By Stefan Kirchner

A Space Elevator raises a number of issues from the legal perspective. Below an altitude of 100km national law and international air law apply. Above, international space law would govern the elevator. Choosing a base station on land or at sea adds an other level of complexity to this issue. Is the elevator one structure to which different legal rules apply in different parts of the structure? Or is the transport unit which rides along the elevator line a spacefaring vessel and to simple to be treated no different from the way international law treated the Space Shuttle?
For passengers, this will raise a number of questions. In 2014 the Athens Convention, which regulates insurance requirements for passenger ships on international trips. What will be necessary from the perspective of passengers will be similar liability rules. But while passenger shipping has been around for centuries prior to the introduction to such rules, strict liability rules and insurance obligations are likely to make it even more difficult for start ups to enter the market. This problem might be relatively small given the overall costs and efforts associated with building and operating a space elevator but it needs further investigation.


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Stefan Kirchner



Published: 24 Feb, 2015

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