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date: 19 April 2021

Brazilian Space Lawfree

  • Olavo de O. Bittencourt NetoOlavo de O. Bittencourt NetoCatholic University of Santos
  •  and Daniel Freire e AlmeidaDaniel Freire e AlmeidaCatholic University of Santos


The article provides an overview of the Brazilian legal framework for space-related activities, highlighting the main legal instruments and their most relevant provisions. Domestic regulatory initiatives are appraised and contextualized through the review of specific provisions and legal instruments. The Brazilian space program’s normative structure is acknowledged, considering national space policy and applicable legislation.

Brazil regulates national space activities through a myriad of regulations and edicts, forming a broad—although fragmented—body of rules. Considered an emerging space power, Brazil has a long-standing and ambitious space program, involving artificial satellites, launch centers, and the eventual development of a national launch vehicle. However, a domestic, general space law, as required by the Federal Constitution of 1988, still awaits to be enacted. The latest developments at the Brazilian Space Agency indicate that it might not be too long for such a federal law to materialize.

The importance of a national space law for the implementation of international obligations as well as to ensure legal certainty for governmental and non-governmental national space activities is increasingly realized by space-faring nations. The Brazilian space legal framework represents a relevant case study toward the identification of appropriate legal mechanisms for the regulation of national space activities, taking into account international principles and local perspectives.


Brazil, as an emerging space-faring nation, has been following the international trend of regulating space activities under its responsibility and jurisdiction through national legislation. A Latin American nation with an enduring space program, Brazil has developed, through the course of many decades, not only several artificial satellites but also launch centers, and has the aim to develop a national launch vehicle (Monserrat Filho, 2007). The country has also played an important role in multilateral debates on space law and policy. The study of a Brazilian legal framework applicable to space-related activities represents a relevant effort to appreciate regulatory efforts undertaken by emerging space-faring nations, and this includes the identification of domestic legal mechanisms and regulatory approaches.

The enactment of domestic legislation relating to the peaceful use of outer space has increasingly been recognized as a necessity for any space-faring nation. National space laws are considered instrumental for the implementation of international obligations, including the treaties conceived at the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). Additionally, a clear domestic legal framework may provide the necessary legal certainty to not only governmental but, perhaps more importantly, non-governmental space operators, in an effort to ensure consistency and predictability for national space activities.

International space law instruments support the enactment of domestic legislation by space-faring nations, to address applicable rights and duties. The 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (more simply known as the Outer Space Treaty, or OST),1 determines that “States Parties . . . shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, . . . whether governmental or non-governmental” (Article VI). Additionally, liability for damage caused by space objects and their respective registration have also been a subject of the OST and later treaties, forming an interconnected body of international rules.

Several nations have enacted domestic space legislation, adopting national rules, which although reflecting local interests, shall abide to international legal principles and obligations. Those instruments, especially the OST, provide a framework for national space policies, trace fundamental courses of action, and guide elaboration of applicable rules regarding domestic space activities.

The United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs organizes an ever-growing National Space Law Collection, composed of regulation relating to the exploration and use of outer space, based on submissions made by States. Studying the collection, one may identify particular approaches and common regulatory mechanisms. Fundamental provisions include control and jurisdiction over national space objects, state liability, and registration. At the same time, there is acknowledgment of the general interest of the international community toward the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all nations and humankind.

The enactment of a clear body of rules, consolidating and clarifying the applicable norms and procedures, benefits the national space industry. National space law is also instrumental to allow entrepreneurs, investors, and operators to adequately understand the rules, thus providing further legal certainty to private space activities.

Domestic legal models regarding space-related activities vary in scope and procedure. As observed by the COPUOS Legal Subcommittee Working Group on National Legislation Relevant to the Peaceful Exploration and Use of Outer Space, in its final report of 2012::

[National regulatory frameworks] represented different legal systems with either unified acts or a combination of national legal instruments, ranging from administrative regulations to decrees and laws; . . . States had adapted their national legal frameworks according to their specific needs and practical considerations; and . . . national legal requirements depended to a high degree on the range of space activities conducted and the level of involvement of the private sector (A/AC.105/C.2/101).

Since the early days of the space age, Brazil has contributed to discussions on space law at international forums such as at the United Nations. One of the earlier signatories of the OST, Brazil became a part of the most relevant multilateral space instruments drafted at the COPUOS. Throughout the years, important international partnerships involving different space activities have been accorded. Such a record has qualified Brazil as an important space actor.

