What would be the jurisdiction for contracts signed in space?

Let's say, an american citizen runs company registered on Cyprus, and operates a space station launched from the territory of Kazakhstan. He signs a contract with other party, specifying that for any disputes the Nigerian law applies.

Now the second party feels to be harmed, and the Nigerian law is in that particular case on the side of the unhonest partner (this was the reason, the Nigerian law was chosen). In which court could the second party sue the space station operator? Could it choose the court based on citizenship, company registration, or the country from which the spacecraft was launched?

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    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about speculation on space law. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2013 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ I am leaning close on this question, because of this " In which court could the second party sue the space station operator?", the obvious answer is that anyone can sue anyone in any country they want. If they will win or loose is speculation based on law of that country and off topic for this site. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2013 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesJenkins I thought there's need to add 'so that it would make sense'. Well, you can sue where you want... but the court should reject your claim if potential sentence would have no meaning because of no jurisdiction over the second party $\endgroup$
    – user43
    Jul 21, 2013 at 21:32

3 Answers 3


From the Wikipedia page on contract law conflict, there is an indication of what the answer might be (however as with all things law, ymmv)

The section on Closest and most real connection states:

In default, the court has to impute an intention by asking, as just and reasonable persons, which law the parties ought to, or would, have intended to nominate if they had thought about it when they were making the contract. In arriving at its decision, the court uses a list of connecting factors, i.e. facts which have an unambiguous geographical connection, and whichever law scores the most hits on a league table created from the list will be considered the proper law. The current list of factors includes the following:

the flag of any ship involved

the place where the contract is made (which may not be obvious where negotiations were concluded by letter, fax or e-mail)

the place(s) where performance is to occur;

Have a read of the page for the fuller list.

So the answer might be that it will depend where the spacecraft is registered, but it could also depend on other factors.


Firstly, a jurisdiction (in the sense of this question) is the geographical (spatial in this case) area over which a state has validity in asserting their authority. This area is typically limited to the state's sovereign territory or vessels flagged by that sovereign state. In this case, it doesn't really matter as you aren't really worried about something that was done on the space station (like a murder for example). The contract was executed in Cyprus (?) under Cypriot jurisdiction for example.

Secondly, anyone can sue anyone in most places -- US included. You don't have to have a good reason to sue someone. So, technically, the answer to your question, "which court could the second party sue the space station operator?" is any (or at least most any) court.

Perhaps what you really want to know is where would the second party have the best chance of suing with a favorable outcome? The space station really isn't involved here since we are just talking about breach of contract so you would then have to fall back to where the station operator has the most assets where the contract is recognized as legally binding. I suspect this would be Cyprus in your example, but perhaps the company doesn't have many assets there -- making a favorable judgement worthless.


The Governing Law clause on the contract would be Nigerian. So no matter which court hears the case the dispute would have to be settled using Nigerian Law.


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