Russia is one of the most active space explorers. Dozens of satellites are launched into orbit every year with Russian space infrastructure, astronauts from different countries undergo training in Russia, and scientists conduct numerous studies. All these activities are based on the international and national legal framework covered in this guide.
As it is widely known, outer space law falls within both international and national legal frameworks. Therefore, below we will first consider Russia’s public law obligations arising from the international treaties, and then look at the national regulation in relation to specific types of space activities.
The Russian Federation is a party to four of the five core international acts on outer space law:
- Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 1967 (“Outer Space Treaty 1967”);
- Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1968 (“Rescue Agreement 1968”);
- Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, 1972 (“Liability Convention 1972”);
- Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1974 (“Registration Convention 1974”)
Russia is not a party to the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (“Moon Agreement 1979”).
It is also necessary to pay attention to the numerous resolutions on outer space regulation adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (“UN General Assembly”) and supported by Russia. For example:
- Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution No. 37/92 of December 10, 1982;
- Principles Relating to Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space, adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution No. 41/65 of December 3, 1986;
- Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space, adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution No. 47/68 of December 14, 1992, as well as several other resolutions.
In addition to the agreements mentioned above, Russia is also a party to the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water, which was signed between the USSR, the Great Britain, and the United States in Moscow in 1963 (also known as the “Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, 1963”).
Russia is also a member of the International Telecommunication Union (“ITU”), where its takes an active part.
ITU is an intergovernmental organization responsible for the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources management. ITU coordinates worldwide satellite operations, managing the use of spectrum and orbital resources, providing television broadcasting, global positioning system (GPS) navigation, maritime and air communication, meteorological information, and online maps, enabling connection even in the remotest corners of our planet.
Further on, Russia is a member of the following organizations related to the regulation of outer space activities:
- International Organization of Space Communications “Intersputnik”;
- International Astronautical Federation (“IAF”): Roscosmos and some other Russian organizations, along with the interested individuals, are the members of this international non-governmental organization;
- International Institute of Space Law (“IISL”): its members are individuals, including those from Russia. Currently, its only member from Russia is the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia.
Finally, it is worth mentioning the treaty under which Russia operates its main cosmodrome today. It is the 1995 Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan concerning the status of Baikonur city, the Procedure for the Formation and Status of its Executive Authorities (“Baikonur Agreement”). Russia leases Baikonur, which is equated with a city of federal importance of the Russian Federation, with a special regime for the safe operation of facilities, enterprises and organizations, as well as residence of citizens.
National regulation of outer space activities in Russia consists of a set of legal acts of different levels, which are discussed in more detail below.
Key Legislation and Authorities
The main legislative act regulating outer space activities in Russia is the Law of the Russian Federation No. 5663-1 “On Space Activities” dated August 20, 1993 (as amended on April 15, 2019) (“Law on Space Activities”).
The Law on Space Activities sets out the goals and principles of space activities in Russia, defines the licensing procedure, space activity financing, certification of conformity of space equipment, and touches on security and international cooperation in space.
The Law on Space Activities places space activities under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation, i.e., under the jurisdiction of the federal authorities.
Articles 5 and 6 of the Law stipulate the division of powers between the President, the Government, and the State Corporation, which is the legal successor of the Russian Space Agency (“Roscosmos”).
In particular, Roskosmos has such broad powers as:
- Ensuring the implementation of state policy in the field of space activities together with federal agencies;
- Development of Federal Space Program projects and other federal programs in the field of space activities;
- Placement of state orders for the development, production and delivery of space equipment and space infrastructure facilities for scientific and socio-economic purposes;
- Arrangement and support of commercial space projects ;
- Creation and maintenance of the federal data fund;
- Space activity licensing, etc.
The role and functions of Roscosmos are defined in more detail in the regulatory act that established this organization, Federal Law No. 215-FZ “On “Roscosmos” State Corporation for Space Activities” dated July 13, 2015 (“Law on Roscosmos”).
An important role in the regulation of space activities in Russia is taken by the State Commission for Radio Frequencies (“SCRF”), an interagency coordination body under the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media of the Russian Federation. SCRF has the wide authorities in the field of radio frequency spectrum regulation and is responsible for the development of the state policy in the area of its distribution and use. Additionally, SCRF usually prepares the position of the Russian Federation Communications Administration at all ITU forums to defend the interests of the country at the international level and international legal protection of orbital and frequency resources of the Russian Federation.
SCRF conducts research to improve mechanisms of regulating the use of radio frequency spectrum, ensuring electromagnetic compatibility of radioelectronic facilities, and solving the problems of introducing new radio technologies on the communication networks of Russia.