Domestically, several Brazilian normative instruments and guidelines have been enacted. Covering different space-related aspects and activities, the national legal framework applicable to space-related activities is made up of many interconnected regulatory instruments. However, a national federal law on space activities that contemplate applicable provisions in a unified form still awaits to be enacted.

Brazilian Space Policy

The Brazilian legal framework for space-related activities comprises a collection of domestic regulations and internalized international legal instruments governing the peaceful exploration and use of outer space. Topics such as liability, registration, jurisdiction, and security have been covered through different regulations. Federal laws have also been devised to provide coordination and integration of the Brazilian space program, creating administrative programs and bodies. Connections are identified with other fields of law, interwoven into the very fabric of the national legal system, in accordance with the Federal Constitution of 1988.

As space technologies and activities naturally evolve, complex legal issues emerge, and these require proper consideration by legislators. Brazil, like many other emerging space-faring nations, has acknowledged the current state of affairs in its pursuit of furthering space activities in accordance with an effective body of rules.

Historically, Brazilian space activities have developed within a comprehensive and ambitious space program, first envisaged in the early 1960s (Costa Filho, 2002). Since then, Brazil has successfully conducted a wide range of space activities, contracted launch services for national satellites and even an astronaut, in an overarching effort toward attaining complete national space autonomy (Bittencourt Neto, 2011). Encompassing different administrations through the course of many decades, the Brazilian Space Program has maintained its strategic perspective. Focus has been maintained on technological advancements capable of contributing to the economic and social development of the nation.

Launch Centers

The Alcantara Launch Center (Centro de Lançamento de Alcântara, CLA) was established in 1983 as the prime launch facility in Brazil. It is strategically located in a privileged geographical region near the Equator (Paubel, 2002). Due to its geographic position, launches from Alcantara benefit from the Earth’s rotation in order to achieve greater speed, allowing fuel economy and increased payload capacity. Space objects can be introduced from the CLA into equatorial and polar orbits, without overflight of inhabited regions, due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean (Monserrat Filho, 2002). More than 200 sounding rockets have been successfully launched from the CLA, advancing the Brazilian space program (Costa Filho, 2002).

The economic potential of the CLA has been recognized worldwide, leading to bilateral agreements with foreign partners, including a technology safeguard agreement with the United States. This agreement aims at providing securities and benefits regarding the commercial use of the CLA to both parties, as well as the handling of sensitive technology in accordance with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and applicable export control laws and regulations (Decree no. 10.220/2020).

Space Objects

A relevant number of space objects have been designed and assembled in Brazil, wholly or in part, often in the laboratories of the National Institute for Space Activities (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, INPE). The main mission of the INPE is to produce high-quality science and technology in the space and terrestrial environment areas and to offer unique products and services for Brazilian benefit (INPE, 2020a). Artificial satellites produced or tested at the INPE range from remote sensing to data collection to telecommunications.

Launch Vehicles

The final segment of the Brazilian space program revolves around the development of a national launch vehicle, thus providing independent access to outer space. Named VLS (Veículo Lançador de Satélites, or in English, Satellites’ Launch Vehicle), the program has faced budgetary and technical problems since its conception in the late 1970s. Without fruitful international cooperation, the VLS suffered from delays and complications (Paubel, 2002). Despite notable constraints, several sounding rockets have successfully emerged—most notably series VS-30, VS-40, and VSB-30. Rocketry experience has allowed Brazilian scientists and engineers to progressively advance toward a national launch vehicle (Azevedo, 2007).

Treaties and Conventions

To enact a domestic legal framework for space-related activities, Brazil has turned its attention to multilateral instruments developed and approved at the COPUOS, acknowledging its main principles and provisions.

Brazil was one of OST’s first signatories, still in 1967. As fellow States Parties to the Treaty, Brazil was inspired by the vast benefits that the space age offered to all nations, irrespective of their degree of economic and scientific development. The treaty was internalized through the national Decree no. 64.362/1969. Through this first step, Brazil accepted the fundamental principles for the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, solemnly recognized therein as “province of mankind” (Cheng, 1997).

Brazil also participated in the international deliberations that led to the approval of the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space (ARRA).2 That treaty was introduced into the Brazilian legal order through Decree no. 71,989/1973.

