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Article

Out into the Dark: Removing Space Debris from the Geostationary Orbit

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 6 2019
Keywords Space law, IADC, remediation, active space debris removal, Geostationary Orbit, GEO region, space debris mitigation guidelines, re-orbit guideline, Outer Space Treaty, Liability Convention
Authors Martha Mejía-Kaiser
AbstractAuthor's information

    During the first decades of placing space objects in the Geostationary Orbit, satellite owners and operators abandoned space objects at their end-of-life, or just freed the slot by removing their satellites with the last kilograms of fuel. Also rocket stages that propelled geostationary satellites were abandoned therein. Due to orbital perturbations at about 36,000 km, objects that do not have station-keeping systems can drift into the slots of neighboring satellites and disturb their operation. Space debris objects at this altitude take at least one million years to naturally de-orbit and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. The accumulation of space debris objects that permanently cross the Geostationary Orbit is a growing hazard to operational satellites. Researchers at the IADC who published a set of Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines in 2002, identified the Geostationary Orbit as a ‘protected region’. One Mitigation Guideline recommends to re-orbit space objects that are reaching their end-of-life outside of this protected area. A growing number of States and international organizations reflect the IADC Mitigation Guidelines in national legislation, recommendations and standards. However, there is still an increase of large space debris objects in this area. Since it is not realistic to wait (up to one million years) for the natural deorbiting of these space objects, remediation measures need to be initiated, such as debris removal with external systems. This article describes the State practice of re-orbiting and proposes a strategy for debris removal to maintain a sustainable access and use of the Geostationary Orbit.


Martha Mejía-Kaiser
PhD in Political and Social Sciences, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Member of IISL Board of Directors. Independent Researcher.
Article

Space Traffic Management: Not Just Air Traffic Management for Outer Space and More Than Data Analytics

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 4 2019
Keywords Space Traffic Management, Air Traffic Management, Space Situational Awareness, data analytics, technical measures, regulatory measures, space traffic rules
Authors Stefan A. Kaiser
AbstractAuthor's information

    Space Traffic Management is a complex concept that consists of technical, organisational and regulatory elements. It is not foreseen in the Outer Space Treaties and yet considered a crucial concept for a safe and sustainable access to space and interference free operations in space. Space Situational Awareness and Space Surveillance and Tracking are not identical to Space Traffic Management which is broader and reaches farther. Space Situational Awareness and Space Surveillance and Tracking are cognitive elements of Space Traffic Management. Air Traffic Management is often used as a reference for Space Traffic Management. However, not only the legal regimes of sovereign airspace as opposed to the regime of Outer Space are substantially different. Alone the differences of the physical characteristics support different technical approaches in air space and Outer Space. Motions in air space that follow aerodynamics and ballistics tend to be short lived and henceforth air traffic control has evolved from short term, tactical measures. Opposed to that, objects in Outer Space follow orbital dynamics and their trajectories persist for longer periods, so that control procedures need to address longer term effects and be of a strategic nature. In that context, Air Traffic Management has evolved in an opposite direction than Space Traffic Management. During recent years, rule-making for Space Traffic Management takes new roads. Lacking hard treaty law, an increasing range of non-binding standards, national regulations, practices of private bodies, voluntary information exchanges and cooperative routines tend to synchronize selected elements of Space Traffic Management. In addition, data analytics is taking an expanding role in Space Situational Awareness.


Stefan A. Kaiser
Wassenberg, Germany.

    Lagrangian Points constitute a stable gravitational point between two or more celestial bodies. Previously used for scientific endeavours, such as the SOHO mission, in the future, Lagrangian Points may also serve to be both commercially and strategically advantageous given the nominal amount of resources required to keep a satellite or similar orbital asset in station-keeping on a Lagrangian Point.
    To that extent, Lagrangian Points may be viewed as having a commercial ‘value ’ because of the competitive advantage afforded to the owner/operator of a spacecraft occupying such a position. This ‘value ’proposition has certain similarities with geostationary orbital positions in Earth orbit.
    Although propertisation of space and celestial bodies is prohibited under the Outer Space Treaty 1967 (UN), orbits within space still remain rivalrous and commercially lucrative (Green, et al. 2018). By operating in a Lagrangian Point, satellites could effectively exclude competing services from also operating within those Lagrangian Points. For example, where one satellite — or a satellite constellation — operates within a Lagrangian Point, another satellite or satellite constellation might be precluded from operating within the same space of that Lagrangian Point, or its proximity.
    This paper builds on previous work regarding the regulation of natural monopolies to mitigate anti-competitive behaviour risks (Green, et al. 2018) and proposes recommendations on how the risk of natural monopolies forming amongst Lagrangian Point missions may be mitigated under a variety of instruments available to both UNOOSA and the ITU.
    In addition to this, this paper considers the military use of Lagrangian Points to mitigate the risk of transforming space into a warfare domain.


