Where to learn Space Law?

Where to learn Space Law? Teaching is important both in spreading knowledge of space law and for its development. Unsurprisingly, given the number of states and enterprises now active in space, a goodly number of universities and other academic institutions round the world now offer lectures and occasionally courses in space law.

This is helped by UNOOSA, which has published a suggested curriculum that usefully sets out the major areas that ought to be covered. As might be expected, in most instances, space law first emerged as an adjunct to aviation law. Other universities offer a few lectures on space law as part of a general course on Public International Law. In any event, aviation remains the major thrust of the endeavours of most of the specialised institutes that also offer space law, but their influence in space law cannot be gainsaid.

Where to learn Space Law?

So, where to learn Space Law? Chronologically, the Institute of Air and Space Law at the University of Cologne is the oldest specialised institute, though with a hiccup. Begun in 1925 as an Institute of Air Law in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad), it moved to Leipzig in 1929 and to Berlin in 1940 where its library was bombed. In the 1950s, the Institute reopened in Cologne under Professor Alex Meyer and thereafter has gone from strength to strength. The Institute offers taught courses and postgraduate supervision as well as organising symposia and colloquia. It was instrumental in the compilation of the Cologne Commentary on Space Law and publishes the Zeitschrift für Luft- und Weltraumrecht (ZLW).

According to the Library at the Peace Palace in The Hague in the Netherlands, the first Dutch doctoral thesis on air law was published in 1910. It largely drew on analogies from the law of the sea. At Leiden University, a quarter of a century later, formal studies in Air Law began. Space law began in 1961. The Leiden Institute of Air and Space Law was established in 1986. It offers taught courses and postgraduate supervision. Leiden also organises symposia and colloquia, with some concentration on European aspects of space law.

The major other space-law-active academic institution in Europe is the International Space University. Located in Strasbourg, France, the ISU was founded in 1987. It operates at the graduate level, its courses encompassing science, technical, engineering, business and policy aspects of space with a view to training space professionals. Courses are run in a two-month summer session and in a Master’s program.

In 1951, McGill University, Montreal, established an Institute of International Air Law under the Directorship of John Cobb Cooper Jr., a well-known aviation lawyer who had contributed significantly to discussions on space law. The Institute was renamed the Institute of Air and Space Law (IASL) in 1957, and many of its graduates have been active in space law. Apart from teaching and postgraduate research supervision, the IASL organises symposia and colloquia and since 1976, has published annually the Annals of Air and Space Law.

In the United States of America, the Space Policy Institute of the Elliot School of International Affairs of George Washington University, functions mostly in the area that its title indicates. However, policy is a significant factor in the development of space law, and its products are influential, particularly in U.S. developments. Also in Washington, D.C., Georgetown University Law Center offers a course and research supervision in space law.

The University of Mississippi School of Law has been active in space law for many years and established its Journal of Space Law in 1973, publishing articles and data on current developments. The College of Law at the Lincoln Campus of the University of Nebraska has offered a program in Space and Telecommunications Law since 2008. A number of other U.S. universities offer occasional lectures on space law.

Elsewhere in the world

What about the rest of the world, where to learn Space Law? Elsewhere in the world, the study of space law has developed, sometimes through institutes similar to those above, and sometimes through local co-operation between academic and practising lawyers. In France, the University of Paris-Sud runs courses in space law and telecommunications, and space law lectures are part programs in Toulouse, Dijon, and Lyon.

In Spain, the University of Jaen provides teaching in space law and organises colloquia. In South America, the Universidad del Salvador (USAL), a Jesuit university in Buenos Aires, established a chair of Air and Space Law in 1960, and a National Institute of Air and Space Law in 1962. Many Argentine universities offer space law courses or lectures in the subject within programs on Public International Law. Space law is also studied on a similar basis at institutes and law schools in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay. National and international conferences and symposia are also held.

In India, unsurprisingly given its emergence as active in space, a number of universities now offer courses or classes in space law. In Japan, several universities teach space law. JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is supportive of these efforts. Space law is now available in several Chinese universities. It is taught at the Moscow State Institute of International Law and at the Institute of International Law of the People’s Friendship University. It is also offered at the International Space Law Centre of the University of Kiev, Ukraine.

In 1990, under the leadership of the Legal Advisor to the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL) was established. Associated with the Centre are academics and practitioners in the field. The Centre seeks through National Sections to foster knowledge about space law and its teaching throughout the ESA states. It also maintains collaborative arrangements with similar bodies throughout the world. ECSL holds symposia, colloquia and workshops, and its website provides much documentation as well as links to other space law sites.

Since 1992, the ECSL has run an annual two-week course on space law and policy at different locations throughout Europe for students from European universities. Also since 1992, it has held an annual one-day Practitioners’ Forum at ESA headquarters in Paris, at which experts and practitioners review problems and current developments in a particular area of space law. The ECSL has a permanent observer status at the annual meeting of the COPUOS Legal Sub-Committee, and co-operates with the IISL in presenting a symposium prior to that meeting.

The European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) was established in Vienna in 2005 by decision of the ESA Council. Working both through staff and an Academic Network (ESPRAN), it conducts studies and provides reports on mid- to long-term issues of space policy intended to assist relevant decision-makers. It also publishes a Studies in Space Policy Series.

Apart from the use of space law as examples in other courses, The Hague Academy of International Law has included space law as a specific topic in its annual courses on a number of occasions. In 1998, the Study Session of The Hague Academy was devoted to international telecommunications.

A number of other legal bodies, societies and associations have either given intermittent attention to questions of space law or have sections that deal with such matters. Founded in Brussels in 1873, the International Law Association (ILA) is a non-governmental organisation. Membership is voluntary. Working through branches and international committees, the ILA studies and helps clarify international law. It has consultative status with a number of U.N. specialised agencies and other organisations. Through its Space Law Committee, the ILA has produced a number of reports on space law ranging from consideration of the space law treaties to questions of the commercial use of space.

Similarly, the International Bar Association has an Outer Space Committee which has debated an increasing number of practical, legal, commercial and regulatory issues arising from the development of space businesses. The American Society of International Law has occasionally devoted a meeting to space law matters, and the American Journal of International Law published by the Society has carried a goodly number of articles on space law.