Space activities in Russia are subject to licensing. It is noteworthy that the licensing regime has undergone significant changes very recently as a result of the Russian Federation Government Decree No. 298 “On Licensing of Space Activities” dated March 18, 2020, which entered into force on April 20, 2020 (“Licensing Regulations”).
The Licensing Regulations define specific types of activities that require a license (see Annex 1) and contain an exhaustive list of licensing requirements (see Annex 2).
The key legislative novelties set out in the recently adopted Licensing Regulations are the following:
- Exclusion of the requirement of mandatory military acceptance, obligatory technical requirements and compliance with Russia's international commitments in the field of protection and non-proliferation of missile technologies;
- The number of personnel in a company applying for a license must be at least 5 persons;
- Requirements for the availability of training programs for preparation for space flight, if it is planned to carry out just such an activity, as well as the availability of the necessary protection of any information from ERS spacecraft from unauthorized access now apply not only to licensees, but also to license applicants;
- The provisions on licensing control (types and subjects of such control) have been specified in more detail;
- The types of activities that do not require a license are clearly defined.
Regulation of Satellite Communication in Russia
The main national acts regulating satellite communication in Russia are:
Pursuant to Article 12 of the Law on Communications, the regulation of radio frequency spectrum and orbital positions of communication satellites is an exclusive right of the state. Regulation of this activity falls within the competence of SCRF that has the full authority in the field of radio frequency spectrum regulation. According to the Regulation on the SCRF approved by the Russian Federation Government Decree No. 336 dated July 2, 2004, SCRF has the following functions:
- Allocation, reissuance and termination of decisions on allocation of radio frequency bands (radio frequency channels), including for satellite systems ;
- Consideration of proposals from radio frequency spectrum users on long-term planning of radio frequency spectrum usage;
- Implementation of works on international legal protection of the assignment (purpose) of radio frequencies or radio frequency channels, etc.
Thus, the main functions of regulating satellite communications in Russia are performed by SCRF. At the same time, the Government of the Russian Federation as a whole, the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media, and other executive authorities, as well as Roscosmos, are also involved in this process.
As for the regulation of satellite systems under the jurisdiction of foreign states, the Rules for the Use of Satellite Communication Networks under the Jurisdiction of Foreign Countries in the Russian Federation, included in Decree 1194, apply to them. (“Foreign Satellite Networks Rules”). Thus, in accordance with Clause 3 of the said Rules the use of foreign satellite systems for creation of satellite networks (lines) for the purpose of development of Russian communication networks and ensuring their integration with international communication networks is permitted on the basis of the decisions of the State Commission for Radio Frequencies.
In addition, in accordance with Clause 9 of the Foreign Satellite Networks Rules (as amended in 2019), a Russian telecommunications operator using a foreign satellite system must form the Russian segment of the specified system as part of the interface station with the public communications network. The entire traffic generated by subscriber stations (terminals) on the territory of the Russian Federation, including stations of foreign subscribers, with whom the Russian communications operator has not signed a contract on the provision of telecommunications services and who are roaming on the Russian territory, must pass through the Russian telecom operator's gateway located on the territory of the Russian Federation.
Formerly, the requirement to establish gateways in Russia applied only to foreign personal mobile communication systems. Now it applies to all foreign satellite systems. It is considered that these amendments were aimed primarily at regulating the activities of such satellite systems as OneWeb and Starlink.
For violation of the rules on the use of satellite communication networks under the jurisdiction of foreign states on the territory of the Russian Federation, it is proposed to include Article 13.41 to the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation, which would provide for the following fines:
- for officials – from RUB 10,000 up to RUB 30,000;
- for persons conducting entrepreneurial activities without forming a legal entity – from RUB 70,000 up to RUB 200,000,
- for legal entities – from RUB 500,000 up to RUB 1,000,000.
The Law on Strategic Industries refers space activities to the types of activities of strategic importance to the country’s national defense and state security. Since using satellite systems is a space activity (on the basis of Article 2 Clause 1 of the Law on Space Activities), the activities related to operation of satellite systems also fall within the scope of Law on Strategic Industries.
This means, among other things, that the companies that engage in satellite systems are subject to (1) rules restricting foreign participation in share capital, (2) restrictions on the establishment of any kind of control by foreign investors over such companies, and (3) requirements for transactions by foreign investors with shares (equity stakes) in such companies and certain other transactions entailing the establishment of control.
Earth Remote Sensing
The definition of Earth remote sensing (“ERS”) is given in the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 370 “On Adoption of the Regulation on Planning Space Surveys, Receiving, Processing, Storing, and Distributing Data of High (Less than 2 Meters) Resolution Earth Remote Sensing from Nonmilitary Spacecraft” dated June 10, 2005.
