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Journal International Institute of Space Law x

    My paper advocates for the creation of a legal policy aimed at accelerating the initiation of the “Space Debris Removal Business” as quickly as possible. This policy is focused on government compensation for situations where the damage in outer space exceeds an insured amount. The policy will cover any damage derived from active orbital services, including Space Debris Removal.
    There is a common understanding across the globe that Space Debris Remediation is becoming necessary to keep space activities safe and sustainable. It would be ideal if a core set of laws were applicable to all nations. However, because Space Debris is increasing rapidly, we cannot wait for the formulation of international standards.
    Therefore, I would like to propose a measure to minimize the barriers of entry into the “Space Debris Removal Business,” which features a compulsory insurance and governmental compensation system (by referring the system in the field of rocket launch) to encourage private companies to conduct Space Debris Removal as a part of their core businesses.
    To sum up, until the moment an international rule is established, each country should proceed in haste to implement legislation for eliminating space debris. As industrial technologies develop, I expect to see more nations voluntarily remove broken satellites as well as upper stages of rockets that they themselves launched. I hope to support a burgeoning international debate on this issue.

Mihoko Shintani
Partner, Lawyer, TMI Associates, 23rd Floor, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-6123, Japan & Attorney-at-Law, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Ochanomizu Sola City, 4-6 Kandasurugadai, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-8008 Japan.

Space Debris: Between Unity and Fragmentation – Risk as a Static Principle with Dynamic Outcomes

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 6 2019
Keywords risk, space object, space debris removal, material environment, social milieu, collision prevention, harmful interference
Authors Ward Munters
AbstractAuthor's information

    This paper analyses the interrelationship between science, risk, international law and the prevention of collisions between space objects, so as to contribute to progressive development of international law and of an epistemic community invested with a common conceptual and terminological apparatus, as well as to examine interrelated juridical and technical obstacles and opportunities regarding the creation of an informed, uniform and therefore, it is posited, more effective regulatory regime.
    To contribute to establishing a common frame of reference, the article presents and explores an analytical and theoretical mapping exercise of some structural contours delineating mutual space object relations, positing the common construction of risk and its collective management as central to the asymptotic realization of uniformity in standards concerning space objects, space debris and its removal, and preventing physical interference or collisions. The paper proceeds from scientific insights into collision risk to uncover the extent of the technical notion of risk in this area before briefly examining how risk management mechanisms operate in international law to produce restrictions or permissions regarding future conduct, activities or incidents. Risk emerges as a ‘static’, i.e. common, principle with ‘dynamic’, i.e. variable, outcomes that may form the normative foundation of a uniform yet highly adaptive regulatory framework – a principle thus particularly suited to protean conditions in orbital space. Finally, some sketches follow of a heuristic device for envisaging the normative and jurisprudential construction of a static risk principle that can correlatively produce the substantively variable permissive rights and restrictive obligations as may attach to space objects, i.e. output, on the basis of evolving material conditions in orbit, i.e. input.

Ward Munters
Institute for International Law and Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, KU Leuven, Tiensestraat 41, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.

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.

Irmgard Marboe
University of Vienna, Austria.

    An international legal regime that comprehensively governs the exploitation of space resources is currently missing; nevertheless, the United States has enacted legislation specifically disciplining this activity. The US Space Act gives rise to the question of whether a State, through national law, can unilaterally discipline a specific use of commons over which States have joint stewardship, especially if, at the international level, such a use is not comprehensively disciplined and lacks consensus. This paper does not have the ambition to resolve the persisting academic debate surrounding the interpretation of international space law regarding the appropriation and utilization of space resources. Rather, it attempts to provide legal support for the concept that the international community is the sole subject in the position to further specify the rules to govern the use of outer space and celestial bodies, including of the resources thereof. In doing so, the US Space Act is analyzed in light of the key principles of the Outer Space Treaty relevant to the exploration and use of space resources. These principles are further subjected to critical analysis, the outcome of which is assessed against the Moon Agreement provisions. In its conclusion, the paper explores which legal steps States could possibly undertake to ensure a smooth and prosperous development of the space mining industry.

Ermanno F. Napolitano
PhD Candidate, McGill University, Faculty of Law.

Prescribing the Best Medicine for the Struggling Space Mining Industry

An International Regulatory Agency or a New NASA Office?

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 5 2019
Authors Michael Weinhoffer
AbstractAuthor's information

    The space mining industry is literally having trouble getting off the ground. Although there is an abundance of valuable mineral resources on the Moon and near-Earth asteroids and supportive legal instruments, no commercial space mining missions have launched as of this writing. Moreover, the two most prominent space mining companies were bought by other companies at the end of 2018, and their space mining plans seem to be on hold. No matter the cause of this stalemate, it is argued in this paper that the near-term establishment of an international space mining authority with regulatory power would be detrimental to the already fragile industry. While over-extraction and ownership of space resources are serious concerns, provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, national legislation, and non-binding international guidelines will sufficiently mitigate the impacts of these legal questions on the industry in the near-term. Rather than implement a binding legal agreement on commercial space mining or establish an international agency to regulate the industry, it is proposed that a space mining technology office be established in NASA’s Space Technology Directorate. Discussions about the legal challenges of commercial space mining should continue, but it is necessary for NASA to assist this industry so that lunar resource extraction will play a critical role in the Artemis program, which aims to achieve a sustained lunar presence by 2028. The Artemis program is steaming ahead, but lunar mining companies, whose achievements will significantly enhance the scientific value of the Artemis program, must not get left behind.

