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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.

    In 2018, the president of the United States released his Space Policy Directive-3, which commands several sectors of the federal executive apparatus to reassess their current and future efforts to address space traffic management and space situational awareness issues. The reasons for this Directive can be boiled down to the belief that the continued use of the orbital realm depends on responsible management, which in turn depends on myriad factors that include the development of new technologies, the refinement of data gathering, and the clarification of governmental operational roles. In particular, the Directive calls for enhanced standardization of safety and best practices, and doles out tasks for relevant agencies, among which the Federal Communications Commission plays a significant role. Given the FCCs influence on the licensure of satellites and the proliferation of constellations, it will be a leader in fulfilling the obligations set out in SPD-3. In October of 2018, the FCC announced it would revisit its much older orbital debris management rules, with an eye towards their revision and in light of its responsibility for increasing traffic in outer space. In November, they released their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, in which they tackle a multitude of germane topics, from spectrum use to orbital lifetime, and from choice of orbit to post-mission disposal. The comment period opened up in early 2019, and more than eighty comments were submitted to the FCC by various industry representatives, federal agencies, and international entities. This essay proposes to examine how the FCC’s planned changes will address concerns outlined in SPD-3, what work remains to be done, and challenges the agency faces in ensuring U.S. compliance with international space law and environmental obligations.


Michael S. Dodge
Assistant Professor, University of North Dakota, Department of Space Studies.

    Most national commercial space legislation imposes a general obligation to comply with the Outer Space Treaty, often by reference to compliance with international obligations generally, on commercial entities seeking authorization to engage in space activities. Accordingly, a low-level or minimalistic harmonization exists in this respect. However, different wording in national space laws of even this very generally worded obligation as well as failure to include such an obligation in a select number of national space laws makes such harmonization imperfect. The consequences of this minimalistic, imperfect harmonization are a reduction in potential transparency benefits to private parties and missed opportunities to advance a coalescence of views of countries around Outer Space Treaty obligations. More detail in national space legislation regarding what the Outer Space Treaty requires may assist in achieving greater coalescence of views among countries of Outer Space Treaty obligations beyond what can be achieved relying on diplomacy alone within the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) and in other forums. It may also provide more transparency and certainty to private parties and confirm that OST obligations are minimally burdensome for commercial entities, thereby helping their business cases and expanding commercial space innovation and investment.


Matthew Schaefer
Haggart & Work Professor of International Trade Law & Founding Co-Director – Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program, University of Nebraska College of Law.

    On-orbit Servicing (OOS) will revolutionize the satellite industry, by offering tools that enable life-extension and debris remediation. However, the advanced technology heightens the risk of liability for damages and the overall perceived security in space. In addition, international OOS missions challenges the traditional concepts in the international space Treaties. Whilst OOS is not prohibited under the current legal framework, it is clear that the legal framework needs to be supplemented in order to address the new challenges. Based on the findings of the regulatory landscape, the paper offers various suggestions as to how the legal and political challenges can be addressed. These suggestions include meeting security concerns through a greater sense of transparency and trust, enabled by for example more information on the locations of the satellites, and rules for OOS behaviour.


Thea Flem Dethlefsen
LLM (Adv.) candidate in Air and Space Law, International Institute of Air and Space Law, Leiden University.

Joanna Langlade
Alumna of the Leiden University Advanced LL.M. in Air and Space Law.
Article

Commercial OOS and Its Future: Policy and Legal Issues beyond Life Extension

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 8 2018
Keywords on-orbit servicing (OOS), on-orbit assembly (OOA), on-orbit manufacturing (OOM), active debris removal (ADR), modular spacecraft concepts
Authors Olga Stelmakh-Drescher, Ian Christensen and Joerg Kreisel
AbstractAuthor's information

    Satellites have typically been viewed as high-cost, static platforms that once launched have a limited orbital lifetime and a physical and mechanical structure that cannot be altered or maintained (with very limited exceptions). However, in the current day, a number of technical and market innovations are being deployed by the private sector, which might change this paradigm. These include small satellites, on-orbit assembly (OOA) and modular spacecraft concepts, and on-orbit servicing (OOS) in particular.
    OOS represents a number of possible changes in the traditional conceptualization of space systems and operations, and requires new policy, regulatory, and legal approaches. OOS potentially allows operators to extend the lifetime of existing, hence, traditional satellites; and in future possibly provide repair services or correct on-orbit anomalies or other servicing based on cooperative design and related standards.
    Space debris is a growing concern for the use of outer space. At the dawn of the space era there was no interim solution for objects launched into space once their lifetime in orbit was over: they were either left in orbit, moved to a graveyard orbit or deorbited. OOS capabilities may become part of the solution through both life extension and deorbiting of existing space infrastructure elements as well as debris avoidance due to new cooperative design philosophies aiming at OOS. As such OOS has implications for space debris mitigation. Requirements laid down in national legislation are important to define the extent of execution of space debris mitigation guidelines, including the end-of-life plan. However, space debris implications are only one element which must be considered in relation to OOS capabilities.
    In many national jurisdictions OOS is a new application without clearly defined regulatory and licensing practices. States have an obligation to provide this authorization and supervision framework, while industry requires a permissive regulatory framework to provide legal certainty. All stakeholders are committed to preserving the safety of the operating environment.
    With that in mind, this paper analyzes the prerequisites for evolution of OOS and opportunities for market creation, provide an overview of existing boundary conditions regarding OOS policy and legal scope and its commercial implementation including risks and challenges to be address, and examine how development of technologies needed for OOS could influence insurance and serve as economic driver. Finally, the paper will try to envision the way ahead towards capacity-building for OOS.


