Burst’, MIT Technology Review (Web Page, 26 June 2019) <>

Burke, Jack, ‘China’s New Wealth-Creation Scheme: Mining the Moon’, National Review (Web Page, 13 June 2019) <>

Dawkins, David, ‘Billionaire Space Race: Elon Musk Shows Sympathy as Branson’s Virgin Orbit Fails to Lift Off’, Forbes (Web Page, 26 May 2020)

European Space Agency, ‘One Step Closer to Prospecting the Moon’, Science & Exploration (Web Page, 30 January 2020) <>

Foust, Jeff, ‘Blue Origin Unveils Lunar Lander’, SpaceNews (Web Page, 9 May 2019) <>

Foust, Jeff, ‘Crew Dragon in Orbit after Historic Launch’, SpaceNews (Web Page, 30 May 2020) <>

Foust, Jeff, ‘Lunar Exploration Providing New Impetus for Space Resources Legal Debate’, SpaceNews (Web Page, 7 September 2019) <>

Government of the United Arab Emirates, ‘The UAE Space Law’ Space Science and Technology (Web Page, 20 July 2020)

Hepeng, Jia, ‘He Asked for The Moon and He Got It’, China Daily (Web Page, 26 July 2006) <>

Hitchens, Theresa, ‘WH Woos Potential Allies, Including China for Space Mining’, Breaking Defense (Web Page, 6 April 2020) <>

International Institute of Space Law, ‘Position Paper on Space Resource Mining’ (adopted 20 December 2015) <>

Jones, Andrew, ‘Chinese Space Resource Utilization Firm Origin Space Signs Deal for Space Telescope’, SpaceNews (Web Page, 23 April 2020) <>

Le Gouvernement Du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, Luxembourg Space Agency, ‘Law of July 20th 2017 on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources’ (Web Page) <>

Liddell, Rob, ‘Could We Become an Interplanetary Species? What’s Next for Space Travel’, BBC Two Stargazing (Web Page, 2019) <>

Love, Dylan, ‘The Next Frontier: Space Miners are the Universe’s Future Tycoons’, CNBC (Web Page, 26 December 2016) <>

NASA, ‘Principles for a Safe, Peaceful and Prosperous Future’, The Artemis Accords (Web Page, May 2020) <>.

O’Brien, Dennis, ‘The Artemis Accords: Repeating the Mistakes of the Age of Exploration’, The Space Review (Web Page, 29 June 2020) <>

Sheetz, Michael, ‘NASA Awards Contracts to Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to Land Astronauts on the Moon’, CNBC (Web Page, 30 April 2020) <>

Summary Record of the 63rd Meeting, UN GAOR, 4th Comm, 5th sess, 63rd mtg UN Doc A/AC.105/c.2/SR/63 (20 October 1966)

Summary Record of the 64th Meeting, UN GAOR, 4th Comm, 5th sess, 64th mtg UN Doc A/AC.105/C.2/SR.64 (24 October 1966)

Turner, Adrian, ‘Mars and Our Path to Being an Interplanetary Species’, Financial Review (Web Page, 18 July 2019) <>

United Nations, United Nations Peacekeeping (Web Page) <>

Wall, Mike, ‘Elon Musk Is Still Thinking Big with SpaceX’s Starship Mars-Colonizing Rocket. Really Big’, (Web Page, 18 January 2020) <>

Working Paper submitted by the Canada Delegation to the Conference on Disarmament, “Terminology Relevant to Arms Control and Outer Space,” CD/716, CD/OS/WP.15, 16 July 1986