On Feb 1, Dubai announced that it was creating a ‘space court’ to settle commercial disputes in outer space. The tribunal will be based at the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts.
Dubai’s creation of a ‘space court’ comes at a time when space is increasingly becoming a commercial issue involving more and more private companies. This is in contrast to the Cold War-era ‘space race’, where the field of outer space was almost exclusively the domain of states and institutions, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Currently, space law is governed by the UN Outer Space Treaty and other international conventions and resolutions and many states also sign bilateral or multilateral agreements to regulate their activities in space. However, as private corporations like Tesla continue to take the lead in space exploration, these laws may run the risk of becoming irrelevant.
Therefore, it is hoped that Courts of Space will play a complementary role to existing international law on space by helping to create a new “judicial support network” to support the growth of commercial space exploration. The Courts of Space envisions playing this role not just in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—which sent its first astronaut into space in 2019 and launched a probe towards Mars in 2020—but internationally too. Companies and institutions based both in the UAE and abroad will now be able to take grievances to the tribunal. New contracts could also potentially specify the new ‘space court’ as the forum for resolving disputes.
Singapore’s involvement in space
As of 2019, Singapore is a member state of the United Nations Committee On the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). Among other things, COPOUS reviews and studies legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.
Singapore is the sixth ASEAN country to join COPUOS, after Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. So far, Singapore has built and launched one commercial satellite and at least 10 experimental satellites.
Although Singapore does not have a space agency (yet), it has an Office for Space Technology & Industry (OSTIn) which is part of the Economic Development Board (EDB).
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