Rostrum’s Law Review | ISSN: 2321-3787

Developing Space Law Education in India: Some Proposals


As India is a developing country and its space science and technology is not so developed before the decades of sixties, so unlike other space faring countries, the different disciplines related with outer space like space law has started its journey very informally and still it is going on in the absence of national space law. The activities to promote space law education is going on but not like other space faring countries though India herself is a space faring country now.

The first part of the paper is focussed about the classification of people and the Indian institutions or organisations who are interested about space law. The second part is the proposed alternative models to develop space law education based on the purpose of different people or community and last there is a general proposed syllabus of space law for all these models.

Who are the People Interested on Space Law in India?

The first question comes to anybody’s mind who are the people interested on space law in India. The reply may be made on putting another question how space law is related or important to an astronomer, an engineer, a legal professional, a doctor, a social scientist, a Government official or diplomat, a defence personnel, a businessman or an entrepreneur and some non-profit making society or groups related with space activities. Perhaps these are the people who may think about how space law education is required for satisfying the need of their respective domain. In a general way, the astronomers in the space observatory or any other institutions are more interested on astronomical observations and developments; engineers are interested more on manufacturing spacecraft’s, electronic circuit designing of a spacecraft and other related things; a legal professional more interested on litigation through space activities; doctors more on space medicine; social scientists interested more on writing and deliberating on space law; defence personnel more on space security; Government officials more interested to focus on space policy related issues in its own framework; diplomats more on building international tie-ups with other countries and safeguarding or enforcing the national interest in international plane; businessmen or entrepreneurs more on space commerce; the societies or other groups related with space activities more interested about creating social consciousness focussing on their society or group interest. The list is not inclusive. There may be possibility of other sets of people.

The interest of the above category of people is very vital to develop any model on space law education in India. Similarly the institutions related with all these categories like Space Physics Laboratory (Thiruvananthapuram) under Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre1, The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy & Astrophysics2 (Pune), Institute of Astrophysics3 (Bangalore), Raman Research Institute4 (Bangalore), Aerospace engineering departments (IITs/Engineering colleges or Universities), Indian Institute of Space Science & Technology5 (Thiruvananthapuram), Indian Institute of Remote Sensing6 (Dehradun), Institute of Aerospace Medicine7 (Bangalore), some law departments of universities including national law schools all over India, Institute of Defence Studies & Analysis8 (New Delhi), Observer Research Foundation9 (New Delhi), Centre for Land & Warfare Studies10 (New Delhi), Gateway House11 (Mumbai), National Institute of Advanced Studies12 (Bangalore), Defence  Research & Development Organisation13 (laboratories like Defence Bioengineering & Electromedical Laboratory etc), Indian Astrobiology Research Centre14 (Mumbai), Indian Air Force15, Indian Space Research Organisation16 (Bangalore), Ministry of External Affairs17 (Legal & Treaties Division), Indian Council of World Affairs18 (New Delhi), Confederation of Indian Industries19 (CII), Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies & Industries20 (Bangalore), Association of Geospatial Industry21 (New Delhi), Indian Society of International Law22 (New Delhi), Indian Society of Remote Sensing23 (Dehradun), Indian Society of Geomatics24, Indian National Cartographic Association25 (Hyderabad), Indian Society of Aerospace Medicine26 (New Delhi), National Space Society (India Chapter)27, Telemedicine Society of India28 (Lucknow), The Indian Planetary Society29 (Mumbai), Moon Society India30 (Mumbai), the Bangalore Astronomical Society31, Regional Sky Watchers’ Association like Kolkata32, Kalpana Chawla Centre for Space & Nanosciences33 (Kolkata), Astronomical Society of India34 (Bangalore) and its sister concern Astronautical Society of India Student Chapter.

