Finnish Satellites Getting Into Space Before the Law

[MON MAY 29 2017; A10; ’Suomalaiset satelliitit ehtivät avaruuteen ennen lakia,’ Vanessa Valkama]

The launch of the first Finnish satellite in history, Aalto-1, has been delayed multiple times because of problems with the Falcon 9 booster rocket. Now the satellite has been moved to India, where it is supposed to finally be launched into space in June.


* Finland does not yet have a national space law, which would clarify how far the responsibility of the launcher of the satellite extends.


This year, Finland becomes a space nation, though Finland is still does not have a national space law.

By the end of the year, up to five Finnish satellites may already be in orbit: three of them made in Aalto University and two manufactured by commercial companies. The national space law is expected to come into effect in the beginning of next year.

Finland is bound by the UN international space treaties. As the launcher of the satellites, Finland will still be responsible for the satellites regardless of how the national space law turns out to be, explains Lotta Viikari, Director of the Institute of Air and Space Law (IASL) of the University of Lapland.

The launcher nation is internationally responsible for the launched object, and all the damage its parts might cause.

According to Viikari, Finland would be able to channel its responsibility to the operator or its insurance company, if needed.

The launcher nation won’t have to pay everything by themselves.

With national regulations, the country can also supervise space operations and demand sufficient precautions against accidents.


The Finnish national space law is being prepared by a designated team in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Emplyment. The team started their work in February.

Many nations have enacted national space laws, so that international space treaties would reach private operators, says director of the space law team Marjaana Aarnikka.

– Originally, space operations were conducted only on a national level, but now more and more satellites are owned and put into use by private operators. The nation’s responsibility extends, in addition to its own operations, to the operations of the private operators under the nation’s legal governance. Private operators like companies, universities, and citizens.

Space operations may be practiced only with the nation’s permission and under the nation’s supervision. According to Aarnikka, the Finnish satellites are registered nationally, and recorded into the UN register, even if the Finnish national space law is not put into effect before the satellites are launched into space.

Practitioners of space operations must provide a risk analysis to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Emplyment. The analysis is used to determine additional insurances.


According to the Outer Space Treaty, nations have the responsibility to continuously supervise private space operations. Aarikka says that permits and supervision bu the nation are key questions concerning the space law.

– With the business expanding, it’s important to define the prerequisites of space operations by law. Things like responsibility, supervision, registrations, and permits, Aarikka points out.

According to Aarikka, the preparation of the space law is on schedule. The aim is to get the draft law ready for its first consultation in late June.

Finland’s joining the UN space object registry treaty is also being prepared simultaneously with the national space law.

Finland is likely to become a space nation in June, when the Aalto-1 satellite, registered to Finland, is finally launched into space.


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