Thomas Green
Thomas Green, PhD Student, University of Wollongong.

Patrick Neumann
Patrick Neumann, Chief Scientist, Neumann Space Pty Ltd.

Kent Grey
Kent Grey, Partner, Minter Ellison, 25 Grenfell Street, Adelaide 5000 Australia.

Trevor Sandlin
Trevor Sandlin, Executive Officer, USNS Fall River, United States Merchant Marine.

    Most if not all space activities require the use of the radio frequency spectrum (RFS); the RFS is essential for satellite and other wireless communications and scientific probes. Countries with advanced industries in the space sector obviously have more developed legislation than States that only aspire to participate in space activities. Even these, however, regulate space activities by which they are directly affected, primarily through their adherence to the International Telecommunication Union Radio Regulations (ITU-RR) and policies embedded in the space treaties. Thus, it can be said that most countries have some basic national legislation related to space activities.
    Some emerging economies have changed the focus of their activities, from wanting to acquire a satellite for communications, to obtaining a remote-sensing /earth observation satellite. Regardless of the change in focus, they face similar issues: budgetary and personnel constraints, as well as policies of industrialized countries regarding transfer of technology. Despite these challenges, less developed countries have contributed to the expansion of space activities and their regulation, at the national and international level. They participate in ITU Study Groups, and in the UN COPUOS’ sessions, bringing a different perspective to the deliberations of these entities.
    This paper will focus on Emerging Market Economies (EMEs), 5G networks and satellite mega- constellations; it will provide an overview of some of their contributions to space law and space activities, while keeping in mind limitations they continue facing.


Sylvia Ospina
S. Ospina & Associates - Consultants POB 141814, Coral Gables, FLA 33114.

    Among the numerous space activities, satellite communications remain the most widespread, essential, and advanced. To perform a communication function, satellites need to be placed in orbit and use the radio-frequency spectrum. Such limited natural resources, which require rational, equitable, efficient, and economical use in an interference-free environment, are managed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
    Before a new satellite or a satellite network is brought into use, the relevant operator carries out coordination with other operators which utilize satellite networks in the adjacent orbital locations. The results of the coordination procedure are then reflected in coordination agreements. Though coordination may last for years, the difficulty is not so much the conclusion of an agreement as its due performance and enforcement.
    Coordination agreements generally contain mutually acceptable technical parameters for the operation of certain frequencies and their breach may cause harmful interference toward communications satellites. At the request of administrations, the ITU carries out investigations of harmful interference and formulates recommendations. Although such a process has a few drawbacks, complete disregard for the content of coordination agreements makes it totally meaningless.
    If the ITU’s recommendations cannot satisfy the parties or are not duly followed, or if damage was caused by harmful interference and requires compensation, a judicial recourse seems inevitable. As disputes may involve parties around the globe, to which court should they apply? Commonly drafted by technical experts, coordination agreements hardly provide for a dispute resolution mechanism or governing law, while the application of general rules may bring parties to an exotic jurisdiction equally irrelevant to both. Whatever court is chosen, the question of specific knowledge arises. However, the ITU’s practice has always been not to get involved in disputes.
    Therefore, disputes related to coordination agreements pose legal challenges. Where to adjudicate the case and what law to apply are just the tip of the iceberg, while the major question of whether there is a need for a specialized court remains significant. This field of space activities apparently requires legal advice.


Elina Morozova
E. Morozova, Head of International Legal Service, Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications.

Yaroslav Vasyanin
Y. Vasyanin, Legal Counsel, International Legal Service, Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications.
Article

Dispute Settlement and Decision Making in Relation to the Scarce Orbit-Spectrum Resource

‘Preventive’ and ‘Reactive’ ITU Procedures and Their Relevance for Private Sector Actors

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 2 2019
Keywords ITU, Dispute Settlement, Spectrum Management, Private Actors
Authors Simona Spassova
AbstractAuthor's information