The list may be going on adding one institution after another. But definitely all these institutions have not much interested or requirement of space law education. Some requires more, some less. And it is obvious not only for India but also for similar type of institutions in other countries. It depends on their activity as well as priority of interest. But most interesting is that none can assure that space law is not in any way related with their discipline. People are in general more conscious and aware (may be interested) of space science and technology than space law. There are people amongst space scientists etc in India, who are still not so familiar about the fact that there exists law related with outer space. But some thoughts are enlightening in their minds by default for law even though they have no such legal background. Generally when people faces trouble after violating any regulation being knowingly or unknowingly, then law comes to their mind because the person has to safeguard himself from the offence. This is the general Indian tradition.

There is one interesting point to observe from the above list is that Bar Council of India35 or its members in general are not interested about space law education till now. The same follow up is noted amongst the Indian judiciary from top to bottom. The primary reason is that there are no such litigations till now by which a major number of legal practitioners will be interested. The same is true for judiciary. But there are many opportunities in the background of litigations from licensing of telecommunication spectrums by Government of India, ANTRIX-Devas deal etc.

In this broad background scenario, there are some proposed models to develop space law education in India.


(1)Model for people related with Astronomy

International lawyers have little or no knowledge of or interest in astronomy, and astronomers, astro-physicists are likely that.7 The statement of noted jurist Prof. Jenks is very meaningful especially in Indian context. The history of Indian astronomy shows that Indian astronomers contributed a lot and it was very pioneering work to other astronomers outside India. The following paragraph highlights it.

Earlier in the fifth century, Aryabhatta through classic work, the Aryabhatta, heralded the new mathematics based astronomy. In 7th century AD Brahmagupta also wrote a voluminous work called the Brahmasphuta Siddhanta, which is one of the important texts on Indian mathematics and astronomy. The Indian astronomers dealt with time-reckoning, rising, setting an conjunction of planets, eclipses and parallax, mean and true motion of planets, determination of direction, space and time etc. They have developed several astronomical instruments and made observations. Nilkantha (16th century), astronomer from Kerala, conceived that the inner planets (Venus and Mercury) and the outer planets (Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) would revolve round the Sun and the latter with them would in turn evolve round the earth. Such a model appeared nearly a century later in Europe, where Tycho Brahe through his observations at Copenhagen formulated it.8

The background of Indian astronomy is discussed in this context because the astronomers are the key people who have started human expedition to outer space. The example is if there is no discovery of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion9, the people from earth cannot launch a satellite like Sputnik to outer space. Excellent researches are going on in different Indian institutes mentioned above. But the discussion of these researches is out of context of this paper. All these researches will definitely expand the scope of future space law. The example may be cited like the discovery of a planet full of precious metals like diamonds10 or planning to mining of asteriods11 etc where the astronomers first located the particular celestial body and the contents of these planets or asteroids. Naturally the people will chase for acquiring these and there will definitely be a new type of space race which will direct space law in new direction.12 There may be new conventions, agreements etc to regulate the regime.

Hence the astronomers cannot fully avoid their role for future development of space law. Depending on their information, a state or a private enterprise will invest their huge fund for the reason as cited above. It may be said that the existing regime of space law as established by United Nations is not attracted by astronomers at present but there are lots of opportunities in future to develop space law by astronomers.

At this outset, what will be the model for Indian astronomers to study and research in space law? What type of space law education is required for them? What can they contribute to the existing regime of space law? The purpose of this paper is not to prepare a model only but to raise some questions to the astronomy community of India to consider space law as a serious concern for near future. And it is definite that some concrete innovative idea will come out just like their astronomical discoveries. These ideas should be get together to prepare a model for space law education as suitable for them.

(2)Model for People Related with Engineering:

The role of engineers to develop any space mission or project is in the first place. If any ISRO project is considered, there are engineers from different disciplines like aerospace engineering consisting of aerodynamics and flight mechanics, thermal and propulsion, design and structure, materials and manufacturing; avionics engineering consisting of Digital System Design, Digital communication, VLSI Design  Navigation, Guidance and Control, Digital System Design, Computer Technology and Power Electronics etc. There are disciplines related with general engineering like mechanical engineering, electrical engineering etc. The engineers are the people who control a space mission everywhere. Even a person cannot be an astronaut without any knowledge of engineering and science. Similarly a future space lawyer is sometime expected to be in outer space. So a legal professional should be acquainted with some knowledge of engineering. The development of the space law requires lawyers, engineers and scientists that working together like an engine of such development.13 As noted space lawyer Eilene Galloway has recognized, all major space law problems in both international and municipal space law are multidisciplinary and require for their solution a knowledge of space science and technology as well as elements of the physical sciences, the life sciences and engineering. This principle is valid for the study and teaching of space law.14

