Federal Council mandates a review of the legal framework for space activities

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The space sector has been evolving for a number of years. In Switzerland also, space activities by stakeholders from science and industry have increased significantly. For this reason, the Federal Council announced on 18 December that the legal framework for these activities would be reviewed. It has therefore mandated the EAER to conduct a thorough examination of Switzerland’s legal framework and implementation related to international space treaties, in particular with respect to authorisation, supervision, liability and the registration of space objects. The EAER report is expected in autumn 2021.

Until a few years ago, all of Switzerland’s space activities were carried out through the programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA) or through participation in activities by other international organisations. Over the last few years, however, an increasing number of stakeholders from Switzerland’s scientific and industrial sectors have been planning or undertaking their own space activities. For this reason, the Federal Council has commissioned the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER to work with other relevant federal entities to review the legal basis applicable to space activities in Switzerland. The purpose of this in-depth evaluation is to establish how international space obligations could be integrated and implemented at the national level. This will provide private entities working in the space sector with legal certainty and increase Switzerland’s attractiveness in the sector. The Federal Council will inform of the results of the review in autumn 2021.

UN space treaties

Switzerland has been actively involved in space activities since the very beginning. From 1969 to 1978 it ratified four UN space treaties. The treaties govern, in particular, the authorisation and supervision of space activities, international responsibility for national activities in space, liability for damage occurring as a result of space activities, and the registration of space objects. At the time of ratification, Switzerland was not considering the pursuit of its own space activities.