International Institute of Space Law

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Issue 3, 2021 Expand all abstracts

A Search for the Basic Rules-of-the-Road in Orbit

Summarized Findings from Hunting Basic Traffic Rules in Treaties, Guidelines and Standards

Authors Hjalte Osborn Frandsen
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this paper it is argued that the long-running arguments about the most feasible regulatory approach to Space Traffic Management, has been overshadowing the equally important discussion concerning the actual core provisions of the traffic regime, namely the Rules-of-the-Road. The paper seeks to clarify the concept of Rules-of-the-Road in the context of space traffic. The core contribution is an analysis of the state of Rules-of-the-Road in international space law today, considering a broad array of hard and soft legal instruments.
    The investigation find that despite the many initiatives related to Space Traffic Management, there are few tangible, specific rules clarifying how actual Space Traffic should be conducted on an operational level. In other words, there is an absence of actual “Rules-of-the-Road” for traffic in Low Earth Orbit in the current body of international space law.

Hjalte Osborn Frandsen
University of Copenhagen.

    Space Traffic Management (STM) is addressed by the global space community for more than a decade. The United States have set up the Space Policy directive on STM and a proposal for a set of “Space Traffic Coordination and Management” standards. These developments intensified dialogue around STM and led to the further development of initiatives and programmes in Europe on STM, SST and SSA, recognizing its importance for the safety and sustainability of space activities. The recently published Action Plan on Synergies between civil, defence and space industries of the European Commission defines an action item on STM and refers to the “EU strategy for Space Traffic Management.” This paper provides an overview on the STM evolutions and status. It follows with the provision of space policies and programmes in the EU, ESA and selected member states. An outlook for the development of a common European approach is provided.

Christina Giannopapa
Eindhoven University of Technology.

Ntorina Antoni
Eindhoven University of Technology.

    With the intensification of space activities the urgency of STM has emerged and with it the necessity to harmonize, or at least coordinate, SSA data sharing practices. At the moment, the existing data sharing models mainly present a domestic approach in the determination of legal clauses and standards definition and display potential issues in terms of long-term sustainability, also vis-à-vis the amount of heterogeneous sources of SSA data expected to increase.
    Through a comparative legal methodology with a problem-solving approach, this contribution will investigate the risks and opportunities posed by these heterogeneous approaches, with a specific focus on the models implemented by the US, the EU and China. Moreover, the integration of civil and commercial SSA data, or services, will be considered and the potential liability issues analyzed.

Giulia Pavesi
KU Leuven.