An example is provided for the requirement of space law to engineering related projects. A small case study identifies a lack of a clear law about the experimentation with sounding rocket in Spain. These problems are caused mainly by the absence of specific space law, which regulates the operation of sounding rocket as experimental devices.15 The problem is not different in India. If a person or  a group is interested to pursue such project, there are problems like “purchase of materials, transport of the rockets, and management of a risk insurance which would cover the damage and responsibilities of a potential accident, lack of support of the local authorities, socially confused vision which relates sounding rockets to military activities”16.

Hence a platform should be developed where the persons from engineering background discuss their practical problem with the people from legal background and then only it would be possible to prepare a model for space law education for engineers.


(3)Model for People Related with Medical Sciences:

The doctors, researchers and others who are related with the development of space medicine are in the different corner of space law. At the one side they are developing the medical support for human beings in outer space but they are the people who have key role to develop one dormant side of space law which is space medical jurisprudence or forensic medicine in outer space. It is obvious that when the commercial travel of human being will start, then definitely space medical jurisprudence will play a key role. And a new literature will develop from the contribution of the above doctors, researchers and others working on space medicine.

There is Indian Society of Space Medicine which is mainly controlled by the defence personnel but the time has come to dissipate the knowledge of space medicine to the interested civilians. It should no longer be a domain controlled by the defence people only. The role of this society is very important to build a model for space medical jurisprudence in Indian context. Such model may be useful for making future Indian regulation for human space flight. Hence it is better for this society as well as others interested persons in space medicine to think what space law education is needed to them. A suitable model should be drafted based on their output.

There is another possibility from space nursing society17 which was founded in 1991 in USA and though they have members from different countries but nobody from India. India also think about this line and there should be some diagnostic code for nursing also which will support in making the future regulation for Indians injured in outer space.

(4)Model for People Related with Social Sciences:

The people from social sciences can contribute to the geopolitics in space in general. It consists of space strategy of India in making a suitable space policy for the country. They can analyse the politics of outer space affairs inside and outside the country.  Their analysis and suggestion will require for making domestic legislation in space for India.

But there is specific contribution from archaeologists also. An example of legal implication of space archaeology is that whether any law is required to preserve the site on the moon where the Moon Impact Probe was thrown during the Chandrayaan Mission, or, whether the existing domestic law is sufficient to preserve the particular site on any celestial body. In future expedition of Mars and other mission, the nexus between space archaeology and law will be very much required to be studied otherwise human colony on celestial bodies will face problems.

So the model for space law education should be based on general as well as specific need of the social scientists.

(5)Model for Defence Personnel:

The defence people are mainly dealing with space security of India. The Indian Air Force is already there. But there are people in DRDO laboratories who build up the long range missile whose technology is same as launching a spacecraft. The recent AGNI V launching has worried the other countries from the aspect of space security. The existing domain of space law should be in the background to develop space law education for them. But what will be the added one? All the domestic law dealing with national security of India should be included in their model for space law education.


(6)Model for a Government Official or a Diplomat:

A Government official or a diplomat has no such border aspect for pursuing space law education because it is the policy of the Government who decides the role of space law education for them. For an example a top-ranking ISRO official cannot expect to have a detail study of space law which is not permitted by the concerned office. It is the Government propaganda by which the officer dealing with space has to go. The diplomats in Indian Ministry dealing with space are likely that. They have to follow the guidelines from their superiors or as directed by the Ministry concerned. Hence the question is what model they will follow for space law education? It is better to leave the solution to the concerned Ministry for the time being.

