An important part of the work of the NPOC Austria is the organisation of conferences on space law-related topics. Information on recent conferences can be found here.

UN/Austria Symposium “Space for the Sustainable Development Goals: Stronger partnerships and strengthened cooperation for 2030 and beyond”

From 17 to 19 September 2018, the NPOC Space Law organized together with UNOOSA and the Graz University of Technology the UN/Austria SymposiumSpace for the Sustainable Development Goals: Stronger partnerships and strengthened cooperation for 2030 and beyond”. In presentations, panel discussions and workshops, the importance of space technology, applications and activities for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals was examined. Due to the success of the multidisciplinary approach adopted during last year’s Symposium, in 2018 the focus of the Symposium was again not only on space technology but also on space law and policy.

NPOC Event: “The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group – Discussion on the 19 Draft Building Blocks”

On 13 April 2018 the ECSL National Point of Contact for Space Law Austria organized the Event: “The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group – Discussion on the 19 Draft Building Blocks” at the Vienna International Centre.

After a welcome and introduction by Professor Irmgard Marboe, head of the NPOC Space Law Austria, Dr Giuseppe Reibaldi, Executive Secretary of the Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group, gave a general overview of the main objectives, the membership and the structure of the Working Group. The Working Group has been created as a forum to discuss legal questions regarding the use of space resources found on asteroids and other celestial bodies and to prepare the ground for future negotiations of an international agreement or non-legally binding instrument. The Working Group platform is a Consortium serviced by a Secretariat. The Consortium is made up of partners from around the world such as the Institute of Air and Space Law at Leiden University, the Catholic University of Santos and the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law at the University of Melbourne. The members of the Working Group are major stakeholders from government, industry, universities and research centres. They form the operative body of the Working Group and are responsible for making the decisions. The number of members to the Working Group is limited to 35. Currently there are 28 members in the Working Group. The Working Group also consists of observers, who are professionals directly involved in space resources issues. There are currently 45 observers to the Working Group and this number is consistently increasing. In a first phase (January 2016–December 2017) 19 Draft Building Blocks for the governance of space resource activities were formulated by the Working Group as a basis for negotiations on an international framework. During a second phase (January 2018–December 2019) inclusive consultations are held on the Draft Building Blocks and the need and form of any future mechanism for the governance of space resource activities are explored.

Professor Olavo de Oliveira Bittencourt Neto of the Catholic University of Santos, Brazil, who is Vice-Chair of the Working Group, presented some important features of the 19 Draft Building Blocks. The Building Blocks propose definitions of key terms, such as space resource and space resource activity, as well as an objective and scope of a potential international framework on space resource activities. They also suggest provisions regarding international responsibility for space resource activities and jurisdiction over space products, access to and utilization of space resources, technical standards for space resource activities, the sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of space resources, avoidance of harmful impacts resulting from space resource activities, registration and notification requirements as well as liability and settlement of disputes.

Sagi Kfir, general counsel, vice president of policy and co-founder at Deep Space Industries, who is a member of the Working Group, presented the industry perspective. For the second phase of the Working Group’s activities a Technical Panel was created. It is composed of universities, space agencies and industry representatives. The Panel’s main objective is to discuss current and future technical questions related to the governance of space resource activities, such as which kind of technology is needed for different kinds of celestial bodies. The Panel will provide input to the Working Group allowing it to verify the validity of the Building Blocks under discussion. A very positive aspect of industry involvement is that many experts with specific technical knowledge in the field of resource mining can contribute to the work of the Technical Panel. An initial report of the Panel will be finalized in April.

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion with the audience, including UNCOPUOS members and observers, academia, experts, industry representatives and others.


Giuseppe Reibaldi

Olavo de Oliveira Bittencourt Neto

Sagi Kfir

UN/Austria Symposium “Access to Space: Holistic Capacity Building for the 21st Century”

From 3 to 7 September 2017, the NPOC Space Law Austria organized together with UNOOSA and the Technical University Graz the Symposium “Access to Space: Holistic Capacity Building for the 21st Century“ in preparation of the anniversary celebrations of UNISPACE+50.

In eight panel discussions as well as several workshops, the topic capacity building was examined from different perspectives, whereby the focus was not only on capacity building in the area of space technology but, for the first time in the long-standing history of the UN/Austria Symposium, also in the area of space law.