The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (LIAB)3 entered into the national legal system through Decree no. 71.981/1973. This important legal instrument provides a dual system of liability, according to which launching States shall be absolutely liable for damage caused by their space objects on the surface of the Earth or to aircraft in flight, and liable based on fault for damage caused to space objects of third parties elsewhere (Articles II and III LIAB).

National space activities have qualified Brazil as a Launching State, in accordance with Article I, c, LIAB. Such a definition encompasses States that launch or procure the launch of space objects, as well as those from whose territory or facility a space object is launched, irrespective of the success of its mission.

The growing number of Launching States and the flourishing of private space activities have created challenges for the long-term sustainability of outer space usage, raising the profile of in-orbit collisions and interference. The principles of LIAB are deemed instrumental for the proper assessment of damages and peaceful resolution of disputes (Masson-Zwaan & Hofmann, 2019).

After a long period of consideration, Brazil became a party to the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (REG).4 Although REG came into force on September 15, 1976, Brazil only adhered to it much later, introducing the document in its legal order by Decree no. 5.806/2006. The result was that REG expanded the scope of the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space established by Resolution 1721B (XVI) of December 1961, addressing issues related to States Parties responsibilities concerning their space objects. Consequently, Brazil must maintain a national register of objects sent to outer space, and provide specific information to the Secretary-General of the United Nations (Articles II, III, and IV REG).

Unlike other South American nations such as Chile and Uruguay, Brazil is not party to the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (MOA).5 Global interest in space resource activities, with its immense commercial potential and complex legal implications, has justified a reappraisal of MOA by Brazilian scholars and institutions. Renewedinterest in the exploration and use of the Moon, as well as other celestial bodies, has also introduced relevant debates at governmental level. Considering the political and economic impact space resource activities may have on emerging space-faring nations with economies depending on mineral commodities, such as Brazil, possible domestic regulations may emerge in the future.

In accordance with the Brazilian Supreme Court, international treaties, except those on human rights, are regarded as infraconstitutional, and equivalent to general federal law (Afonso da Silva, 2019). Therefore, the space law treaties to which Brazil is a State Party are regarded as having precedence over the Brazilian Space Agency’s edicts, but not over ulterior federal laws, whenever subsequently approved.

International Cooperation and Partnerships

Bilateral and multilateral space partnerships represent a growing trend, allowing countries who share common interests and objectives to increase investments in their respective space programs, assign costs and risks, as well as increase the number of strategic projects. Facing common challenges in a coordinated and collaborative way, partners may further enjoy the benefits of space sciences and technologies. International cooperation is also an effective approach to mitigate disputes by supporting the acknowledgment of shared goals and perspectives, hence advancing the peaceful use of outer space (Arevalo-Yepes & Ospina, 2016).

International cooperation has played a crucial role in the development of Brazil’s space legal framework, favoring specific provisions and refining major areas of interest. Many bilateral agreements and protocols have been signed by Brazil with major and emerging space-faring nations, including innovative mechanisms of South–South cooperation. An interesting network of initiatives and projects has been conceived through international cooperation mechanisms. Brazil has celebrated agreements with countries from all continents, including China, the United States, India, Japan, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Russia, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine. Those collaborations have allowed Brazil to achieve further space capabilities through joint missions involving satellites and rocketry (Monserrat Filho, 2007).

Reference should be made to the partnership established with China, through the CBERS (China–Brazil Earth Resources Satellites) Program. Focusing on remote sensing capabilities, the collaboration led to the joint development and launch of satellites CBERS-1 (1999), CBERS-2 (2003), CBERS-2B (2007), and CBERS-4 (2014). The latest satellite of the CBERS program, named CBERS-04a, was launched from the Taiyuan Launching Center in China on December 20, 2019 (INPE, 2020b).

After lengthy negotiations, an important bilateral instrument was signed in 2019 between Brazil and the United States. Named the Technological Safeguards Agreement (TSA), it was promulgated in Brazil by Decree no. 10.2020/2020. The TSA significantly expands the commercial potential of the CLA, considering satellites and launch vehicles containing systems or components of US origin.

According to the TSA, the territory where the base is located remains under jurisdiction of the Brazilian government, while appropriate safeguards are secured to the United States. In return, Brazil receives strategic funds to be invested in the development and improvement of its national space capabilities. The TSA prohibits the launch of missiles from the Alcantara base, as well as their production, purchase, and testing by Brazil. Only civilian equipment from countries that are signatories to the MCTR may be the subject of launch authorization (Brazil, 2020).