(7)Model for a Businessman or Entrepreneur:

A businessman or entrepreneur is chasing for money and his or her survival exists on the profit from the business. If the cases of Godrej Aerospace Laboratory or the space sector of L& T or the first Indian space entrepreneur Dr. Susmita Mohanty, CEO of Earth2orbit18, are considered, their main focus is space commerce. As stated by Dr. Mohanty that she would like to see India a global player and capture a significant chunk of the 160 billion dollar annual commercial business.19 The model for space law education is not only the existing space law provisions but also the other Indian acts to continue their business. Also they will require studying other disciplines together with the study of space law to make their business credible to the public.


(8)Model for Asrobiologist or Exobiologist:

The astrobiology or exobiology consists of the search for extra-terrestrial life in this universe. This search for extra-terrestrial intelligence directs space law to think non-anthropocentric space law and the concept of metalaw, as per famous space lawyer and rocketry scientist Andrew G. Halley, comes into the picture.20 In the distant future, lawyers, scientists and sociologists will undertake studies of a substantive statement of metalaw and as a by-product of these studies our own anthropocentric law undoubtedly will be improved.21 Hence the model for space law education for this category is based on non-anthropocentric nature of space law and the literature is developing through the institutes like the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) etc. There is no codified law in this category till now. So the people working in this area in India have the sole responsibility to think what space law education is required and the model should be based on it.

(9)Model for Different Societies and Groups:

The different non-profit making societies or groups mentioned above have different purposes. They sometimes think for space law for the interest of the people in their society. Sometime it is the case where the requirement of space law study is strongly needed but there is lack of consciousness or lack of people who can spread interest for space law amongst the other members of the society. So the study of space law is different from different society. There may be numerous space law education models in this category.

(10) Model for Future Generation Living on Celestial Bodies:

This model will be heard to be a science fiction story. But one day or other human beings will have permanent colony in celestial bodies. They must require some law which will be part of existing space law but other part will be developed from the customs which they will follow in these celestial colonies. Here the survival of human beings is the sole criteria and as the environment of each celestial body is different from each other, the law will be different. Even we require law within a spacecraft for interstellar flight because it takes a very longer time to travel from one to another planet. Hence it is very good and wise if some model of space law education could be developed for our future generation. After all Haley, one of the pioneers of space law says “Law must precede man into outer space”. So it is the best time to think what space law is required to live in Moon, Mars and beyond being an Indian or in a greater context being an earthian.

All these models of space law education above are not all inclusive. There may be interference between the two or more when it will be actually implemented. But there are basics which each model should follow and there should be regular review and upgradation procedure in each model.


The following is a proposed format of general syllabus of these models but there should be many more topics depending on the prerogative of the institutions or a particular community or a particular society as well as it depends on the advancement of space science and technology with more consciousness of general people on space activities.