More information on the Symposium can be found under:  

NPOC Evening Event “Planetary Defence: Technical, Legal and Economic Aspects” 2 February 2017

The NPOC Space Law Austria organised an evening event on the topic Planetary Defence: Technical, Legal and Economic Aspects on 2 February 2017 at the Natural History Museum Vienna.

Every day approximately 100 tons of cosmic material reaches the Earth. Most of it in the form of dust or small rocks, which burn up as meteors in the atmosphere. Sometimes, however, larger objects, asteroids or comets, enter the Earth’s atmosphere, which can cause considerable damage. The asteroid that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013 had a diameter of only 17–20 meters, yet it produced a blast wave that damaged more than 7000 buildings and injured over 1600 persons. The impact of a larger object could thus potentially cause a serious catastrophe on Earth.

Therefore, scientists are continuously searching for so called Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), asteroids and comets, which could come dangerously close to Earth and pose a risk of causing severe damage. Moreover, scientists are working on various concepts for deflecting these objects. During the event, three international experts discussed the technical, legal and economic aspects of planetary defence.

Dr Line Drube from the Institute of Planetary Research at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) gave an introduction to the NEO impact threat, deflection concepts, and the work done by the United Nations Space Mission Planning Advisory Group in this regard.

Prof Dr Frans von der Dunk, Professor of Space Law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Law, presented an overview of the legal aspects of planetary defence. He discussed such major issues as a responsibility to protect, liability for damage caused by planetary defence activities, institutional issues involved in global responses to NEO threats, the use of kinetic force including, as a last resort, nuclear force, and the possible involvement of the private sector in discovery and deflection activities.

Egon Döberl, CEO of the Austrian company ASA Astrosysteme, spoke about the economic aspects of planetary defence. Today fully robotic telescope systems can be used for the search and observation of NEOs. Mr Döberl presented the history, future and economic aspects of such telescope systems from the point of view of an entrepreneur.



Dr Line Drube: How to prevent an asteroid from impacting Earth – Technical aspects of planetary defence

Prof Dr Frans von der Dunk: Avoiding the fate of the dinosaurs with the help of lawyers? – Legal aspects of planetary defence

Egon Döberl: The role of private enterprises – Economic aspects of planetary defence

Symposium “Looking to the Future: Changing International Relations and Legal Issues Facing Space Activities”

On 11 June 2016, the ECSL National Point of Contact for Space Law Austria, together with the Beijing Institute of Technology – Institute of Space Law, and the George Washington University Space Policy Institute organised a symposium entitled “Looking to the Future: Changing International Relations and Legal Issues Facing Space Activities” at the Law Faculty of the University of Vienna.  Three panels of renowned international experts discussed trends and developments in international relations, space law and changing private sector pressures, and legal responses to space sustainability. The symposium was organised at the margins of the fifty-ninth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space which took place from 8 – 17 June 2016 in Vienna.

Session One:  Trends and Developments in International Relations
Moderator: Irmgard Marboe

  • Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, University of Vienna
  • Marco Aliberti, European Space Policy Institute
  • Zhenjun Zhang, China Institute of Space Law

Session Two:  Space Law and Changing Private Sector and International Pressures –
Can Legal Principles of a Half-Century Ago Still Prevail?
Moderator: Henry Hertzfeld

  • Pascale Ehrenfreund, German Aerospace Center
  • Ivan Kosenkov, Skolkovo
  • Michael Simpson, Secure World Foundation

Session Three:  Space Sustainability – Legal Responses
Moderator: Li Shouping

  • Peter Hulsroj, European Space Policy Institute
  • Diane Howard, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Conference “US and European Geospatial Data Policies”

On 17 June 2015, the NPOC Space Law Austria together with the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) organised an evening event on the topic “US and European Geospatial Data Policies”.

The collection of data by Earth observation satellites represents an increasingly important application of space technology, both in the US and in Europe. In the EU, the Copernicus program is being established to provide services in the fields of atmosphere-, marine- and land-monitoring, climate change, emergency management and security. In the US, the Land Remote-Sensing Satellite System (Landsat) is operational since 1972, but also other satellites are used for Earth Observation.

An important characteristics of the EU data policy is that it adheres to the concept of an ‘open data-policy’ and is also committed to the protection of several other rights and principles, such as the right for private life, the protection of personal data and of intellectual property. The US has already for a long time applied the principle of free access and free re-use of information. Yet, the protection of privacy, civil rights and liberties, and national security interests plays also an important role.

