International Cooperation in Space Laws
Date | Version May 10, 2023| 2.0
Keywords Space Law’, ‘UNFCCC, ‘International’, ‘Cooperation’, ‘UN’, ‘Satellite’.
List of Legislation Referred.
  1. The constitution of india
  2. The United Nations Remote Sensing Principles, 1986
  3. Article I of the Outer Space Treaty , 1966
  4. The Cancun Agreements , 2010
  5. The Mexico Summit, 2015
  6. Space Activities Bill, 2017
  7. Satellite communications policy, 1997
  8. International laws
Jurisdiction Republic of India

The need to observe the Earth’s climate plays a crucial role when the goals set by UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) are the target. No single agency or State alone can address the far-reaching needs of monitoring Earth’s climate. Hence international cooperation is essential for the system of an operational Global Climate Observing System (GCOS).

Many International coordination bodies work together to enable the continuity of data from the observation of Earth through satellites. These organizations plan satellite missions and ensure the best use of space assets to deal with climate change issues.

This article focuses on how work in outer Space is regulated with international cooperation.

The International treaties 

The Outer Space Treaty (OST) is the basis of international space law, enacted in 1967. The principles of OST apply to all outer space activities and are based on the freedom of space activities. According to the principle, States cannot be impeded from carrying out space activities; no State can be requested to obtain prior authorization. Therefore, every State is entitled to launch satellites into Space for remote sensing, and other States cannot lawfully impede this choice.

The outer space activities are governed by relevant chapters of International law in general and by United Nations (UN) Treaties and principles evolved under the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). India is one of the founding member States of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). The United Nations Remote Sensing Principles, 1986 (UNRSP) is the main international law instrument specifically addressing the sensing of Earth from Space. Various principles of OST and UNRSP provide for International Cooperation working in outer Space.

Development of Space Laws

The General Assembly of 1959 set up the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to “govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity: for peace, security and development.” It was instrumental in creating the five treaties and principles of Outer Space.

Article I of the Outer Space Treaty (1966) provides for the principle that it shall be in the interest of and for the benefit of all countries where any exploration and use of outer Space shall be carried out, all States shall be free to explore and use the Space per the international law, all States shall have free access to all areas of celestial bodies, and there shall be freedom of scientific and States shall facilitate and encourage international cooperation in such investigation”.

The Cancun Agreements 2010 established the international consultation and analysis (ICA) process under the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). The ICA aims to increase the transparency of mitigation actions while respecting national sovereignty.  

The Mexico Summit, 2015, took place to make efforts to strengthen the role of Space. Before the Mexico Summit, The International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) had been organizing summits since the year 2010: climate change and disaster management. 

The New Delhi Declaration, 2016, was made in support of the Paris Agreement and follows on from the Mexico Declaration, intending to measure greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as declared by the ‘Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS).

Space laws in India

The Indian Space Research Organisation regulates the Indian space industry, Antrix Corporation Limited (ACL) and Relevant legislation. As the central government body, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) offers national and foreign entities launch services. The ISRO regulates all parts of the Indian Space industry and operates under the Department of Space. ISRO actively shares its expertise and satellite data for managing natural disasters through various multi-agency bodies like International Charter for Space and Major Disasters, Sentinel Asia and UNSPIDER.

There is currently a draft version of the Indian National Space Legislation, the Space Activities Bill 2017 (IND). The draft Bill contains rules that apply not only to Indian citizens but also foreigners wishing to launch out of India.

Department of Space (DOS) is a nodal agency for space activities in India. In pursuance of space activities by the Department, specific policies were formulated, like, SATCOM (Satellite communications policy, 1997) and Remote Sensing Data Policies. SATCOM policy allows satellite operations using Indian as well as foreign satellites. It allows the leasing of INSAT (Indian National Satellite System) capacity to private sector entities.

India has signed formal cooperative arrangements as either Agreement, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), or Framework with several countries.

An important step towards promoting education in space science in India was taken by establishing ‘The Centre for Space Science and Technology Education for Asia and the Pacific (CSSTE-AP)’ under the initiative of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN OOSA).


We have come to a stage when environmental concerns are alarming; hence various initiatives are being taken to save the environment and avoid reaching the stage ‘point of no return’. One such initiative is detecting the source of pollutants through satellites. To understand the gravity of the situation, it is worth looking at the Greenhouse Gases emission (GHG) report of 2022- India stands third in total GHG emission and 8th in per capita GHG emission.

As an advancement in science to monitor carbon dioxide from orbit, the world’s first commercial satellite will be launched this year by Canadian company GHGSat. The GHGSat sensor will work at a higher detection threshold.

According to some studies, many countries have reduced their carbon emissions while their GDP has risen. As per the new report from the World Bank Group, an average investment by developing countries of 1.4% of GDP annually can reduce emissions by as much as 70% by 2050 and boost resilience.

In the near future, we should expect that international cooperation will be strengthened in regulating Space activities and scientific evolutions will be used to protect our environment.

The imperative need for improvement of the system of state bodies participating in joint activities to ensure the unity of the legal Space, their interaction and coordination, and a framework to enable effective participation and regulation for the private enterprise cannot be overemphasized. 


Co-Founder &  Managing Partner at Alaya Legal
Principal Associate at Alaya Legal

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