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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