Universiteit Leiden

nl en

International Institute of Air and Space Law

About us

The International Institute of Air and Space Law, founded in 1985, co-operates with many worldclass academic institutions.

It maintains close contacts with national and international organisations and undertakings worldwide. The Institute enjoys the guidance of a prestigious International Advisory Board.

Academic attention for this subject matter commenced as early as 1938, when Professor Daniel Goedhuis was appointed to teach air law. A professorial chair in air law was created in 1947 with an extension in scope to space law in 1961. Professor Goedhuis held this chair until 1977. His successor Professor Henri Wassenbergh who passed away on 1 February 2014 was the catalyst behind the creation of the current Institute of Air and Space Law. 

Air law

Traditionally, air law research is based upon analysing the Chicago Convention, bilateral air agreements, and international aviation conventions in the field of safety, security and liability.

In the course of the 1980s, the US deregulation process and the liberalisation program of the European Community affected air law research considerably.

In the 1990s, environmental law began to have a more pertinent impact upon the development of air law.

Air law in the 21st century has started by receiving important impulses from concerns for security, and initiatives designed to streamline aviation operations from an economic point of view in the light of the state of the industry. Also, law and policy makers pay increasingly attention to the establishment of a safe, efficient and environmentally friendly infrastructure for air transport.

The main subject matters concern:

  • economic regulation of air transport, including the application of competition regimes; 
  • bilateral and multilateral relations between states; 
  • European Community air law and policy; 
  • nationality criteria for airlines; 
  • deregulation and liberalisation of air services; 
  • aviation liability in an international context; 
  • dispute settlement; 
  • privatisation of infrastructure; 
  • safety and security;
  • national civil law; 
  • environmental questions. 

Space law 

Originally, space law was part of, and based upon, international public law. States played an exclusive role in the development of space activities and space law, which is evidenced by United Nations Treaties and resolutions on outer space.

The main actors are intergovernmental organisations such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and the United Nations Committee for the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), in addition to specialised satellite organisations and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

During the last decades, space activities have increasingly become commercial activities, through the use of satellites in outer space and the exploration of the moon and celestial bodies. As, for example, the website of Space and Society, established by ESA and the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and illustrating the impact of space activities upon society shows, outer space has come down to earth – and so has space law. Private entities, using space know-how, software, hardware and services, are becoming important investors into space activities so that space law now encompasses other legal regimes.

Hence, the following fields of law affect the development of space law:

  • private law, including contractual and third party liability; 
  • financing, insurance and securities law; 
  • environmental law; 
  • social and labour law; 
  • telecommunications; 
  • intellectual property rights law; 
  • database and data protection law; 
  • commercial, trade and economic law; 
  • competition law.

Space law research consequently concerns the following subject matters: 

  • national and international space law and policy; 
  • privatisation of space activities; 
  • satellite communications/GNSS and Galileo; 
  • radio astronomy; 
  • earth observation; 
  • the legal status of the moon.


International Advisory Board 

International Advisory Board consists of international personalities who are professionally actively engaged with the further development of aviation and space-related activities. The members of the International Advisory Board advise the staff of the International Institute of Air and Space Law in the performance of their tasks and activities. The IAB meets at least once per year.