    The exploration and sustainable use of outer space is dependent, not only upon technological developments and capital investments, but also on the availability of the spectrum-orbit resource for the associated relevant radio communications. Even though the electromagnetic spectrum is a non-exhaustible resource, it is a limited and finite one. The increased number of actors and activities in space – both current and planned- is putting a strain on the coordination and allocation processes for available spectrum as well as on the subsequent observance of the international requirements in this respect. Hence, this paper focuses on the way geostatic positions are assigned and frequencies - allocated on an international level. These are complicated and highly time-consuming processes, involving technical and engineering expertise, coordination, compromise and some diplomacy too. On a global level these negotiations are done within the framework of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and spectrum/orbital positions can only be assigned to sovereign member states. At the same time, more and more satellite communication operators nowadays are private commercial entities, even if, licensed and supervised by their respective national administrations. The aim of this article is two-fold. First, it will examine the ways disputes related to the allocation and use of the spectrum resources are handled within the framework of the ITU. It identifies ‘preventive’ and ‘reactive’ efforts to settle disputes within the framework of the organization. In other words: what is the ITU doing to prevent the potential for conflict and what measures does it offer for resolution once a conflict has occurred? Different means of dispute resolution - will be examined together with the associated advantages. Secondly, the article will also analyse the role of private operators and not only Member States administrations in these processes. The ITU brings together also Sector members from the industry and in doing so, it for provides for multistakeholder discussion. Arguably, as the oldest UN agency, the Union is remarkably fast and adept when responding to technological challenges and considering the needs of the private sector. Is this so also when disputes are at stake, whereby private operators are not an official party?


Simona Spassova
Simona Spassova is Faculty Advisor to the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Team and a legal consultant for the International Finance Corporation.
Article

The Role of International Territorial Administration in (Semi) Permanent Lunar Presence

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 1 2019
Keywords International Territorial Administration, Governance, International Law, Space Law
Authors Matija Renčelj
AbstractAuthor's information

    The aim of this paper is to analyse examples of ITA as a relevant model in administering celestial bodies. Proposed missions to the Moon promise ambitious plans which will change the way humanity perceives (and administers?) our closest celestial neighbour. Examples of ITA, which first emerged in the 19th and early 20th century are valuable resources for understanding how international organisations can undertake administration of increased presence on celestial bodies. In fact, international organisations already perform such powers (i) either vaguely, e.g. through the OST or (ii) through a clear regulatory mechanism that assigns slots in Geostationary orbit. In order for the regulatory framework to get up to speed with developments in space exploration the solution is two-fold: (i) avoid fragmenting debates on niche-topics (resources, cultural heritage, safety standards) but rather tackle them through a comprehensive framework and (ii) allow the UN (or a body designated by the UN) to actively administer activities on celestial bodies. ITA mechanisms developed in the past 100 years, have proven flexible enough to adapt to multiple scenarios and different political realities. Furthermore they allow international organisations to assume powers of administration without acquiring ownership over the territory and are hence in line with the provisions laid down in the OST. The analysed mechanisms in no way represent a magic solutions to all the alleged shortcomings of the current regulatory environment, it is nevertheless important to establish a nexus between developed examples of ITA and potential future mechanisms administering activities on celestial bodies.


Matija Renčelj
Member States Relationships & Partnerships Office, European Space Agency.

    The proliferation of space debris and the imminent deployment of large constellations of satellites in LEO could negatively impact the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. A potential solution to clean up space and maintain a sustainable space environment is Active Debris Removal (ADR). The ADR is a potential revenue earning activity, but such activity needs a legal framework that will dissolve the existing concerns. Space law is fundamental for supporting a potential business case for commercial ADR missions. This paper will bring into discussion an international mechanism addressing the financial means for commercial ADR activity with a focus on LEO. By doing so, this paper will address the advent of ADR as lucrative activity and will analyze the proposal to finance an international fund by the launching states and ADR operators in a “Pay or play” fashion.
    In particular, this paper will analyze the need of an international funding mechanism for space debris removal and analyze the liability issues affecting the launching state and indirectly the private company with ADR capabilities. This paper aims to answer why private companies should contribute to an international fund for space debris removal depending on the Post-Mission Disposal capabilities of the satellites deployed in orbit and/or ADR solutions identified in case the satellites fail to answer the control commands. Further, this paper will analyze the prospects to manage the activity for ADR by accessing this fund.


Claudiu Mihai Tăiatu
LLM (Adv.) in Air and Space Law, International Institute of Air and Space Law, Leiden University.

    The three “global commons (GC)” Antarctica, outer space and the high seas/deep seabed, which do not fall under the sovereignty of States (“State-free”), have become a symbol of peaceful cooperation and coordination of the international community. The international treaties which have already been negotiated from the 1950s show an astonishing degree of foresight concerning common public interest. Today, however, each of the three spaces is at risk in at least one of the following areas: peace and arms control, sustainability of use, and just and fair distribution of resources and benefits. This has gone so far that States have begun questioning the concept of nonappropriation. Could this potentially lead to conflicts – even armed conflicts? A new approach to the preservation and fair management of the GC is therefore necessary and requires appropriate political and diplomatic action. This paper intends to tackle the three GC together in order to identify steps for further developing their governance and to investigate, whether joint diplomatic initiatives for the three GC could be more effective than isolated efforts to deal with single hotspots. It will be argued that the future of the GC lies in the establishment of comparable moratoria, thresholds, fees and codes of conduct drawing from best practices in one or more of the three GC.