The event was moderated by David Kendall, incoming Chair of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space for 2016/17. The conference was organised with the financial support of Austrospace.



  • Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz: Professor Emerita and Director Emerita of the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law of the University of Mississippi School of Law, Journal of Space Law Editor-in-Chief Emerita
  • Irmgard Marboe: Professor of Public International Law at the University of Vienna, Director of the NPOC Space Law Austria


Conference "Small Satellites: Chances and Challenges"


On 29 March 2014 the NPOC Space Law Austria organised a conference entitled “Small Satellites: Chances and Challenges” at the Faculty of Law of the University of Vienna. The conference was dedicated to the practical, legal and economic perspectives of the increasing use of small satellites.

Small satellites have become more and more popular in recent years. The development of technology has made it possible to build, launch and operate satellites at rather low costs. They are attractive for research and educational institutions, they provide opportunities for local and small business startups, and are a welcome way for developing or emerging countries of engaging in space activities. However, there is sometimes the misunderstanding that such low-cost satellite missions are not as relevant as large space programmes and as mere “Amateur” activities not subject to the same strict conditions and other criteria. Yet, international space law does not distinguish between “small” and “large” space objects or activities. The States’ responsibility and liability may equally become engaged. It is therefore necessary to be aware of the need to include small satellite missions appropriately in the scope of application of national and international regulatory frameworks to ensure the safe and responsible use of outer space. The conference focused on the specificities of small satellites missions from the practical, the legal, and the economic perspectives.


Conference "Small Is Beautiful? – Potentials and Risks of Small Satellite Projects"

On 27 November 2012 the NPOC Space Law Austria organised a conference entitled “Small is beautiful? – Potentials and risks of small satellite Projects” at the Law Faculty of the University of Vienna. The conference was chaired by Prof Christian Brünner of the University of Graz.


  • Otto Koudelka: Technical University of Graz, Austria, responsible for the development of the first Austrian satellite, TUGSAT-1
  • Werner Balogh: United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, Programme Officer of the UN Basic Space Technology Initiative
  • Norbert Frischauf: Austrian Space Forum, expert on small satellites
  • Neta Palkovitz: Innovative Solutions in Space BV, The Netherlands, a company offering technologies and systems for small satellite missions and applications
  • Anita Rinner: University of Graz, researcher on small satellites
  • Irmgard Marboe: University of Vienna, expert on national space legislation



Conference "Soft Law in Outer Space"

On 2 April 2011 the NPOC Space Law organized the conference “Soft Law in Outer Space – The Function of Non-binding Norms in International Space Law” at the Faculty of Law of the University of Vienna. About 70 participants, among them experts in the area of space law, delegates of UNCOPUOS to the Legal Subcommittee that took place at that very period, as well as other interested legal experts and students attended the venue.

Non-binding norms have become popular in many areas of international law. The difficulty of formulating and enacting binding multilateral treaties, the diversity of States’ interests and the increasing importance of private actors on the international level have contributed to this phenomenon. Non-binding instruments are common in international environmental law, in the context of social governance and the protection of indigenous people, as well as in international economic law. As regards outer space, non-binding norms have played an important role from the very beginning of space activities. The Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space of 1963 is a good example of how a non-binding instrument, such as a UN General Assembly resolution, may develop into a binding instrument, namely into the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

The conference’s aim was to clarify and discuss the role of soft law in outer space. It consisted of two main parts: the first part dealt with “General Considerations” on the role of soft law in international law and in international space law. The function of soft law in the international legal system in general and for the development of international space law in particular was analyzed. Issues like the role of soft law in the making of international customary law and international treaty law as well as compliance, verification and monitoring were addressed, as well as the role of non-state actors in the creation and application of soft law. Another focus was the interaction of soft law and national law. Furthermore, the speakers discussed the role of soft law for standard-setting and its consequences for liability.

The second part was dedicated to “Special Issues” in relation to specific non-binding international instruments concerning space activities. Several instruments were analyzed in view of their regulative effect on the conduct of States and private actors. These instruments include UN General Assembly resolutions (Direct Broadcasting, Remote Sensing, Benefits Declaration, Concept of the Launching State, Registration Practice), Guidelines (Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines), Codes of Conducts (e.g., Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, European Code of Conduct) and Frameworks (e.g., Safety Framework for Nuclear Power Sources). The analysis of the specific instruments took up and reflected the general aspects addressed in the first part.




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