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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.

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.

    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.

    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.

    This paper will critically evaluate the provisions of the Space Industry Act 2018, its relationship with the Outer Space Act 1986 and the underlying arguments behind the UK Government’s decision to use the new Act to encourage both the development of launch systems within the UK and the attendant infrastructure. It will also consider the ramifications for the space economy within the UK and how the legislation will facilitate access to space for small space start-up companies and encourage the growth of a nascent space tourism industry. Given that the UK has taken the opportunity to revivify its national space law, the paper will go on to discuss some of the key points of significance in the new legislation. In particular, the 2018 Act lacks specific detail on many key regulatory issues, instead providing a skeleton outline which requires augmentation by way of secondary legislation. The paper will consider the way in which the UK will seek to fulfil its international treaty obligations within the legislative framework and whether the legislation can serve to contribute to the growth of the UK space economy amidst unprecedented political turmoil.

Christopher J. Newman
Professor of Space Law & Policy, Northumbria Law School, Northumbria University at Newcastle.

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.

Michael Friedl
Michael Friedl is a PhD candidate and research and teaching assistant at the University of Vienna, Austria.

Maximilian Gartner
Maximilian Gartner is a PhD candidate in a joint PhD program at the University of Bologna, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Mykolas Romeris University.

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.

    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.

A Treaty of Many Minds: An In-Depth Look at the Travaux Préparatoires of the Principles Declaration of 1963

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 1 2019
Keywords Principles Declaration, Mexico, travaux préparatoires, lacunae, insuffisance sociale, non liquet
Authors Howard Chang
AbstractAuthor's information

    Much of the current literature on interpretation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (OST) focuses on the OST’s own travaux préparatoires, but not on the Principles Declaration of 1963 (Principles Declaration), the basic ideas of which were incorporated into the OST. Many of these ideas expressed in the travaux of the Principles Declaration give a very forward-looking glimpse at issues in outer space, whether they were emphasized or simply discussed.
    This paper will show the vast behind-the-scenes discussions of issues not expressly included in the OST: issues such as commercialism in space, extraterrestrial contact, space crimes, stationary satellites, etc. For instance, in a working paper submitted by the delegation of Mexico to the ad hoc committee preceding the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), Mexico asked, inter alia, to what extent a launching State is responsible for changes that occur in human beings who it sends to inhabit celestial bodies other than Earth. This forward-looking issue was passed over in favor of the more pressing issues of the time: disarmament, liability, peaceful purposes, etc. However, the travaux’s mention of these issues may help illuminate current gaps in the law and give guidance on how to proceed within the current legal regime.

Howard Chang
Georgetown University Law Center, 600 New Jersey Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001.

    The Moon contains resources such as Helium-3, Titanium, and Rare Earth Elements, that can potentially be extracted and incorporated into different products.
    The Outer Space treaty provides every state the right to extract and use resources from the Moon, however with limitations under the treaty. Under Article IV para 2 of the treaty, all State parties are mandated to ‘use’ the Moon exclusively for peaceful purposes. However the treaty fails to define the term ‘peaceful’. This ambiguity offers opportunity of such extracted minerals to be used for military purposes, i.e. incorporated into weapons, armours, structures etc. by Space powers in the future. In that case, is military use of these lunar resources permitted under the Outer Space Treaty?
    Thus to analyse the legality this paper will adopt the rules of interpretation under The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties to establish that the term ”peaceful” can only be interpreted as ”Non-Military” and that any interpretation allowing ”Use” of the moon and its resources for military purposes would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty. The paper will also discuss the interpretative evolution of Peace, from Negative Peace i.e. mere absence of war or aggression, to a broader concept of Positive Peace to conclude that military use of resources extracted from the Moon is Non-peaceful and is prohibited under Outer Space Treaty. Finally, the paper will end at a functional approach to tackle the problems posed by the dual use of these Lunar Resources.

Tejas Bharadwaj
T. Bharadwaj, student, BA. LL.B School of Law, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India.

Harshith Iyer
H. Iyer, Student, B. Com. LL.B School of Law, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India.

Setsuko Aoki
Professor of Law, Keio University Law School, Tokyo, Japan.