This bilateral partnership may have a great effect on other aspects of aerospace cooperation between those nations. The agreement is viewed by Brazilian authorities as favoring the national intention of being recognized as a major player in the international space launch market. Scientific, technological, and socioeconomic advancements are expected to be generated, creating jobs and expanding entrepreneurship and national-based businesses.

Domestic Regulatory Instruments

The Brazilian legal framework applicable to space-related activities has been conceived in accordance with fundamental guidelines and rules instituted by the Federal Constitution of 1988. Such a framework represents a historical milestone as far as democratic movements in Latin America are concerned (Moraes, 2019), and it has played a major role in the advancement of the Brazilian national space program.

In accordance with Article 22 of the Brazilian Constitution of 1988, aerospace activities are subject to federal exclusive jurisdiction. A growing awareness has been identified in Brazil regarding the value of enacting an all-embracing federal law on space activities clarifying the specific features of the domestic space regime. Nevertheless, such a specific piece of legislation still awaits to be enacted. The current legal framework remains composed of different regulations and norms, interconnected but also somewhat independent, comprising a complex body of rules.

Institutional Legislation

To improve the coordination of the Brazilian space program and to stress its peaceful purposes, the Brazilian Space Agency (Agência Espacial Brasileira, AEB) was created by Law 8.854/1994. As a civilian entity headquartered in Brasilia, it enjoys financial and administrative autonomy (Article 2). Originally submitted to the Presidency of the Republic, by Decree no. 3.566/2000, the AEB has been under governance of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MCTI). According to its current regimental structure, the AEB comprises a Presidency, a Superior Council, and four dedicated Directories (Decree no. 10.469/2020).

The AEB was conceived to improve the coordination of the national space program while stressing the civilian inclination of its many programs and initiatives (Costa Filho, 2002). The agency orchestrates the efforts of the INPE, notably in relation to satellites, as well as those of the Aerospace Technical Center (Centro Técnico Aeroespacial, CTA), regarding launch vehicles and centers.

The peaceful nature of the national space program is in line with the Brazilian Constitution of 1988, which states that the country shall be governed in its international relations, inter alia, by the defence of peace, peaceful settlement of disputes, and cooperation among peoples for the progress of humankind (Article 4). Brazil has been a part of several relevant disarmament instruments, including the Treaty of Tlatelolco (1967), which bans nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968), of universal application. In 1995, Brazil’s membership to the MTCR was approved.

The goals and objectives of the Brazilian space program are determined by the National Program for Development of Space Activities (Programa Nacional de Desenvolvimento das Atividades Espaciais, PNDAE), established by Decree no. 1.332/1994. In it is clarification that the Brazilian space program aims at fostering national capability in relation to space activities capable of addressing national concerns, while benefiting the local people.

To plan and promote the PNDAE, a periodically reviewed instrument named the National Program of Space Activities (Programa Nacional de Atividades Espaciais, PNAE) was enacted. Presently in its fourth edition, the PNAE stresses the peaceful purposes of the Brazilian space program (period of 2012–2021).6 Additionally, the importance of acquiring sensitive technologies pertinent to launch vehicles and satellites is specifically asserted, as part of securing national space autonomy. As stated therein:

The PNAE aims to enable the country to develop and use space technology in solving national problems and for the benefit of the Brazilian society, contributing to improve the quality of life, through the generation of wealth and job opportunities, improvement of scientific activities, expanding awareness of the national territory and better perception of environmental conditions.

(Brazilian Space Agency, 2012)

Emerging space-faring nations often face complex barriers to develop nationally integrated space initiatives, especially in relation to overseas export controls regulations. One of the greatest challenges to the Brazilian Space Program has always been “to raise the number of specific programs, taking advantage of growing possibilities and needs of international cooperation in the space sector, with participation of many nations” (Monserrat Filho, 1997).

To overcome such difficulties Decree no. 1.953/1996 constituted the National System for Development of Space Activities (Sistema Nacional de Desenvolvimento das Atividades Espaciais, SINDAE). It was designed to address the coordination of space activities between federal bodies and entities as well as in relation to private actors (Articles 3, I, II, and III SINDAE).

