New Rules Launched to aid the Resolution of Outer Space Disputes

BRUSSELS, LONDON, MIAMI, 13 December 2011 - The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague has published Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Outer Space Activities.  The new rules are tailored to disputes relating to outer space activities, which would typically involve satellite activities, and have been developed by a committee of space law experts.

According to data published by Eurospace, the European space industry is worth around €6bn (in 2010), and employs more than 35,000 people.

Gerry Oberst, a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells who works with space law issues, commented:

"The new rules are a clear indication of how outer space is becoming increasingly regulated. As organisations and individuals continue to compete for activities in outer space we can expect to see more disputes, and these rules will be key to resolving those.  Putting a satellite into space involves a complex web of contracts and agreements. These rules will influence any future contracts for the manufacture or supply of satellites or satellite services.

"The rules add to the suite of UN-based agreements that already exist, such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, and they are likely to be one of many agreements relating to space that we can expect to see in the future. For example, the European Union (EU) is currently trying to persuade countries to sign a voluntary Code of Conduct for outer space activities which is intended to improve security in space for all nations and to limit space debris."

The rules are based on the well-respected and widely used 2010 UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, with a number of modifications designed "to reflect the particular characteristics of disputes having an outer space component involving the use of outer space by States, international organisations and private entities."

A key feature of the new rules includes the establishment by the PCA of a list of experts who are considered to have expertise in disputes relating to outer space activities or in relevant scientific or technical matters (Articles 10(4) and 29(7)).

They also include:

  • An option under the rules for the parties to submit an agreed document to the Tribunal summarising and giving background to any scientific or technical issues that the parties wish to raise where necessary to enable the Tribunal to fully understand the matters in dispute (Article 27);
  • Enhanced measures to protect the confidentiality of information provided by the parties in the course of arbitration, under which parties may make applications to have information classified as confidential and require recipients of the information to sign a confidentiality undertaking;
  • Additional discretional powers of the Tribunal to continue the arbitration notwithstanding any failure by one arbitrator to participate in the proceedings once appointed (Article 12(4)).

A full copy of the Optional Rules can be viewed at:

Please contact Vanessa Montero at Hogan Lovells for any interviews with Michael Davison or Nathan Searle in London, Gerry Oberst in Brussels or Daniel E González in Miami.


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