The U.S.S.R.

The Mir Space Station: History and Legacy

Mir was a space station that was operated in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) from 1986 to 2001 by the Soviet Union and then by Russia. Predecessor of the International Space Station, the Mir station was the first continuously inhabited long-term research station in orbit.

The race for space motorcycles between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.

This race for space motorcycles began at the end of the 1960s, at the same time as the conquest of space itself. Indeed, NASA’s Spacecraft Design Division in Houston, Texas, began designing a minibike specifically for use on the Moon in the late 1960s.

The history of spy satellites

A reconnaissance satellite or spy satellite is a low-orbiting satellite that collects information about civilian and military installations in other countries using an optical or radar system. The first generation type took photographs, then ejected canisters of photographic film which would descend back down into Earth’s atmosphere.

Space Law History 101

The launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957 took the attention of the world. In his non-fiction book Danse Macabre (1981), the horror writer Stephen King tells how the screening of a film in a small-town New England cinema was interrupted. The cinema manager told the audience what had happened, and the screening was abandoned. People went out in a fruitless attempt to try to see the satellite.

The Origins of the Space Age

Let’s have a look at the history of spaceflight from the origins of rocketry to the beginning of the Space Age. Cultures around the world have contributed both to the visions and to the technological developments necessary to make spaceflight a reality.

Bulgaria 1300, the first Bulgarian satellite

The spacecraft Bulgaria 1300, the first Bulgarian satellite, or Interkosmos 22, was a research satellite, that carried a set of plasma, particles, fields, and optical experiments designed and constructed in Bulgaria on a satellite bus provided by the Soviet Union as part of the Interkosmos program. Bulgaria’s first artificial satellite was named after the anniversary of the foundation of the Bulgarian state.

The Mercury 13

In 1960, Dr. Lovelace (NASA) helped chose twenty-five female astronaut candidates, some of which were selected as the Mercury 13 the next year. These American women underwent the same physiological screening tests as the astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959 for Project Mercury. The program was abruptly cancelled however, in September 1961.

The 1972 Liability Convention

Elaborating on Article VII of the Outer Space Treaty, the 1972 Liability Convention provides that a launching State shall be absolutely liable to pay compensation for damage caused by its space objects on the surface of the Earth or to aircraft, and liable for damage due to its faults in outer space. The Convention also provides for procedures for the settlement of claims for damages.

Luna 1 and its legal status

Luna 1, also known as Mechta (meaning “Dream” in Russian), was launched on January 2, 1959 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Luna 1, the first of a series of Soviet automatic interplanetary stations successfully launched in the direction of the Moon, was the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Earth’s Moon.

The North Korean space program

The North Korean space program started, thanks to Kim Il-sung, in the 1980s with the aim of producing and placing communications satellites, Earth observation satellites, and weather observation satellites. Let’s have a look at the North Korean space program.

The Soviet Almaz military space station

The Almaz, meaning “Diamond” in Russian, was a highly secret Soviet military space station program, begun in the early 1960s. Along with some state-of-the-art spy equipment, such as cameras and radar, Almaz would carry a cannon, a modified version of the Rikhter R-23, in its arsenal. Only after the fall of the U.S.S.R. did Russian sources revealed that the cannon had actually fired in orbit.

Brilliant Pebbles

Brilliant Pebbles was a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system proposed in 1987, at the end of the Cold War. Brilliant Pebbles was the idea of Lowell Wood and Edward Teller, “the father of the hydrogen bomb”, of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

The Strategic Defense Initiative and outer space military laws

The U.S.-led Strategic Defense Initiative or SDI, sometimes referred to as “Star Wars”, was a missile defense program launched during the Cold War by Ronald Reagan. It was a satellite network project whose role would have been the detection and destruction of ballistic missiles launched against the USA.

The legal status of biosatellites and their payloads

Biosatellites are a special type of satellites taking living organisms (plants, animals, organisms…) into outer space for the study of their behaviour. Are those biosatellites spacecraft or satellites? Are they space objects? Is the biological matter considered a payload of the space object and therefore a space object itself? Are those living beings envoys of mankind?


Interkosmos (1967) was a Soviet space program designed to help the Soviet Union’s allies with manned and unmanned space missions. The program of international cooperation had primarily political objectives: establishing good relations with the countries of Eastern Europe.

The Soviet Buran spaceplane and its legal status

Buran, meaning Snowstorm or Blizzard in Russian, was the first spaceplane to be produced as part of the Soviet Buran programme. What was Buran spaceplane’s legal status? Was Buran an aircraft or a spacecraft?

Planetary rovers and their legal status

What are the different planetary rovers that have been on celestial bodies since the beginnings of the exploration of outer space? What is their legal status? Are they space objects? Do these objects respect the obligation not to alter the equilibrium of celestial bodies, as provided for in Article IX of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty?

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (September 17, 1857 – September 19, 1935), was a Russian and Soviet rocket scientist and pioneer of the astronautic theory. He championed the idea of the diversity of life in the universe and was the first theorist and advocate of human spaceflight.

The International Telecommunication Union

Since 1865, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has been at the centre of advances in communications – from telegraphy through to the modern world of satellites, mobile phones and the Internet.

Sealab and the aquanauts

In a parallel to the Space Race, the Sealab program was an experimental underwater habitat program developed by the United States Navy (USN) in the 1960s to demonstrate the viability of saturation diving and the human ability to live isolated for long period of times.