Vol.13 Issue 1 (2017)

The Question Of Aerospace Vehicles: In Support Of Dual Legal Systems For A Dual Purpose Craft

Marshall Mckellar

World governments and military contractors have been developing aerospace vehicles (ASVs) for over seventy years. Today, there exists a renewed interest in the development and utilization of this technology. From the Air Force’s X37-B spaceplane and DARPA’s Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 (HTV-2), to Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, Reaction Engine’s SkylonSpaceplane, XCOR’s Lynx Mk II and India’s Avatar Spaceplane, cutting-edge innovators are pursuing an aircraft capable of traversing the fringes of outer space with unprecedented frequency and efficiency. In order to facilitate the viability of this developing technology, space-faring states—and the international community as a whole—must have a thorough legal discussion concerning the most effective way to regulate these vehicles. This article first provides a brief history of aerospace vehicles—including their most recent developments. Next, it analyzes prominent legal uncertainties surrounding ASVs and their possible use as both aircraft and spacecraft; specifically, the delineation between airspace and outer space, the definition of “launch,” and the definition of “spaceobject”. Finally, this article argues that dual legal regimes—consisting of both international air law and space law based on a ‘Contractfor-Carriage Approach’—would most efficiently regulate the imminent use of this revolutionary technology on a global scale.

Author

Senior Student Editor, Journal of Space Law; J.D. Candidate 2017, University of Mississippi School of Law.