Introducing the law games: predicting legal liability and fault in satellite operations

Christopher Newman*, Ralph Dinsley, William Ralston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
100 Downloads (Pure)


Over recent times there has been a rise in the number of objects placed into Earth orbit. With various countries licensing a number of large constellations, the orbital population is set to increase dramatically. A significant number of technical advances have facilitated this and, in the UK and elsewhere, this has been matched by the updating of legislation and an increased policy focus on the need for increased space surveillance and tracking. The rise of large constellations coupled with an increasing number of experimental techniques such as active debris removal or on-orbit servicing procedures means that establishing fault will be crucial if litigation is to be successful. In doing this, any legal proceedings will look at both norms of behaviour, deviation from which will point towards fault and the types and standard of evidence that will be required.
This paper will outline these problems in detail. It will be proposed that what is required to map out the contours of liability are both codification of the norms for satellite operations and clarity on protocols for evidence gathering in cases where fault may be contested in orbital operations. This discussion will identify that a way in which this could be achieved is by the use of “space law games”. These are simulations, similar to military war games, in which fictional scenarios could highlight some of the key legal issues that might need to be dealt with. The paper will outline some of the ways in which the law games might work and pose questions as to what data and other considerations will be needed to make such simulations meaningful.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3785-3792
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number11
Early online date30 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


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