Michael Weinhoffer
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida, United States.

Daniel Porras
Daniel Porras, Space Security Fellow, UNIDIR.

P.J. Blount
P.J. Blount, University of Luxembourg.

Regulation of Commercial Mining of Space Resources at National and International Level

An Analysis of the 1979 Moon Agreement and the National Law Approach

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 5 2019
Authors Vinicius Aloia
Author's information

Vinicius Aloia
Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki, Yliopistonkatu 3, 00101, Helsinki, Finland.

    The milestone provisions in the Outer Space Treaty designate outer space and celestial bodies as an area beyond national jurisdiction in which national jurisdiction extends only to space objects and persons in outer space. In view of upcoming commercial space mining activities and the recent national legal developments, it is of crucial importance to delineate the different levels of legal authority over space resource activities and to analyze them systematically. What is indisputable, in the first place, is that any national appropriation in outer space is prohibited by Article II OST, while the appropriation of resources is not explicitly mentioned. More specific provisions are formulated in the Moon Agreement. Its Article 11 prohibits the appropriation of resources on celestial bodies and states that such activities — as soon as they become feasible — must be regulated by the international community of States. While this moratorium on resource exploitation is binding only for the 18 ratifying State parties to the Moon Agreement, there is no doubt that the legal authority to regulate over outer space lies with the international community and not with single States. Unilateral legislative acts must conform to existing international provisions as outer space is an area beyond national jurisdiction. Where such explicit provisions are lacking – as is the case with the appropriation of space resources – the lawful scope of national authority must nevertheless be delineated through international regulation as States lack the national prescriptive authority to regulate over outer space and celestial bodies.

Stephan Hobe
Prof. Dr. Stephan Hobe is Director of the Institute of Air Law, Space Law and Cyber Law and Holder of the Chair for Public International Law, European Law, European and International Economic Law at the University of Cologne.

Rada Popova
Rada Popova is a senior lecturer (public international law, EU law and constitutional law) at the University of Cologne and research fellow at the Institute of Air Law and Space Law in Cologne.

    A set of principles are proposed for multilateral agreements to allow real property rights on celestial bodies within the confines of the Outer Space Treaty (OST). They are:

  • Clear affirmation that the “province of all mankind” language of the OST is fundamentally incompatible with the “common heritage of all mankind” language of the Moon Agreement. Although many parties to the latter are also parties to the OST, it should be affirmed as logically impossible for states to be parties to both treaties.

  • Formal recognition of the utter impracticality of the view that whoever mines resources in space must “share any benefit with all states,” a prevailing false interpretation of the “province of all mankind” language in Article II. The notion that the sale of liquid oxygen from the Moon to Elon Musk for a trip to Mars should somehow benefit Botswana is absurd. But for imports of space resources to Earth, one way of dealing with the issue could be a tariff that would fund a development bank, from which nations could borrow to fund their own space projects.

  • A requirement that all parties to the agreements will recognize property claims on celestial bodies of individuals from any nation, including nonparty nations, subject to certain conditions. The U.S. Homestead Act of 1862 could be used as a model, requiring an individual to inhabit a prospective piece of real estate for some designated period of time, and improve it in some sense, in order to gain title. The General Mining Act of 1872 might also be used as a model, regulating mining claims and requiring their purchase for a fee from a governing body, if they are considered to be found on publicly owned land.

  • A distinction between resources extracted in space for personal use, such as harvesting lunar water for life support; resources extracted in space for space commerce, such as harvesting lunar water to create propellant to sell; and resources brought back to Earth from space and for sale in the terrestrial economy.

  • A permissive interpretation of Article IX of the OST, which requires avoiding “harmful contamination” of celestial bodies. There is need for a clear interpretation of this clause that would not preclude, say, humans landing on Mars, yet would also ensure the preservation of heritage sites, such as the Apollo landing sites on the Moon or Viking landing sites on Mars.

Rand E. Simberg

    The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group has been developing the conceptual “building blocks” for the future development of an international framework for regulating the extraction of natural resources from celestial bodies. One of these building blocks contemplates the potential creation of an international registry for determining the priority rights of an entity to engage in resource extraction on a celestial body (or on a particular part of a celestial body). The purpose of this registry would be both (1) to ensure that such entities can operate without interference and (2) to ensure that such entities operate with due regard for the interests of other operators. This paper proposes a structure for such a registry as well as a process for granting priority rights to a particular entity. The proposed structure and process draws from three existing international registries of different types: (1) the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space, (2) the ITU Master International Frequency Register, and (3) the International Registry of Mobile Assets created by the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment. Each of these registries serve as helpful examples of how to create an international registry for resource extraction. The UN Register provides an example of how to describe the location and nature of the resource extraction activities. The procedure used when updating the ITU Master Register could be transferred, with some alterations, to maintaining the resource extraction registry. Finally, the Cape Town Convention registry operates in conjunction with priority rules that would work equally well for resource extraction. In addition to ensuring the priority of the right to engage in resource extraction, the Cape Town Convention registry also gives guidance regarding how the registry could be used to protect scientific, historical, and cultural sites on celestial bodies. Eventually, this registry could be expanded to govern the use of land on celestial bodies regardless of the nature of such use, including other commercial operations or even residential housing.