ERS is the defined as a process of obtaining information about the Earth surface from space by observing and measuring the intrinsic and reflected radiation of land surface, ocean and atmosphere elements in different ranges of electromagnetic waves in order to locate, describe the nature and temporal variability of natural parameters and phenomena, natural resources, the environment, as well as anthropogenic factors and formations.
The main source of Earth remote sensing data from space is the Federal Earth Remote Sensing Database (“ERS Database”), and the tool for using the ERS Database is the Roscosmos geoportal.
In 2018, provisions dedicated to the ERS Database were added to the Law on Space Activities. Roscosmos was appointed as an operator of the ERS Database. According to the amendments, the ERS Database must store data obtained both from state spacecraft and data purchased by the state from third parties.
In addition, the Government of the Russian Federation has adopted six resolutions regulating the creation and maintenance of the ERS Database, determining the terms (timelines) of data and metadata transfer to the Database, their composition and methods of transmission.
It should be noted that data from the ERS Database will be provided on a paid basis. The fact that geospatial information on the territory of Russia and other regions of the Earth disclosing the results of remote sensing activities of important defense or economic significance is the information constituting a state secret, should also be taken into account. That means that certain data from the ERS Database can only be provided to persons having access to such state secrets.
Registration of Space Objects
Registration of space objects in Russia is regulated by the Roscosmos Order No. 44 “On Adoption of the Federal Space Agency Administrative Procedure for Exercising State Function of Maintaining the Registry of Space Objects Launched by the Russian Federation into Outer Space” dated March 22, 2010 (“Registration Regulations”).
The Registration Regulations describe in detail the stages of entering a launched space object into the corresponding register (“Space Registry”). The provisions of the Registration Regulations are based on the Registration Convention of 1974, to which Russia is a party.
Thus, the Registration Regulations stipulate the procedure for submitting to the UN the information on each space object registered in the Space Registry. Russia retains jurisdiction and control over the registered space object launched into space and, therefore, is responsible for each such object.
It is worth mentioning that the Space Registry records data on space objects launched into orbit around the Earth that have completed at least one orbit, or space objects launched further into outer space. This means that some objects are not included in the Space Registry, which means that there is a probability of lack of control over such objects not only by the state, but also by international organizations.
In 2017, Roscosmos prepared a draft of new rules for managing the Space Registry, which could significantly supplement the existing Registration Regulations. In particular, new draft suggests that the Space Register should include information on all space objects launched into orbit around the Earth or further into outer space and under the jurisdiction and control of the Russian Federation without mentioning the criterion of one orbit around the Earth. This change is expected to have a positive effect on the development of private cosmonautics in Russia.
Roscosmos State Order
Roscosmos operates as a state corporation. Procurements by state corporations and their subsidiaries are governed by the provisions of Federal Law No. 223-FZ “On the Procurement of Goods, Works and Services by Certain Types of Legal Entities” dated July 18, 2011 (“223-FZ”). Due to the strategic role of space activities in Russia, the provisions of Federal Law No. 275-FZ “On State Defense Order” dated December 29, 2012 (“SDO Law”) also apply to Roscosmos procurements.
In order to comply with the procurement legislation, Roscosmos has also developed its own Regulations on procurement of goods, works and services, which is available on the state corporation’s website. The Regulations apply not only to the procurement of Roscosmos, but also to the procurement of most of the its subsidiaries.
The website of Roscosmos also contains standard contract forms:
- Supply contract;
- Contract for work;
- Service agreement;
- Agreement on the alienation of exclusive rights to the result of intellectual activity
- License agreement on granting the right to use the result of intellectual activity;
- Agreement on the procedure of joint use of the result of intellectual property.
Persons who intend to carry out deliveries in the interests of Roscosmos should also familiarize themselves with other documents that have been developed and adopted in accordance with the specified Regulations.
Federal Space Program until 2025
Russia has a federal program in the field of space activities, which was approved by the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 230 of March 23, 2016.
The purpose of the program is to form and maintain the required composition of orbital constellation of spacecrafts, providing services in the interests of the socio-economic sphere, science and international cooperation, including protection of population and territories from natural and technogenic emergencies, as well as implementation of a manned program, creation of means of launching technical equipment to space, laying scientific and technical groundwork for advanced space complexes and systems.
The program involves two stages. During the first stage (2016-2020), the program stipulates the increase of the orbital group of spacecrafts for socio-economic and scientific purposes and modernization of technological and experimental bases.
