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The Outer Space Treaty 

Sections

General Provisions

Current Status

Treaty Text

References and Links

General Provisions
The Treaty on the Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies—known as the Outer Space Treaty—prohibits signatories from orbiting, installing, or stationing nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction in outer space.  The Treaty also bans “the establishment of military bases…the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies.”  The Treaty upholds the freedom of exploration and scientific investigation in outer space and encourages international cooperation on such activities.  Each party state is liable for its national activities in space, including those carried out by non-governmental entities.  Furthermore, any state party that launches an object into outer space is accountable for any damage the object may cause to another state party, its territory, the Moon, or other celestial bodies.

To verify compliance, each state party must inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as well as the international community, of matters related to its national activities in outer space.  Also, the Treaty provides for “visits” to state parties’ installations, stations, equipment and space vehicles by representatives of other party states. Such visits are to be reciprocal under the terms of the Treaty.

Current Status
In the late 1950s, technological advancements in rocketry led the United States and other Western powers to seek a ban on the militarization of outer space and proposed an international verification mechanism for space objects through the United Nations.  Essentially, the West sought to apply the same disarmament provisions of the Antarctic Treaty to outer space.   The Soviet Union opposed these proposals since it had already begun testing its first ICBM and intended to launch the world’s first artificial satellite.  However, the United States and the Soviet Union reached an agreement in 1963, and, shortly thereafter, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 1884, which called upon states “to refrain from placing in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.”

The Outer Space Treaty opened for signature on January 27, 1967 and became effective on October 10, 1967.  As of June 2010, the Treaty has been ratified by 105 countries. 

References and Links
The Outer Space Treaty at a Glance. (n.d.). Arms Control Association. Retrieved from http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/outerspace

The Treaty on the Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. (n.d.). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/space1.html

The Treaty on the Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty). (2009, January 30). Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Retrieved from http://www.nti.org/e_research/official_docs/inventory/pdfs/ospace.pdf

U.N. General Assembly, 18th Sess.  Resolution adopted by the General Assembly. 18/1884. Question of General and Complete Disarmament (A/RES/18/1884). 17 October 1963.  Available at: UN Documentation Centre, http://www.un-documents.net/a18r1884.htm.