Administrative Edicts

Reflecting the intention of opening the country to the international space market and based on the potential of the CLA to attract overseas partners, the AEB has enacted administrative edicts regulating launch activities taking place on Brazilian territory. As far as the national legislative structure is concerned, edicts enacted by federal autonomous organizations such as the AEB are not located in a prime position; even so, they are enforceable and capable of regulating rights and obligations as long as there are no conflicts with superior norms (Bittencourt Neto, 2009).

Considering the commercial potential of the CLA, the AEB enacted Administrative Edict 27/2001 (which revoked Administrative Edict 8/2001), regarding launch licenses, and Administrative Edict 5/2002, relating to the authorization of space launch activities on Brazilian territory. Both instruments were not restricted to only the CLA, having extensive territorial jurisdiction. However, both edicts stressed that their rules do not apply to “space launching activities which could be carried out by Brazilian governmental organizations or bodies” (Article 1, Paragraph 2, Administrative Edict 27/2001, and Article 1, Paragraph 2, Administrative Edict 5/2002).

Different procedures for space launch licences and authorizations are justified by their nature and purpose. Licences enjoy a wider scope, being awarded whenever certain legal requisites have been properly met. On the other hand, authorizations are only granted for a specific deed, and require an autonomous—yet motivated—decision from the public authority (Lopes Meirelles, 2018). Authorizations can only be granted if a license has already been obtained (Monserrat Filho, 2002).

von der Dunk (2003) highlighted the importance of those administrative edicts, affirming that, with Edict 27/2001:

Brazil became the ninth nation world-wide to establish a national space law in the narrow sense of the world—an act focusing exclusively on space activities and prominently including a system for encapsulating private participation in such activities within the State jurisdiction, international responsibilities and international liabilities. (p. 23)

The AEB Administrative Edict 120/2014 approved an updated regulation on procedures and the definition of the necessary requirements for the application, evaluation, dispatch, control, monitoring, and supervision of licenses to perform space launch activities on Brazilian territory, therefore revoking Administrative Edict 27/2001.

Administrative Edict 120/2014 would itself be revoked by the AEB Administrative Edict 182/2020, applicable to launch activities conducted by private companies reaching beyond 100 km above the mean sea level. An electronic system for granting licenses was also instituted by Administrative Edict 182/2020, designed to simplify and update related rules.

Space Safety Regulations

The Brazilian Space Sector Safety Regulations were issued by the AEB’s Superior Council in 2007, and are applicable to space launches conducted from Brazilian national territory. Providing technical rules and standards for execution of certain space activities, the Space Safety Regulations cover all parts of the actions from the design stages up to the operational phases.

The Space Sector Safety Regulations are composed of a comprehensive set of interrelated instruments, provided by the AEB Resolution 71/2007. They describe the conditions to be complied with for “the protection of people, property and the environment with respect to operations for the sending of commercial space artifacts.” Regulations cover manufacturing operational processes, launch vehicle assembly requirements and satellite integration, launches, and environmental impact studies.

The Space Sector Safety Regulations are arranged in volumes (Superior Council of the Brazilian Space Agency, 2007). The first volume covers the General Regulations for Space Safety, while the second consists of seven different technical regulations, ranging from space safety to areas such as environmental safety, launch and flight safety, payload safety, vehicle launch complex safety, and inter-site area safety. A third volume, on “Accident Investigation and Prevention Regulation,” is under preparation.

The first set of regulations establishes the general safety requirements for commercial space activities in Brazil. Any entity intending to develop space activities in and from Brazilian launch centers shall meet those regulations, in mandatory bases. Conditions agreed upon in the international instruments, regarding foreign participation in activities from launch centers licensed by the AEB, are also applicable.

The General Regulations for Space Safety addresses a total of 22 sections, considering applicable certificates. The AEB may constitute or designate a governmental technical entity, the Space Certification Body (SCB), responsible for conducting the space certification processes and the issuance of the Safety Certificates established in the regulation. Safety Certificates provide evidence of compliance with security requirements necessary for the issuance of appropriate licenses and authorizations.

Current Brazilian regulations address essential safety standards for launches from the national territory, in line with international instruments and guidelines. Authorization for space launches can only be granted after the fulfillment of specific provisions. The entity responsible for the space launch must meet all applicable requirements and present valid certificates. The SCB is responsible for validating space launch applications, verifying, for instance, evidence of compliance with regulations and those related to the technical approval of a component, software, or device.

