DOI: 10.5553/IISL/2021064001002

International Institute of Space LawAccess_open


Legal Challenges of the Deployment of Cubesats from the International Space Station

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    The deployment of cubesats from the International Space Station (ISS) is a groundbreaking technique for satellites to achieve orbit, allowing their release from an already orbiting space object. From the legal point of view, this method entails some relevant profiles deriving from the fact that the space object reaches its target orbit in two phases: first, it is carried onboard a cargo vehicle to the ISS, secondly it is deployed therefrom. As multiple actors are involved in this two-stage technique, there is the need to identify the States bearing the relevant obligations as “launching States”, also considering the distinctive features of the ISS as a complex space object and paying attention to the practice of registration of objects deployed therefrom. Since deployments from orbiting objects are expected to increase, verifying if the existing definitions, and their current interpretation, fit this new opportunity would help ensure compliance with the legal framework governing space activities.

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