50th Anniversary of the Liability Convention
Debris plot by NASA
The Liability Convention (Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects) turns 50 in 2022. To mark the anniversary the Open University Law School’s Legal History Group will be holding a virtual conference on 29 April 2022.
In the 50 years since the Liability Convention opened for signature, human activities in outer space have transformed; the number of space objects has dramatically increased (and so has the debris); and commercial activities have multiplied and diversified. The last two decades have seen a continuous crewed presence aboard the International Space Station, and plans for commercial space stations and orbital construction platforms are under way, raising the question of whether and how has this increased the complexity of the chain of responsibility and attributability for wrongful acts under the Convention? As states and companies from the Global South are starting to enter the space economy, could the Liability Convention be a barrier for entry through increasing the risks and therefore costs of joint or shared launching endeavours? With plans of expanding activities on the Moon and other celestial bodies, what is the use of the Liability Convention beyond Earth’s orbit? Is there liability for contaminating the Outer Space environment for future space exploration, such as the search for signs of life in the solar system? These are just some of the changes that prompt the need to take a look back and a look forward and ask whether the liability regime for space objects is fit for purpose for the next fifty years.
Liability plays an important role in any legal regime, particularly involving commercial actors, but the Liability Convention remains relatively untested and what tests it has faced have proved inconclusive at best. However, this call looks beyond the Liability Convention and welcomes a wide range of papers focusing on questions of ‘liability’ and ‘state responsibility’ in outer space, at the international and national levels. We particularly welcome comparative law and legal history papers.
Key Themes (Not Exhaustive):
Liability and State Responsibility
Lability in the ‘commercial space age’
ASATs, ‘space warfare’ and the role of liability
Determining Fault in Space
Liability and space tourism
Liability as a barrier for entry
Please submit a maximum 300-word abstract to OULS-LegalHistory@open.ac.uk by 25 March 2022.
Please feel free to contact the organiser(s) at OULS-LegalHistory@open.ac.uk if you have any questions.