Suborbital Flights: A Comparative Analysis of National and International Law

Journal of Space Law , Vol. 37, p. 299, 2012

94 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2012 Last revised: 27 Jan 2017

Date Written: November 15, 2011


The nature of suborbital space flight activities inherently involves multiple regimes of regulation and international agreements. It also traverses established spheres and governing bodies, from land to air to space, giving rise to a complex system of inter-regulation. This article addresses these legal implications with regard to commercial suborbital space flight as a whole, not merely for entertainment purposes. In particular, the analysis seeks to clarify convoluted legal issues of air launched suborbital flights over traditional rocket launches.

Beginning with a comparative analysis of relevant international law, treaties, and State obligations this article highlights the pertinent air and space treaties applicable to commercial suborbital flights. The analysis is highlighted by a practical regulatory comparison of five State Parties to the air and space law regimes, namely, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom (on behalf of the Isle of Man), the Netherlands (on behalf of the former Dutch Antilles), and Sweden. These States were particularly selected due to the national and industry interest in conducting commercial human space flight from these jurisdictions for tourism and other commercial purposes.

Keywords: Space law, international law, commercial space transportation, commercial human space flight, suborbital flight

Suggested Citation

Langston, Sara M., Suborbital Flights: A Comparative Analysis of National and International Law (November 15, 2011). Journal of Space Law , Vol. 37, p. 299, 2012, Available at SSRN:

Sara M. Langston (Contact Author)

Senmurv Consulting LLC ( email )

Arlington, VA 22201
United States


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