The ‘Northern’ part of the first ring of space law
At this point, however, analysis will focus first on the few major multilateral treaties with several major spacefaring countries on board as well as addressing major space projects, namely the Intergovernmental Agreement on the ISS, the ITSO Agreement, the IMSO Convention and the ESA Convention. In addition, the Moon Agreement will be addressed in view of its special role as the last of the UN-originating space treaties being currently debated in the context of space mining, as well as, finally, the area of remote sensing where some important norms of customary international law have arisen.
There is little question that the step-by-step construction, launch, maintenance and operation of an international space station in Low-Earth Orbit was the single most challenging space enterprise since the Moon landings – and legally speaking the most challenging full stop.156
Currently 15 States have ratified the 1998 Intergovernmental Agreement providing the fundamental legal regime for all activities concerning the ISS,157 including the two initial space superpowers and erstwhile Cold War enemies the United States and Russia (as successor to the Soviet Union). The other Partner States are Canada and Japan, longstanding political allies of the United States, as well as 11 European States working together also for this project through the European Space Agency (ESA) of which they are members.158
The whole enterprise of constructing and launching the ISS step by step, and then maintaining and operating it, was explicitly confirmed to comply with the core space...
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