Artemis Accord: Navigating Space With a Non-Binding, Yet Effective Accord


Astronot NASA Robert L. Curbeam, Jr. (kiri) dan astronot European Space Agency Christer Fuglesang, dalam misi STS-116. Foto: NASA

Initiated by the US, eight countries—Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the United Kingdom—officially ratified the Artemis Accord on October 13, 2020. Two years later, 13 other countries joined the accord, accumulating a total of 21 signatories. This includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Romania, Mexico, Brazil, France, New Zealand, Colombia, South Korea, Israel, Poland, Singapore, and Ukraine—an unorthodox mix of countries in any other global issues. The Accord contains various cooperation regarding international collaboration on sustainable human exploration projects. Moreover, the Artemis Program the biggest umbrella of this accord was created to accelerate human exploration of Mars and the other celestial bodies in the galaxy. This was possible as Artemis is an interest-based regime, inviting us to question the consistency of its members to apply the Accord and the effectiveness of the Accord itself.

An accord can be legally called a treaty, covenant, convention, protocol, or pact, which means, naturally, the accord is legally binding. The terminology of accord can be interpreted as the harmoniousness of agreements, it is possible to substitute a different obligation, and possible to accept an offer from different actors. An example of the effectiveness of the accord can be seen in international cooperation such as the Washington Accord which orders few countries to do reparation, restitution, and boost security post-war conditions. The Copenhagen Accord which discusses the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol is another example of how an accord is legally binding and effective to rule its members. Although hard law like an accord can restrict a state’s behavior and sovereignty, this kind of international law has been proven capable of decreasing transaction costs, strengthening the credibility of commitments, expanding political strategy availability, and resolving unclear contracts among actors (Abbott & Snidal, 2000).

Artemis Accord shows how outer space law transformed from soft law to hard law (Neef, 2021). Questions emerge when we see the characteristics of this accord. This accord contains standard guidance to NASA and international partners to explore the moon shortly instead of setting up obligation action in accord implementation. Furthermore, Artemis Accord pushed the normative standard to interpret existing international legal and other instruments in outer space issues (i.e. Outer Space Treaty, and Moon Treaty). Fully drafted by the US, UNCOPUOS, as the UN entity in outer space issue, is absent from the process. This accord is assumed to fill the emptiness of legislation on outer space issues in state members that ratified the accord and reduce ambiguous interpretations of OST (Neef, 2021).

Compliance Status in International Legal System

The compliance status of the members should be emphasized by interest, concern in the rule of law, and common inter-state issues (Shelton, 2000). A state is willing to follow the legal order due to its interest. Each law has different expectations in terms of compliance and consequences of non-compliance. It is relevant to the specific law alternatives to use, its soft law or hard law. Soft law is more effective to use in international commitment among countries due to the obligatory follow the orders. 

There are various parameters to influence compliance status in the international legal system. First, institutional setting shapes state behavior or circumvents state policies. In this step, the complexity of participants in norm creation would affect great compliance. Second, regional diversity that analyzes different cultures and the economic status of each state member might affect compliance with the law. Third, types of obligations such as costly positive measures would result in poor compliance status due to the capacity. Last but not least, clausula or legal order that creates more generality would affect the level of compliance, more specific provisions would prove more easy to comply (Shelton, 2000).

Is the Artemis Accord Effective?

         At first, this accord is not universal. Which means it cannot accommodate entire actors in global politics. For instance, China was banned from joining this accord due to the internal politics of the US. Russia and China then initiate a similar cooperation called the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). Germany still has not sent their official representation in the Accord.  The legal rivalry was blown up among space powers, and its challenged international legal acceptance by nations. Some experts assume this accord is the US strategy to legitimize its position in outer space activity, and its innovative but not revolutionary (Deplano, 2021). The effectiveness of this accord shows flexibility in terms of adaptation and formally non-binding. There is no obligation and enforcement to compliance. Artemis Accord offers the concept and principles not mentioned in the OST and contain operationalizing obligations within the OST, rather than a set of rules and provision, Artemis Accord is an instrument of space governance. Besides, this accord gives opportunities to each country to create a new law in outer space and fill the gap. 

Artemis Accord is capable of determining the law and giving a chance to state members to pass their domestic legislation. Novelty issues were mentioned on this accord, such as the preservation of outer space heritage including human and robotic landing sites, artifacts, spacecraft, and other evidence of activity on celestial bodies (Deplano, 2021), and its importance to shaping international law in space issues in future. Another advantage of this Accord was it shows effective and flexible protocols to operate various issues within the boundaries of the OST. The most interesting aspect is, normally accord contains a law binding to order state members to achieve a compliance status. However, the Artemis Accord was created by non legally binding, thus cannot be categorized by hard law (Neef, 2021), and facing a lot of challenges in the near future. It contains concrete action and direction to space actors in shaping policies that stimulate space development and in-state members.


Differing from previous international treaties on space, the Artemis Accord uses a non-legally binding approach to shape state-member policies. Indeed, we can see ambiguity in international legal instruments because the nature of the accord was legally binding. However, the effectiveness of legal cannot be observed from the binding or non-binding itself, but from how state-members applied law order. Artemis Accord shows the flexibility of legal agreement. It explains the standard of action by each state to continue their space development, at the same time giving a chance to add various possibilities into clausal. Hard law and soft law play an important aspect in terms of the implementation of the legal order. Although the Artemis Accord is not a hard law, the efficiency of soft law to compliance is higher due to the willingness of state members to join in various orders, while keeping their sovereignty at the same time. Non-legally banding of law gives international action freedom without dictating their action. That is why, Artemis Accord is possible to adapt at the international level.


Deplano, R. (2021). The Artemis Accords: Evolution Or Revolution In International Space Law?. International & Comparative Law Quarterly, 70(3), 799-819. doi:10.1017/S0020589321000142

Abbott, K., & Snidal, D. (2000). Hard and Soft Law in International Governance. International Organization, 54(3), 421-456. doi:10.1162/002081800551280

Neef, R. (2021). Artemis accords: A new path forward for space lawmaking? The Adelaide Law Review, 42(2), 569–580.  

Shelton, L. Dinah. (2007). Commitment and compliance : the role of non-binding norms in the international legal system. Oxford University Press.

Ade Meirizal merupakan mahasiswa Program Magister Hubungan Internasional di Universitas Gajah Mada. Ade dapat ditemukan di Twitter (@russellthe) dan Instagram (@russelthe).

Tentang Penulis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *