Securing Safety - Spaceflight Standards for the Mass Market

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G. Goh (2009), JBIS, 62, 252-260

Refcode: 2009.62.252
Keywords: Commercial spaceflight, safety standards, standard of care, liability, flightworthiness, international space law, air law

The projected total revenue of the space tourism industry is expected to exceed USD $1 billion by 2021. The vast economic potential of space tourism has fuelled ambitious plans for commercial orbital and suborbital flights, in addition to longer- duration spaceflights on board the International Space Station (ISS) and other planned orbiting habitats. International and national legal frameworks are challenged to provide regulations to ensure minimum standards of spaceflight safety for a high risk activity that aims to enter the mainstream tourism market. Thrown into the mix are various considerations of the number of spaceflight participants per flight, the economic viability of stringent safety standards, the plethora of possible flight vehicles and the compensation mechanism in case of violations of safety regulations. This paper surveys the legal challenges in the regulation of safety in commercial manned spaceflight, including issues of jurisdiction, authorization, licensing and liability. Drawing on analogous developments in other fields of law related to international carriage, a safety regulation framework with minimum international standards is proposed. This proposed framework considers both accident avoidance and emergency response in light of international legal, policy and economic perspectives.

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