Kai-Uwe Schrogl
European Space Agency (ESA).

Jai Sanyal
Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai.
Article

“Leviathan Lite” - Towards a Global Stewardship Organization for Space Domain Awareness, Conduct, And Remediation

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 8 2018
Keywords Satellite Regulation, Space Traffic Management, Social Contract
Authors Harrison E. Kearby, John M. Horack and Elizabeth K. Newton
AbstractAuthor's information

    This paper examines the dimensions, legal and policy implications, and ramifications of a proposed International Space Situational Awareness Organization (ISSAO), whose charter would be to provide leadership for international and collaborative stewardship of the space environment in LEO and beyond. As ever more satellites, rockets, and space stations are launched into space, the need for debris tracking, debris remediation, orbital traffic deconfliction, and definitions of ‘best practices in caretaking the space environment’ grow. Current organizations and programs are successful, at least to some extent, in educating the world on the potential dangers of space debris, and the importance of space situational awareness, yet they have little legal or political standing to provide enforcement, compliance, or remediation. Many global discussions related to space situational domain awareness have called for a cooperative international effort to create guidelines, if not charter an organization tasked with the stewardship of the space environment. Here, we examine important precedents set forth in international law and cooperation, and apply these to a proposed comprehensive body to steward space situational awareness and debris mitigation. We elucidate the requirements, enforceable powers, and probable limits of such an organization as well as important questions to be answered prior to establishment of such a body.


Harrison E. Kearby
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, John Glenn College of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University.

John M. Horack
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, The Ohio State University.

Elizabeth K. Newton
John Glenn College of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University.
Article

The Principle of Non-Appropriation and the Exclusive Uses of LEO by Large Satellite Constellations

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 8 2018
Keywords Non-Appropriation Principle, LEO, Exclusive Use, Large Satellite Constellation, Mega Constellation
Authors Yuri Takaya-Umehara, Quentin Verspieren and Goutham Karthikeyan
AbstractAuthor's information

    Newly proposed projects of large satellite constellations are challenging the established business models of the satellite industry. Targeting the Low Earth Orbit (LEO), already the most populated orbit for space applications, these constellations pose an increasing risk regarding the sustainable use of outer space. According to the Inter- Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), presenting at the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN COPUOS in 2018, the implementation level of the IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines in LEO is considered as “insufficient and no apparent trend towards a better implementation is observed", when compared with GEO. In parallel, 11 private entities such as OneWeb, Telesat and SpaceX have applied for approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to initiate large satellite constellation projects.
    Before the launch of these massive constellations, several legal issues have been identified from the perspectives of international obligations related to liability and registration. Taking them into consideration, as well as the IADC recommendations, the present article reviews one of the most fundamental principles in space law, the principle of non-appropriation, to clarify its applicability to the exclusive use of specific LEO orbits by large satellite constellations. After this clarification, the paper concludes with proposals for possible solutions.


Yuri Takaya-Umehara
The University of Tokyo.

Quentin Verspieren
The University of Tokyo.

Goutham Karthikeyan
The University of Tokyo & Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (ISAS-JAXA).

Gilles Doucet
Spectrum Space Security Inc.

Irina Chernykh
Department of International Law, RUDN University.

    In 2010, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UNCOPUOS formed the Working Group on Long Term Sustainability (LTS) of Outer Space Activities, assigning it the task of formulating voluntary non-binding guidelines focusing on sustainable space utilization, space debris and space operations, space weather, and regulatory regimes. At its June 2016 meeting, the UNCOPUOS approved 12 of the proposed guidelines, while several remained on the UNCOPUOS agenda. Although the LTS Guidelines are voluntary, their adoption by the UNCOPUOS and consideration by the UNGA’s 4th Committee, are evidence of a growing awareness of their potential contribution to the evolution of space law applicable to all states. This paper explores whether the LTS Guidelines could evolve into customary legal norms as part of customary international law (CIL) and steps that could promote that evolution.


Larry F. Martinez
California State University, Long Beach, USA.

James H. Armstead
Attorney, USA.

Merve Erdem
University of Ankara, Turkey.

