International Institute of Space Law

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Issue 4, 2022 Expand all abstracts

Access_open Making NewSpace for Sustainability

Keywords space law, sustainability, NewSpace, regulation, space industry, environment
Authors Neta Palkovitz
AbstractAuthor's information

    The NewSpace revolution in general, and the vast use of small satellites in particular, is truly outstanding. The author alone supported the launch of over 600 small satellites during her career. It seems that with the democratization of outer space, and increase in its accessibility, this revolution is now complete, but are the current exciting events sustainable?
    Matters such as space debris, space traffic management and the contamination of outer space are not dealt with in the UN space treaties, and the newer UN Guidelines for the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities, lack a legally binding nature.
    In addition, pollution on Earth relating to launch activities seems like a non-issue in an era which prompts urgent regulatory action against climate change. Recent protests by astronomical scientists who warn against a process which would forever change our skies, are not heard loudly in the industry’s meeting rooms.
    In this paper, the author will suggest regulatory solutions to deal with the challenge of creating a thriving NewSpace industry on one hand, and ensuring the sustainability of outer space, and Earth, for future generations, on the other hand. The author will base the paper on her experience working in the NewSpace industry, and her postdoctoral research, focusing on the topic.

Neta Palkovitz
Owner and Founder of the NewSpace Firm, a space law consultancy; Postdoctoral fellow and adjunct professor at Tel Aviv University, Israel.

Access_open Getting Right-of-Way Right in Low Earth Orbit – An (Astro)Nautical Conundrum

Keywords Space Traffic Management, Right-of-Way, Rules-of-the-Road, Priority
Authors Hjalte Osborn Frandsen
AbstractAuthor's information

    The massive increase in number of satellites launched is transforming Low Earth Orbit (LEO) into a much busier domain. Congestion, conjunctions and risk of collisions will be issues that the international space community will have to solve to ensure sustainable use and access to LEO in the future. Already, tensions over conjunctions and collisions risk, between both commercial actors and between nation states, underscores the urgency of agreeing basic Rules-of-the-Road norms, most notably for Right-of-Way to avoid catastrophic collisions and escalations.
    The current body of international law does not provide any clarity for operators when determining who has priority and who should maneuver in conjunction scenarios. In contrast, Law of the Sea offers clear and globally accepted norms for priority and Rightof- Way. This paper analyses the transferability of the basic parameters and principles used for assigning right-of-way in nautical navigation from a regulatory perspective.

Hjalte Osborn Frandsen
University of Copenhagen Centre for Information and Innovation Law, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Karen Blixens Plads 16, 2300 Copenhagen, Denmark.

Access_open How Do We Legislate For Space Sustainability Without International Cooperation?

Keywords sustainability, legislation, international cooperation
Authors Alex Marinova and Maura Zara
AbstractAuthor's information

    After around 60 years of space exploration sustainability has come to the forefront of international efforts. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals outline the global aims to reduce, reuse and recycle in order to mitigate some of the effects of human activity on the environment both on Earth and beyond. Since the very beginning of the space era planetary protection mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that earthly bacteria and biological material don’t reach the virgin landscapes of other celestial bodies. More recently, private companies have launched a range of projects tackling the rising issue of space debris and governments adopted new space strategies and plans to decrease the human impact on pollution in Earth’s orbit.
    Whilst space sustainability is an undeniable priority for humanity due to the strategic importance of space infrastructure, how does one ensure the implementation of much needed measures if international cooperation is staggering? For the past 30 years the space industry has benefited from ongoing cooperation on all levels leading to a exponential increase in New Space ventures relying on multigovernmental infrastructure or legal framework to flourish. Whilst sovereign states are free to enact their own legislation tackling sustainability issues, arguably none of them would be truly meaningful if the mechanisms don’t have the support of the global community.
    This paper aims to answer the question of legislation in the case of discontinued international cooperation through historical parallels with the legislative process during the Cold War era, taking into account the recent developments of space sustainability and analysis of the current situation in the industry through the eyes of the law maker.
    Drawing experience from other industries and taking into account the fact that humanity has already accumulated a high number of debris orbiting the planet, the paper will recommend potential measures and regimes to alleviate the burden on technology makers and address the ongoing problems with space sustainability. Finally, the paper will reflect on the practicality of any legislation enacted internationally in the context of the current political situation.

Alex Marinova
Corresponding author; First Steps Legal, United Kingdom.

Maura Zara
First Steps Legal, Italy.

Access_open The Promotion of Space Sustainability Through National Licensing Regimes

Keywords public policy, global public interest, sustainability, environment, New Space, lunar activities and payloads
Authors Leslie I. Tennen
AbstractAuthor's information

    The private sector is poised to reap untold riches in space, with new and imaginative ventures being announced almost daily. With great opportunities come great responsibilities, including the duty grounded in the Outer Space Treaty to conduct activities in space in a sustainable manner. The COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy and the IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines establish detailed policies to promote sustainability, but these instruments have applicability only in limited defined contexts. The elements of space sustainability are yet to be clearly articulated, especially with regard to private sector activities. The development of legal standards will need to consider the interests of all stakeholders, including the global public interest, and policies must consider history, culture, ethics, and aesthetics.
    The absence of comprehensive international agreements on standards of conduct places states, especially licensing regimes, at the forefront in determining and shaping the contours of acceptable activities. States such as the United States and New Zealand have taken initial steps in their domestic laws to articulate specific policies to promote sustainability and prohibit certain activities as contrary to public policy, such as obtrusive space advertising or harming, interfering with, or destroying other spacecraft or Apollo landing sites.
    This study examines the role that states and national licensing regimes can play in defining the elements of space sustainability with special emphasis on private sector activities. Substantive policy considerations are identified and analyzed regarding, inter alia, the protection of scientific investigations, prevention of interference with activities of other entities, preservation of sites of special historic, scientific or aesthetic interest, disclosure of information concerning activities and discoveries, and the impact of activities on orbital and celestial environments. The study concludes with specific recommendations that states can implement to promote space sustainability.

Leslie I. Tennen
Esq., Law Offices of Sterns and Tennen, 9524 West Camelback Road, Suite C-130, Number 347, Glendale, Arizona 85305 U.S.A.

Access_open Common but Differentiated Responsibility for Space Debris

Using Equitable Principles to Incentivise Debris Mitigation

Authors Arpit Gupta
AbstractAuthor's information

    Over the years, a small number of states have created the vast majority of space debris in orbit around the Earth. This growing population of space debris has led to an increase in the costs of operations for all actors, many of whom are only beginning their space programs and have not gained any benefits from the pollution of outer space; yet they are forced to bear the costs. This paper discusses how the foundational principles of space law incorporate the spirit of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (hereinafter CBDR) and show how it applies to questions of active and passive debris mitigation and liability for damage caused by space debris. This would be done by holding the chief polluters collectively responsible for damage caused to states who have not contributed to the debris population in any meaningful way so long as the latter complies with the debris mitigation norms.

Arpit Gupta
Gupta H.C. Overseas.