SpaceX recently announced they are planning to fly two private citizens around the moon. I'm sure a normal space flight has all sorts of legal complications, but does the addition of 2 private citizens and an orbit around the moon add any significant complications?

I'm more interested in international laws/treaties and U.S. spaceflight laws and less interested in personal liability/insurance of the travelers.

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    $\begingroup$ Before anyone suggests I moved this to law.se, I think this is on topic and the subject matter experts would be better equipped here. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Relevant law: congress.gov/114/plaws/publ90/PLAW-114publ90.pdf $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ In a similar vein, it would be interesting to know if going around the moon rather than to the ISS removes any legal hurdles. Do we have any questions covering the legal ramifications (if any) of breaching the ISS's Keep Out Sphere for instance? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesThorpe now that you mention it, What is the “ISS's Keep Out Sphere” and what is it's radius? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesThorpe Having read the link by called2voyage I could not see anything in it that directly applied to a Trip to the Moon let alone a Trip around the Moon and I loved the disclaimer at the end and the freedom it gave .... NON Governmental Entities. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 18:22

1 Answer 1


Question being answered: "I'm more interested in international laws/treaties and U.S. spaceflight laws"

Thanks to called2voyage - https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ90/PLAW-114publ90.pdf

The only constraint I see is the License to perform the launch. IF SpaceX gets that I do not see anything that constrains a Trip TO the Moon or around it.

In addition I did NOT see anything that constrained the reentry of the HUMAN passengers.

From an international perspective as long as no language attempting to show ownership, sovereignty etc exist then International Law does not apply.

IF some one can show evidence of an International Law prohibiting an American Corporation Launching Humans on a trip around the Moon I would like to see it and what Roscosmos did to get permission to take Space Tourist to the ISS.


There may be an exception here, IF SpaceX decides to send the tourist to see the ISS at less than 200 meters then there would be an issue.

If all goes according to plan, at approximately 5:30AM ET, Dragon will be permitted to enter the Keep-Out Sphere (KOS), an imaginary circle drawn 200 meters (656 feet) around the station that prevents the risk of collision, and continue its approach to the capture point


Edited: IF the requirement for an answer is what is a Launch License https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/launch_reentry/

A launch- or reentry-specific license authorizes you to conduct one or more launches or reentries having the same operational parameters of one type of launch or reentry vehicle operating at one launch or reentry site. The license identifies, by name or mission, each activity authorized under the license. Your authorization to operate terminates when you complete all launches or reentries authorized by the license or the expiration date stated in the license, whichever occurs first.

Edit: Add History of the LAW ... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_spaceflight

The Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 required encouragement of commercial space ventures, adding a new clause to NASA's mission statement: (c) Commercial Use of Space.--Congress declares that the general welfare of the United States requires that the Administration seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space.

Yet one of NASA's early actions was to effectively ban private space flight through a mountain of red tape. From the beginning, though, this met significant opposition not only by the private sector, but in Congress.

In 1962, Congress passed its first law pushing back the prohibition on private involvement in space, the Communications Satellite Act of 1962. While largely focusing on the satellites of its namesake, this was described by both the law's opponents and advocates of private space, as the first step on the road to privatization.

While launch vehicles were originally bought from private contractors, from the beginning of the Shuttle program until the Challenger disaster in 1986, NASA attempted to position its shuttle as the sole legal space launch option.But with the crash came the suspension of the government-operated shuttle flights, allowing the formation of a commercial launch industry.

On 30 October 1984, United States President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Commercial Space Launch Act. This enabled an American industry of private operators of expendable launch systems. Prior to the signing of this law, all commercial satellite launches in the United States were restricted by Federal regulation to NASA's Space Shuttle.

On 5 November 1990, United States President George H. W. Bush signed into law the Launch Services Purchase Act. The Act, in a complete reversal of the earlier Space Shuttle monopoly, ordered NASA to purchase launch services for its primary payloads from commercial providers whenever such services are required in the course of its activities.

Commercial launches outnumbered government launches at the Eastern Test Range in 1997.

The Commercial Space Act was passed in 1998 and implements many of the provisions of the Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990.

Nonetheless, until 2004 NASA kept private space flight effectively illegal. But that year, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 required that NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration legalize private space flight. The 2004 Act also specified a "learning period" which restricted the ability of the FAA to enact regulations regarding the safety of people who might actually fly on commercial spacecraft through 2012, ostensibly because spaceflight participants would share the risk of flight through informed consent procedures of human spaceflight risks, while requiring the launch provider to be legally liable for potential losses to uninvolved persons and structures.

To the end of 2014, commercial passenger flights in space has remained effectively illegal, as the FAA has refused to give a commercial operator's license to any private space company.

The United States updated US commercial space legislation with the passage of the SPACE Act of 2015 in November 2015. The full name of the act is Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 The update US law explicitly allows "US citizens to engage in the commercial exploration and exploitation of 'space resources' [including ... water and minerals]." The right does not extend to biological life, so anything that is alive may not be exploited commercially. The Act further asserts that "the United States does not [(by this Act)] assert sovereignty, or sovereign or exclusive rights or jurisdiction over, or the ownership of, any celestial body."

The SPACE Act includes the extension of indemnification of US launch providers for extraordinary catastrophic third-party losses of a failed launch through 2025, while the previous indemnification law was scheduled to expire in 2016. The Act also extends, through 2025, the "learning period" restrictions which limit the ability of the FAA to enact regulations regarding the safety of spaceflight participants.

Indemnification for extraordinary third-party losses has, as of 2015, been a component of US space law for over 25 years, and during this time, "has never been invoked in any commercial launch mishap."

  • $\begingroup$ You look to the laws bit you cite nothing from them. Can you actually show anything to backup what you say? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ Absolutely can if you can show me the law that prohibits the trip. I am not being funny I am pointing out I can not reference that which does not exist. I provided a link to the law that seems to govern this. You can also rephrase your comment so I can comply with your request. To be clear let me say this clearly the Link Provided backsup what I am saying by virtue that it has NO language that contradicts what I said or prevents the action. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidGrinberg Having NO clue what your looking for as an answer I have attempted to address the "ISS's Keep Out Sphere" IF that is insufficient then please establish the criteria that your looking for as an answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidGrinberg "I'm more interested in international laws/treaties and U.S. spaceflight laws" I answered your question directly. I stated I can not reference anything prohibiting it because it doesn't exist. I provided the link to the governing law (US) for anyone to find where it is prohibited. I provided the PROVEN fact that Russia has done it to Address the International Laws. I have stated the ONLY known thing that can invoke International Law is the claim of ownership what is it that I did not answer? I even went and gave a definition of the ISS .... concern $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ IMHO the answer could use some better wording, but does answer the question and backs up its claims. Definitely does not guarantee a downvote... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 6:56

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