During the second stage (2021-2025), the plan is to maintain the minimally required composition of the orbital constellation of spacecraft, partially re-equip it with new generation spacecraft, ahead of creation of certain key technologies, elements, and target devices for the space complexes of highest priority, the development of which is expected after 2025.
The program also mentions plans to create spacecraft for in-depth survey of the Moon, to operate the ISS until 2024 with the provision to create its own station on the basis of 3 Russian modules of the ISS in the future.
Private Space Exploration Development Plans
In line with the global trend for the development of private space exploration in Russia, preliminary work to improve legislation and remove administrative barriers in the development of the private sector has been started. The first step of this initiative was to update and adopt new Licensing Regulations in 2020.
Further activities are carried out by a working group within the “Aeronet” National Technical Initiative. “Aeronet” is a professional community of developers and operators of civilian unmanned aircraft and space systems. The organization is actively working on improving not only air legislation in the field of unmanned aircraft systems, but also in the field of space activities, namely the admission of private space companies.
In particular, the developers are currently working on the concept of a roadmap to remove barriers for small and medium-sized businesses to access space activities.
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This guide has been prepared by Buzko Krasnov law firm specialists who provide services in Russian and American law. Buzko Krasnov is one of the few law firms in the practicing in space law.
Annex 1. Types of Space Activity
Types of works that require a license to conduct space activities
- Development of rocket and space technology products
- Manufacturing of rocket and space technology products
- Production (serial) of rocket and space technology products
- Testing of rocket and space technology products
- Repair of rocket and space technology products
- Extension of the established resources and term services of rocket and space technology products
Types of services that require a license to conduct space activities
- Services for the preparation for the launch of space rockets and the launch of space objects into orbit
- Services for launching space rockets and placing space objects into orbit
- Services for the disposal of descent vehicles (capsules), components of space rockets, and (or) spacecraft components
- Services for the environmental survey of the territory of cosmodromes and areas of fall of separation parts of space rockets
- Services for conducting search, search-and-rescue, and rescue activities, including the evacuation of descent vehicles (capsules) components of space rockets
- Services for the development, production, installation, testing, commissioning, operation, repair, modification, and modernization of technological equipment of ground space infrastructure facilities
- Services for development, production, installation, testing, commissioning, operation, repair, modification, modernization of instruments and systems for measuring, monitoring, testing rocket and space technology at ground space infrastructure facilities
- Services of ground-based flight control centers for space objects launched into outer space
- Services for receiving and primary processing the information received from Earth remote sensing spacecrafts (except for information used for educational purposes)
- Services for the calculation of trajectories of carrier rockets, upper stages, ballistic and navigation support of spacecraft flight
- Services for conducting ground-based experimental development verification of rocket and space technology and its components
- Preparation of space flight participants for space flight
Types of work that do not require a license to conduct space activities
- Research work in the field of fundamental natural scientific research, economics, and organization of space activity management
- Exploratory research work in the field of advanced space technologies
- Development of prototypes (layouts) that are not intended for flight tests (operation) as part of space systems and complexes
Annex 2. Licensing Requirements
In accordance with Clause 3 of the Licensing Regulations for obtaining a license to carry out space activities, the applicant must meet the following requirements:
- The presence of premises, buildings, structures and other objects at the place of the licensed type of activity that meet the requirements of sanitary rules, sanitary and epidemiological requirements, fire safety requirements, taking into account the specifics of the work performed and (or) the services provided, serviceable equipment and technical means, technical documentation, owned by the license applicant and the licensee on the basis of ownership or on any other legal basis necessary for the performance of work and (or) the provision of services that constitute the licensed type of activity;
- The presence in the staff of employees who have concluded employment contracts with the license applicant and (or) the licensee, who have a higher or secondary vocational education, who meet the qualification requirements necessary for the performance of work and (or) the provision of services specified in the list that make up the licensed type of activity, in the amount ensuring the performance of such work and (or) the provision of such services (at least 5 employees);;
- Availability of an appropriate quality control system for the performance of works and (or) the provision of services that constitute the licensed type of activity;
- Availability of admission to perform works and (or) provide services of the licensed type of activity, using unformation constituting a state secret in accordance with the requirements of the Law of the Russian Federation «On State Secrets», in the case of performing works and (or) rendering services involving the use of information constituting a state secret;
- Availability of duly approved study programs, training aids and manuals approved in accordance with the established procedure, ensuring the preparation of space flight participants for space flight (when performing works and (or) rendering services related to the preparation of space flight participants for space flight);
- Availability of the necessary system of protection of transmitted, received and (or) processed information from Earth remote sensing spacecraft from unauthorized access in accordance with the requirements established by the operators of the corresponding ERS spacecraft (when performing services for receiving and primary processing information received from ERS spacecraft).