The Documentation of Human Rights Violations by Satellites: The Satellite Sentinel Project

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 1 2019
Keywords Documentation of international crimes, satellite images, evidence, Space Law instruments
Authors Ingrid Barbosa Oliveira and Jonathan Percivalle de Andrade
AbstractAuthor's information

    The present work aims to examine and study the organization “The Satellite Sentinel Project”, created to monitor the commission of international crimes in Sudan, which was essential to support the attacked civilian population and document human rights violations that occurred during the Civil War. By that, it is possible to understand that space technology can also be considered an important asset in the human rights protection systems, especially regarding the production of evidence of heinous acts of violence. Therefore, an important question arises: are those images able to guarantee legal standards to human rights systems regardless of the lack of regulation of satellite use in this particular area? For this purpose, the Sudan case was studied in light of the evidence obtained by the Satellite Sentinel Project, in order to understand its effectiveness. In sequence, the Space Law instruments, which regulate Earth observation and remote sensing activities, were examined. Finally, the discussion relied on the lawfulness and admissibility of satellite imagery as evidence before accountability proceedings.

Ingrid Barbosa Oliveira
I. B. Oliveira, Faculty of Law, International Law Postgraduate Center, Catholic University of Santos, Santos, São Paulo, Brazil.

Jonathan Percivalle de Andrade
J. P. de Andrade, Faculty of Law, Department of International Law, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.

Thea Flem Dethlefsen
LLB and LLM, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Adv. LL.M. Air and Space Law, Leiden University (2018).

Heejeong Vicky Jeong
LLB (Hons.), London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. Adv. LL.M. Air and Space Law, Leiden University (2018).

Antonino Salmeri
LLM (cum laude), University of Catania, LLM (cum laude) Law and Government of the EU, LUISS University, Rome. Adv. LLM Air and Space Law, Leiden University (2018).

Jonathan Percivalle de Andrade
Peruíbe College.

    From ESA’s Moon Village to Elon Musk’s Martian cities, there is increasing talk of establishing permanent human settlements or outposts in outer space. November 2018 will mark 18 years of continuous human presence in space via the International Space Station (ISS). However, these new proposals are different for several reasons. They are intended to have a permanence never envisioned for the ISS, they are intended to be ‘home’ to more than professional astronauts and fewer than a handful of space tourists, and they will be located on the Moon and other celestial bodies. The ISS is treated by the existing space law regime as a space object, or an assembly of separate space objects, regarded as functionally no different from any other space object. However, whether this approach could be taken for facilities on the Moon and other celestial bodies is the proposed focus of this paper. None of the space law treaties provide a precise definition of the term ‘space object’, however the generally accepted understanding is that “space objects may be defined as artificial man made objects that are brought into space and are designed for use in outer space.” That is not to lament the lack of a specific definition, as it would most likely be disadvantageous to have been lumbered with the 1967 conception of ‘space object’. The nonspecificity of the treaties allow scope for development and adaptation to deal with the uses now proposed. Article VIII of the Outer Space Treaty potentially provides aid in this quest as it indicates that ‘objects constructed on a celestial body’ fall within the scope of ‘space object’. Therefore, it is most likely possible to construct a regime providing a legal basis for governance of space settlements and outposts utilizing the existing ‘space object’ concept. However, there will still be potential issue around the nonappropriation principle codified in Article II of the Outer Space Treaty. Which this paper will also explore. This is a topic which is vital for the maintenance of the existing space law regime and is of growing relevance as more proposals for permanent human presence are made.

Thomas Cheney
Northumbria University, United Kingdom;

Fledgling Polish Space Industry Ready for Lift–Off

Law as a Risk Management Tool in the Emerging Space Sector

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 9 2018
Keywords outer space, space activity, national space law, liability in space law, Polish space law
Authors Katarzyna Malinowska
AbstractAuthor's information

    This paper presents an overview of recent developments in Poland from a regulatory and institutional point of view, as well as at a programme level. Though Poles played an active part in setting out the foundations of the international space law, largely through the pioneer of space law – Polish Professor Manfred Lachs – for many years the Polish space industry barely existed, consisting only of the activities of a few engineers brave enough to set up start-ups and cooperate with big international players. The situation changed in 2012, when Poland joined ESA as a full member. Joining ESA and opening up the space industry to small players can be perceived as a significant trigger for the boost of Polish space projects. The first results came quickly. The number of Polish companies active in the sector is growing rapidly, already reaching 300 companies, forming a consistent, consolidated group of large, medium and small enterprises. Over the last five years, the attitude of the government has also been changing.
    Concerning regulatory challenges, Poland has still not adopted comprehensive space legislation, though in July 2017, a draft law on space activity was published by the government. The legal concept adopted in the national space law, especially about risk management, may influence the development of the whole national space activity, which still suffers from insufficient capital to bear the high level of risk related to ultra-hazardous activity such as space activity. The recent tendencies covering small sats, New Space, suborbital flight and space mining are also the subject of pending legislative discussions.

Katarzyna Malinowska
Professor at Kozminski University, Poland,

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