Technical approval of the SCB project is mandatory for the building and operation of a launch complex. The applicant shall demonstrate that the engineering design meets the requirements of the Brazilian General Regulations and the Technical Regulations, including space safety, environmental safety, launch and flight safety, payload safety, launch complex safety, launch vehicle safety, and inter-site area safety. Upon compliance with the requirements, the Launch Complex Project Safety Certificate is issued by the SCB.

The Certificate of Technical and Operations Safety is required for space launch activities. This Certificate shall be issued by the SCB if the organization responsible for the launch complex demonstrates compliance with the requirements of the Technical Safety Regulations for the Launch Complex (Part 5, Volume 2 of the Brazilian Space Sector Safety Regulations). The Launch Vehicle Safety Certificate of Conformity requires, by the applicable entity, evidence that it meets the conditions of the Launch Vehicle Safety Technical Regulation (Part 6, Volume 2 of the Brazilian Space Sector Safety Regulations).

Any change in the design of the safety-related systems of the launch vehicle shall require the application of a new certificate. Related technical documentation, such as test and analysis reviews, material specification, descriptive drawings, production processes, transport procedures, assembly, operation, and procedure of integrating the vehicle with the payload, are to be submitted accordingly.

The assembly, transportation, and integration activities of each launch vehicle can only be performed with the SCB-issued Certificate of Production Compliance of the Launch Vehicle in order to assure the safety of operations. Regarding payload security, another SCB certificate of conformity is required—Technical Regulations for Payload Safety.

In relation to the launch center’s technical and operational safety, the launch center entity is required to hold a valid Certificate of Technical and Operational Safety of the Launch Center (Volume 2 of the Brazilian Space Sector Safety Regulations). Similarly, the certificate is to be issued by the SCB after proof of compliance with the general character of the Technical Regulations for Launch and Flight Safety (Part 3, Volume 2 of the Brazilian Space Sector Safety Regulations).

Finally, the SCB shall issue the Certificate of Safety for Space Launch and Flight whenever verifying that the requirements of the Regulations for Launch and Flight Safety are met, in relation to a specific mission or launch (Superior Council of the Brazilian Space Agency, 2007). Each launch shall require a new, additional Certificate.

During the certification process, the SCB is entitled by law to request access to technical data from the responsible entity whenever deemed necessary. The SCB may eventually request additional information from the entity and all their suppliers, including manufacturing facilities. To properly address rights and duties, data processing should not characterize or lead to public disclosure of trade secrets, nor negatively impact on intellectual property rights.

Technical certificates issued by other States may be accepted by the SCB, provided certain conditions are met. For instance, prior mutual recognition agreement and identification of common rules applicable to the certification process can be considered as long as they are compatible with the Brazilian Space Sector Safety Regulations (Superior Council of the Brazilian Space Agency, 2007).

The SCB is entitled to withdraw certification whenever the risk associated with a requirement is considered above acceptable levels, as established by the Brazilian Space Safety Regulations, including in emergency situations. A certificate holder shall ensure the storage of all data related to any fact or event that results in exposure to risks exceeding acceptable levels, in accordance with the regulations.

Toward a Future Federal Space Law

The Brazilian space legislation is composed of a myriad of regulations, often specific in scope, underliningthe aspirations of the domestic space program. The consolidation of those rules in a future, general federal law on space activities is under consideration by the AEB, so as to clarify and expand the applicable provisions, therefore contributing to a more efficient and integrated national space framework.

National space legislation must be in tune with technological advancements and constraints, while observing fundamental international legal principles. Contributions from academia and industry are considered of fundamental value for the proper acknowledgment of particular features.

Through Resolution no. 8/2019 of the Institutional Security Office (Gabinete de Segurança Institucional, GSI), a technical group was created by the Committee for Development of the Brazilian Space Program (Comitê de Desenvolvimento do Programa Espacial Brasileiro, CDPEB) to prepare a draft general law for space activities under the supervision of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovations. Enjoying the participation of different branches of government, the CDPEB is expected to conclude its works in the near future, offering a legislative project to the Presidency of the Republic. In order to finally become law, the document must follow applicable legislative procedure, as provided by the Federal Constitution (Afonso da Silva, 2019).


The Brazilian legal framework for space activities represents an important case study for emerging space-faring nations when devising domestic legal instruments on space activities, not only in Latin America but also around the globe. Domestic regulations reflect the particularities of Brazil’s ambitious space program, covering a wide range of activities and encompassing different administrative bodies under supervision of the AEB. The legal instruments also envision a road toward the future, acknowledging local needs and demands.

