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Liability in Outer Space: the Question of Admissibility


Radwan, Jakub

Subject and Keywords:

outer space   liability   damage   responsibility   space object   space debris   satellite   launching State   desuetude   international law   space law


The number of artificial space objects has increased exponentially since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957. Geocentric orbits have been occupied not only by operational space devices but also by a significant population of space debris. Consequently, the congestion of outer space has reached unprecedented levels. However, the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects was elaborated on the premise that the likelihood of a collision between human-made space objects was virtually nil in outer space. Therefore, the convention stipulates that a launching State shall bear international liability for damage inflicted in outer space only provided that the fault is attributable to the State or the persons for whom the State is responsible. Interestingly, however, the spacefaring States have consistently abstained from resorting to the provisions of the convention notwithstanding the documented cases of loss of or damage to space objects in the aftermath of collisions. As a result, the convention could be deemed to have fallen into desuetude by virtue of prolonged non-enforcement. However, the analysis of the notion of desuetude in international law does not permit the conclusion that the convention shall be regarded as null and void. Conversely, such considerations as the lack of a definition of fault in outer space or the soft law character of the regulations pertaining to space debris mitigation and removal represent more plausible explanations for the absence of formal claims based on the convention. Accordingly, the prior passive conduct of States with respect to liability would not preclude future demands for compensation for damage sustained in outer space.

Place of publishing:



E-Wydawnictwo. Prawnicza i Ekonomiczna Biblioteka Cyfrowa. Wydział Prawa, Administracji i Ekonomii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego


Górnicki, Leonard. Red.

Date issued:


Detailed Type:



ISSN 2450-3932




pol   eng

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Folia Iuridica Wratislaviensis

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The use of this material is allowed only with accordance of applicable rules of fair use or other exceptions provided by law, and any broader use requires the permission of the authorized entity


Making materials available on the basis of the agreement with the owner of the property copyrights

Rights holder:

Copyright by Jakub Radwan

Location of original object:

Library of the Faculty of Law, Administration and Economics

Autor opisu:

WR U/PAdjm   TK