Mahulena Hofmann
University of Luxembourg, Mahulena.Hofmann@uni.lu.
Article

Mitigation of Anti-Competitive Behaviour in Telecommunication Satellite Orbits and Management of Natural Monopolies

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 2 2018
Keywords anti-competitive conduct, constellation satellites, monopoly
Authors Thomas Green, Patrick Neumann and Kent Grey
AbstractAuthor's information

    Previous activities in developing satellite networks for telecommunications such as the TelStar, Relay and Syncom satellite networks of the early 1960s through to the Iridium, Globalstar and ORBCOMM constellations of the 1990s were reserved to geostationary orbits and low orbits with less than 100 satellites comprising their network. These satellite networks distinguished themselves by being business-to-government and business-tobusiness facing by contracting with government and domestic carriage and media providers for the supply of services. Customers for these services did not constitute either small to medium sized businesses, or individuals in the general public.
    With the advent of what has been dubbed ‘NewSpace’, however, new entrants into the market are developing constellation satellite networks that operate in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Unlike the legacy satellite telecommunication networks of the 1960s-1990s, these constellation satellite networks are focused on, amongst other things, Internet of Things (IOT) devices, asset management and tracking, Wi-Fi hot-spotting, backhaul networking and contracting with small businesses and the general public.
    Regional examples of these new telecommunication heavyweights include Fleet Space Technologies (Fleet) - an Australian company undertaking to launch 100 satellites into LEO, Sky and Space Global (SAS) - an Australian-British-Israeli consortium that intends to provide a constellation of 200 small satellites, OneWeb’s planned fleet of 650 satellites that may be expanded to 2,000 satellites, and, SpaceX’s planned StarLink network of 12,000 satellites. In addition, companies such as Spire and PlanetLabs intend to provide geospatial information through their own constellation networks to government and educational institutions alongside the private sector.
    Although propertisation of space and celestial bodies is prohibited under the Outer Space Treaty 1967 (UN), near-Earth orbits still remain rivalrous and commercially lucrative. By operating in a LEO environment, these satellite constellation networks have the potential to exclude competing services by new entrants to market. For example, where one constellation network has an orbital plane or orbital shell, another constellation may not be able to have the same orbital plane or orbital shell.
    Presently, the literature to date focuses on the allocation of spectrum bandwidth, and space traffic management with a focus on orbital debris mitigation. This paper addresses these concerns and offers recommendations on how the risk of ‘natural’ monopolies forming for specific constellation satellite networks in LEO may be mitigated under instruments available to both UNOOSA and the ITU.


Thomas Green
(Corresponding author), Neumann Space Pty Ltd, 1/41 Wood Avenue, Brompton 5007 South Australia, tom@neumannspace.com.

Patrick Neumann
Neumann Space Pty Ltd, 1/41 Wood Avenue, Brompton 5007 South Australia.

Kent Grey
b Partner, Minter Ellison, 25 Grenfell Street, Adelaide 5000 Australia, kent.grey@minterellison.com.

Cécile Gaubert
Gaubert Law Firm.

    The majority of the world still does not have access to the internet, and this “digital divide” is not only an issue in developing countries. Unconnected populations exist in every country, and regulators must find ways to provide universal access to the internet. Furthermore, the demand for connectivity (internet and data) is growing exponentially, and existing terrestrial solutions likely will be insufficient. Regulators must foster new technologies such as the newest non-geostationary satellite constellations, which have almost no delay for two-way voice and data connections and can provide broadband to the most remote and unconnected populations and industries. To ensure the fast deployment of these solutions, regulators should support technology-neutral regulations (such as blanket licensing) that encourage speedy rollout of innovative services, as well as have transparent “open skies” policies that promote competition (which has been proven to boost economies).


Ruth Pritchard-Kelly
Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, OneWeb.
Article

From the Unilateral Acts of States towards Unilateralism in Space Law

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 1 2018
Keywords Unilateral acts of States, unilateralism, multilateralism, cooperation, space law making
Authors Tugrul Cakir
AbstractAuthor's information

    Unilateralism has generally been considered a concept with negative connotations. It should be underscored that in some cases unilateralism has resulted in changes either to customary law or treaty law, whereas in others it has not. Consequently, not every type of unilateralism can be perceived as a challenge to Space Law. Nevertheless, we can see the risks of unilateralism when not acquiesced to or generally supported by other States. It is obvious that the multilateral process is becoming more complicated than before which complicates finding multilateral solutions in Space Law. This paper argues that a better understanding of unilateral acts is necessary before delving into the matter of the unilateralism in Space Law.


Tugrul Cakir
Centre du Droit des Espaces et des Frontières, Université Jean Moulin Lyon III, France, PhD candidate, tugrul.cakir@etu.univ-lyon3.fr.
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