  1. Introduction to Law

1.1   What is law?

1.2   Sources of law

1.3   Different schools of law

1.4   Relationship between law & other disciplines especially science & technology

  1. Introduction to law of outer space

2.1   Brief history of Astronomy

2.2   Relationship of space law with other disciplines of studies with space

2.3   Sources of space law: General Assembly resolutions, treaties etc

2.4   Space Lawyers of different countries & their contributions

2.5   Role of United Nations and other regional and intergovernmental organisations

2.6   Role of non-state actors

  1. Problems of space law

3.1   Boundary of outer space

3.2   Freedom of access, use and principle of non-appropriation, Common Heritage of Mankind

3.3   Peaceful uses & Military Uses

3.4   Space Debris

3.5   International space station

3.6   Space transport

  1. Commercialisation & Privatisation of space activities

4.1   Private companies in India & abroad

4.2   Space economics: how economy of India/abroad affected

4.3   Legal issues related with commercialisation & privatisation

4.4   Probable domestic regulations related with space activities

  1. Remote Sensing

5.1   Definition, technique and uses of remote sensing

5.2   Legal issues with remote sensing data

  1. Telecommunications

6.1   Role of ITU & others legal regulations

6.2   Regulation of radio frequencies and orbital slots on the geostationary orbit

6.3   Case  study of INTELSAT & INMARSAT

6.4   Privatization of telecommunication services: legal problems in India

  1. Other commercial legal issues

7.1   Intellectual property rights

7.2   Private launching

7.3   Import & Export controls

7.4   UNIDROIT role

7.5   Mining of celestial bodies

7.6   Space tourism

7.7   Human colonisation

  1. Dispute Resolution for outer space activities


There are many agendas to be included or may be excluded from space law education in due course of time as space science and technology is gradually developing. But one attitude is distinctly lacking in India that a common national platform to deal the different aspects of space activities including space law like International Astronautical Congress held annually by the International Astronautical Federation. Here the people from different disciplines related with outer space would like to participate, interact and share their own ideas through meaningful conversations with humble approach. It may be a national symposium like National Space Science Symposium as now conducted by ISRO in each alternate year. This is the only way to develop a common Indian model of space law education for different disciplines.


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  2. https://www.iucaa.ernet.in/ (Accessed on 25-05-2013)
  3. https://www.iiap.res.in/ (Accessed on 25-05-2013)
  4. https://dspace.rri.res.in/ (Accessed on 25-05-2013)
  5. https://www.iist.ac.in/ (Accessed on 25-05-2013)
  6. https://www.iirs.gov.in/ (Accessed on 25-05-2013)
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  8. https://www.idsa.in/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
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  10. https://www.claws.in/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  11. https://www.gatewayhouse.in/tags/mumbai (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  12. https://www.nias.res.in/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  13. https://www.drdo.gov.in (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  14. https://www.iarc.res.in/index.html (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  15. https://indianairforce.nic.in/show_page.php?pg_id=94 (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  16. https://www.isro.org/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  17. https://meaindia.nic.in/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  18. https://www.icwa.in/index.html (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  19. https://www.icwa.in/index.html (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
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  23. https://www.isrsindia.in/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  24. https://www.isgindia.org/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  25. https://www.incaindia.org/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  26. Supra note 7.
  27. https://chapters.nss.org/a/lists/International/ChapList_IN.shtml (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  28. https://www.tsi.org.in/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  29. https://www.ipsindia.org/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  30. https://www.moonsociety.org/india/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  31. https://www.bas.org.in/Home/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  32. https://www.swakolkata.org/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  33. https://kccsns.netfirms.com (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  34. https://www.asindia.org/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  35. https://www.barcouncilofindia.org/ (Accessed on 26-05-2013)
  36. Jenks, C. Wilfred (1978), The Common Law of Mankind, London: Steven & Sons Limited.
  37. Subbarayappa, B. V. (2007), “An Overview” in B. V. Subbarayappa (ed.) Science in India Past & Present, Mumbai: Popular Prakashan.
  38. https://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/history/kepler.html (Accessed on 30-05-2013)
  39. https://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/25/us-planet-diamond-idUSTRE77O69A20110825 (Accessed on 30-05-2013)
  40. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-24/google-chiefs-back-startup-mining-asteroids-for-metals.html (Accessed on 30-05-2013)

Google Inc. (GOOG) Chief Executive Officer Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt are among the backers of a venture to mine asteroids for trillions of dollars of precious metals, as Earth’s resources become strained.

Planetary Resources Inc., based in Seattle, aims to launch a telescopic space surveyor into Earth’s low orbit in less than two years to identify potential metal- and water-rich asteroids and begin prospecting within four years, co-founder Eric Anderson, 37, said in a telephone interview.”

  1. Ibid.
  2. Monzon, Amalio & Russu, Andres (2010), “Space Law Students Participation in Real Engineering Related Projects and Research” in Corinne M. Contant Jorgenson (ed.) Proceedings of the 51st Colloquium of Outer Space, Washington: American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics.
  3. Guyla, Gal (1992), “Study & Teaching of Space Law” in N. Jasentuliyana (ed.) Space Law Development & Scope, Westport: Prager.
  4. Supra n 7.
  5. Ibid.
  6. https://www.spacenursingsociety.net/ (Accessed on 30-05-2013)
  7. https://www.earth2orbit.com/ (Accessed on 30-05-2013)
  8. Ibid
  9. Haley, Andrew G. (1963), Space Law & Government, New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
  10. Ibid
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