Mark J. Sundahl
Cleveland State University.

P.J. Blount
University of Luxembourg.

Jonathan C. McDowell
Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA, USA.

    The discussion of Space Traffic Management (STM) has rapidly emerged over the past couple of years but policy decisions or concrete actions are yet to be ignited to date. From the beginning of discussions of the Draft International Code of Conduct for Space Activities (ICOC), a combination of a top-down approach engaging the political commitments of States and a bottom-up approach of technically affordable solutions have become essential for realizing sustainable space activities at a global level. These approaches are the logical conclusion of the need to establish common standards and safety regulations across the entirety of operations in outer space. However, after experiencing the multiple disappointments of topdown approaches, some began as bottom-up approaches but ended up as top-down, including the Draft Best Practice Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Space Activities at Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Outer Space (COPUOS), ICOC, and the Report of the Group of Governmental Experts for Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Space Activities; therefore, methods of engaging actors must be carefully designed. At this point, considering from the actors’ incentives, a bottom-up approach among civil operators towards global STM rule-making for safe space operations should be promoted. This paper will describe the main reason why the operators have to be the main players at this stage, based on the reluctance of States to regulate traffic in outer space. States are unlikely to regulate other traffic areas, apart from their incentive to maintain the order of the area, as they do not have sovereignty over any part of the area. Civil operators, on the other hand, will become liable for damages due to on-orbit accidents in the near future. The current evaluation standard of fault liability for on-orbit damage will change in the near future, due to the accumulation of cases involving the practical standards of operations. In these circumstances, those operators who do not conform to the stipulated standards will be deemed liable for damages. Therefore, at this stage, operators have incentives to take an important role in the de facto rulemaking process by producing practical standards and guidelines. This process will help secure the future of space activities while forming standards of fault liability affordably.

Yu Takeuchi
Institute of Space Law, Graduate School of Law, Keio University, 2-15-45 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan 108-8345. Management and Integration Department, Human Space Flight Technology Directorate, JAXA, 2-1-1 Sengen, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan 305-8505.

Chuck Dickey
TCTB, LLC, P. O. Box 591031, Houston, TX 77259.

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.

    The importance of Space Traffic Management (STM) has increased in the international space community and has become widely recognized. This might be due to the increasing need to enhance space safety and security. Today, STM is still a controversial issue and there is no internationally agreed standard, definition, or framework in this regard. Recently, states are realising the importance of the topic and the need for further international collaboration. Therefore, several states, international organizations and individuals started to dive deep into this topic. The UAE Space Agency has conducted a study on the application of STM to national policies and regulatory designs. This study reviewed some of the international studies such as the IAA Cosmic Study of 2017. It also reviewed some domestic regulations and policies such as the 2018 U.S. policy on STM. The study in general focused on certain areas such as the definition of STM, provisions in the international space treaties that are relevant to STM, elements of space traffic management, and whether if these elements covered by the UAE Space Policy, draft Law, and Regulations. The UAE Space Agency, has interest in STM in general. The study has taken into consideration the main elements and standards of STM, when developing the domestic regulations and processes. The UAESA has and will continue also to join other global efforts towards developing a suitable international regulatory framework for STM. In this paper, the study’s elements and comparisons will be described, along with concluding remarks. In addition, it will indicate how these conclusions about STM were integrated into the National Space Policy and various Regulations within the UAE Space Regulatory Framework.

Fatheya Al Sharji
Space Policies and Legislations Department, UAE Space Agency, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

    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.

    Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty, requiring “authorization and continuing supervision” of “national activities in outer space” including those of “nongovernmental entities”, has always been viewed as the primary international obligation driving the establishment of national space legislation for the purpose of addressing private sector space activities. As the Article itself did not provide any further guidance on precisely what categories of ‘national activities by nongovernmental entities’ should thus be subjected to national space law and in particular to a national licensing regime, in academia generally three different interpretations soon came to be put forward on how to interpret the key notion of ‘national’ in this context as scoping such national regimes.
    Looking back at 50 years of national space legislation addressing private sector space activities, however, we now have the possibility to look not only at the writings of learned experts, at best a subsidiary source of public international law, but at actual State practice-cum-opinio iuris on the matter. The present paper, on the basis of a survey of more than two dozen existing national space laws, will therefore be able to considerably narrow the appropriate interpretation of ‘national activities in outer space’, so as to diminish the uncertainty as regards what categories of private space activities States may be held responsible for, thus both narrowing the permissible discretion of individual States in scoping their national space law regimes and increasing the coherence and transparency of space law at the international level.

Frans G. von der Dunk
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Law, Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program.
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