Brazilian space law may still be regarded as a work in progress. The domestic legal framework governing space-related activities is made up of several interconnected legal instruments and regulatory mechanisms. Such a system has been conceived in order to advance, coordinate, and operationalize the national space program. The consolidation of this legal framework into a federal law on space activities, as established by the Federal Constitution of 1988, is nevertheless expected to materialize soon.

The regulation of Brazilian space activities must be appraised considering social, economic, and geographical characteristics, as well as sovereign perspectives. As recognized by the COPUOS Legal Subcommittee Working Group on National Legislation Relevant to the Peaceful Exploration and Use of Outer Space, States have taken different approaches in dealing with various aspects of national space activities, adapting their legal frameworks according to their specific needs and practical considerations (A/AC.105/C.2/101, 2012).

As Brazilian legislators consider the enactment of a federal law on space activities, lessons may be learned by adopting a comparative approach with regard to other domestic space-related regulatory instruments. Fundamental provisions for national space laws include licensing systems for the proper control and supervision of national space activities that have already been covered by the AEB Administrative Edicts. Space safety regulations have also already been addressed by the Brazilian legal framework through specific instruments. Proper normative consolidation would further legal certainty to governmental and non-governmental operators.

Overseas authorities may eventually discover valuable provisions and legislative mechanisms in the current Brazilian framework for their own regulatory efforts. National space laws can benefit from this integrated methodology, which certainly could be enhanced by international cooperation and coordination, thus favoring international harmonization.


Books and Articles
  • Afonso da Silva, J. (2019). Curso de direito constitucional positivo (42nd ed.). São Paulo, Brazil: Malheiros.
  • Arevalo-Yepes, C., & Ospina, S. (Eds.). (2016). Global perspectives on regional cooperation in space: Policies, governance & legal tools. Paris, France: IAA.
  • Azevedo, J. L. F. (2007). A capacidade Brasileira de acesso ao espaço. Espaço Brasileiro, 1(2), 15–17.
  • Bittencourt Neto, O. de O. (2009). Private launch activities on Brazilian territory: Current legal framework. Zeitschrift für Luft- und Weltraumrecht, 3, 429–449.
  • Bittencourt Neto, O. de O. (2011). Direito espacial contemporâneo. Curitiba, Brasil: Juruá.
  • Casella, P. B. (2009). Direito internacional dos espaços. São Paulo, Brazil: Atlas.
  • Cheng, B. (1997). Studies in international space law. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
  • Costa Filho, E. (2002). Política espacial Brasileira. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Revan.
  • Masson-Zwaan, T., & Hofmann, M. (2019). Introduction to space law (4th ed.). Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Kluwer.
  • Meirelles, H. L. (2018). Curso de direito administrativo Brasileiro (43rd ed.). São Paulo, Brazil: Malheiros.
  • Monserrat Filho, J. (1997). Introdução ao direito espacial. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: SBDA.
  • Monserrat Filho, J. (2002, November 18–21). Brazilian launch licensing and authorizing regimes [Proceedings]. Capacity Building in Space Law—UN/International Institute of Air and Space Law Workshop: Capacity Building in Space Law, The Hague, The Netherlands.
  • Monserrat Filho, J. (2007). Direito e política na era espacial. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Vieira&Lent.
  • Moraes, A. de. (2019). Direito constitucional (35th ed.). São Paulo, Brazil: Atlas.
  • Paubel, E. F. C. (2002). Propulsão e controle de veículos aeroespaciais: Uma introdução. Florianópolis, Brazil: UFSC.
  • Shaw, M. (2017). International law (8th ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Tronchetti, F. (2013). Fundamentals of space law and policy. Dordrecht, Germany: Springer Verlag.
  • von der Dunk, F. G. (2003). Launching Alcantara into the global space economy—The 2001 Brazilian national space law. Revista de Direito Aeronáutico e Espacial—SBDA, 86, 23–29.
Legal Instruments


  • 1. Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 610 UNTS 205, 1967.

  • 2. Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Space, 672 UNTS 11, 1968.

  • 3. Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, 961 UNTS 187, 1972.

  • 4. Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1023 UNTS 15, 1975.

  • 5. Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 1363 UNTS 3, 1979.

  • 6. The first PNAE was conceived to cover the period from 1996 to 2005; the second, from 1998 to 2007; the third, from 2005 to 2014; finally, the fourth, from 2012 to 2021.