Olga Stelmakh-Drescher
International Institute of Space Commerce, 147 S. Adams Street, Rockville MD, 20850, United States, osd@iisc.im (corresponding author).

Ian Christensen
Secure World Foundation, 525 Zang Street, Suite D, Broomfield, Colorado, 80021, United States, ichristensen@swfound.org.

Joerg Kreisel
JKIC, Christhauser Strasse 67a, D-42897, Remscheid, Germany, jk@jkic.de.
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.

    Since its inception, space law has been governed by principles and rules established by governments and primarily applicable to government activities. Today we are experiencing policy changes to encourage private sector initiatives to carry out government missions and to expand potential profit-making opportunities. The space treaties allow for nongovernmental activities in space but only under the auspices of a nation. Each nation approaches legal solutions in their own way. These variations in national law may create challenges for all space-faring nations. If there are no international agreements, they may create a more fragmented, unpredictable, and unsustainable environment for all participants, both governments and private companies in outer space.
    The fragmentation of international law is defined by the development of sets of rules pertaining to specific subject areas that may claim autonomy from principles of general international law. Those subject areas reflect the larger global issues that include the environment, energy, resource availability, migration, health, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Space law is unique and may be considered one of the fragmented areas of international law. The principles of the now 50-year old treaties have been formally acknowledged by all space-faring nations. New developments may threaten that.
    At issue are many areas of space law including liability, property rights, and environmental harm. Different on-orbit space activities such as satellite servicing, exploiting resources, and removing debris highlight the types of space activities with many similar legal concerns but which may result in different rules in different nations and even for different rules within a nation. New and growing legal tensions among space-faring nations will arise.
    Solutions to this problem are all suboptimal. Neither top-down oversight nor separate bottom-up rules or guidelines will suffice as stable, predictable, and long-lasting regimes that create a favorable legal environment for future public and private space exploration and use.


Henry R. Hertzfeld
Director and Research Professor, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University, Washington, DC; hhertzfeld@law.gwu.edu.
Article

Normative References to Non-Legally Binding Instruments in National Space Laws

A Risk-Benefit Analysis in the Context of Public International and Domestic Law

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 4 2018
Authors Alexander Soucek and Jenni Tapio
Author's information

Alexander Soucek
European Space Agency (ESA), The Netherlands, alexander.soucek@esa.int.

Jenni Tapio
Bird & Bird Attorneys, University of Helsinki, Finland, jenni.tapio@helsinki.fi.

    Increasing commercialization and privatization of outer space and multifaceted uses and exploration of the space potential and benefits raise new challenges to the existing framework of international space law and its established procedural legal mechanisms. What are the legal perspectives of an adjustment, supersession or possible resistance of the five United Nations treaties on outer space? UNISPACE conferences have aimed to enhance international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, including the promotion of common principles. UNISPACE+50 focuses, inter alia, on the issue of the “Legal regime of outer space and global space governance” and the effectiveness of the legal regime in the 21st century. Indeed, the international community is facing today new legal questions with respect to the exploitation of space recourses, multiplication of private space businesses, unilateral grants of national licenses to commercial sector, space traffic management, need for enhanced registration and precision of responsibility and liability regime, to name few. This presentation aims to introduce a general international legal framework of various procedural legal modes of further development of the five UN treaties, both in a de lege lata and de lege ferenda perspective. Light will be shed on the respective procedures of treaty law, prerequisites of the emergence of an international custom, role of non-legally binding standards, bottom-up impact of national legislations and assessment of an effective norm-making capacity of relevant stakeholders, all transposed in the space arena with regard to the current international space debate and practice of States. A selection of the most up-todate topics will serve as examples. This comprehensive legal outline aims to highlight various options that the UNISPACE dialogue and its agenda for the future can address.


Martina Smuclerova
Prague Security Studies Institute, Czech Republic, smuclerova@pssi.cz.

Irina Chernykh
Department of International Law, RUDN University.
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.
Article

Space Law and International Organizations

10th Nandasiri Jasentuliyana Keynote Lecture on Space Law

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 1 2018
Authors Marco Ferrazzani
Author's information

Marco Ferrazzani
Legal Counsel of the European Space Agency. Director of the International Institute of Space Law.

Olga A. Volynskaya
Russian Foreign Trade Academy, Russian Federation, o.a.volynskaya@gmail.com.

Anton de Waal
Anton de Waal Alberts, Parliament of South Africa.

Peter Martinez
Peter Martinez, SpaceLab, Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Cape Town.
Article

The Use of Space Technology Export Controls as a Bargaining Solution for Sustainability

A Chicago Convention Model of Space Governance

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 5 2017
Authors Gilles Doucet and Cassandra Steer
Author's information

Gilles Doucet
Gilles Doucet, Spectrum Space Security Inc.

Cassandra Steer
Cassandra Steer, Executive Director, Women in International Security-Canada.
Article

Emerging Approaches in Development Efforts

Chinese Perspective on Space and Sustainable Development

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 5 2017
Authors Yun Zhao
Author's information

Yun Zhao
Professor of Law, The University of Hong Kong.
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