India’s new ‘Space Activities Bill’ will fix the liability for damage caused in outer space
NASA, Deep Impact
- India is currently processing its ‘Space Activities Bill’ to align its liability in outer space with international standards.
- This means that in case any Indian space objects cause damage to another, natural or man-made, object in space, India will have a financial plan in place.
- It can also be construed as a contingency plan against the overcrowding in space and the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (
ISRO) increasing ambitious plans for the future.
The Earth’s orbit is getting more crowded by the day and since outer space is a ‘shared’ space, countries have be held liable for any damage that they may cause in that expanse.
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The Indian government, as a member of the UN Treaties on Outer Space activities, is currently processing a ‘ Space Activities Bill’, which will address liability if any, for damages caused by its activities or objects in space.
The aim is to keep the rules and regulations at par with i nternational standards currently in place.
But, it might not be the best news for private players who will now have to seek authorization from the Indian government for a license to operate in space, which will only be issued contingent certain terms and conditions.
Controversy over India’s ASAT test
The bill is currently under pre-legislative consultations in India but should it become law, it will outline the lability provisions and how to secure the requisite financial compensation should any damages occur.
Recently, India tested its anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon resulting in an international outcry about the potential damage that could occur from the resulting debris.
While most experts have determined that, since the test was done in low earth orbit, it doesn’t present a real threat — some are still worried about the debris putting the International Space Station at risk.
Even though one of the ‘five UN treaties on outer space’ is the Liability Convention, it's up to individual countries to implement that rules in their own national legislation.
Article 7 of the Outer Space Treaty specifies that it’s not just about damage in space but also the moon and other celestial bodies that are included in the paradigm on the Liability Convention — including the Earth.
So even if something goes wrong during the launch of a space object that damages the surface of the Earth, the country responsible will be held liable.
Also, ‘ damage’ includes everything from loss of life to minor injuries as well as the loss of property, natural or man made.
India’s move can be construed as a contingency plan on how to secure funds should it be accused on any damage in space.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is getting more ambitious with its upcoming moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, in July, human spaceflight planned for 2022 and even its own space station — which also means that its taking on more risk.
An exigency like the Space Activities Bill is cushion to help prepare India for any accidents that may occur.
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