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Article

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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Since 2005 a growing number of states have adopted national space legislation to ensure adherence to international obligations, clarify rights under international space law, and promote regulatory certainty for space activities under their jurisdiction. While a certain degree of similarity is seen in the interpretation of these international obligations, the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that diverging interpretations on a national level already exist. The interpretations that are reflected in national space legislation are often contextual and products of national space capabilities and ambitions. As such the Report of the Study Group of the International Law Commission on the Fragmentation of International Law regarding competing lex specialis, each with its own purpose and reasoning, will be discussed by analogy to provide insight into the processes and consequences of fragmentation of international law through diverging interpretations. Thereafter, this paper will present a brief comparative study on the scope of various national space legislation. This study will highlight variations in the interpretation of what it means to “carry out a space activity” under Article VI OST. Particular attention will be given to who is defined as carrying out a space activity and what is defined as a space activity. The conclusion will underline a need and urgency for coordination in the interpretation and application of space law, which is both beneficial and necessary to avoid the negative consequences of the fragmentation of international space law.


Vincent Seffinga
Vincent Seffinga, Department of Law, European University Institute, Villa Salviati, Via Bolognese 156, 50139 Florence, Italy.

Mari Eldholm
Mari Eldholm, in private capacity.

    Entities enjoying international legal personality are generally regarded as the “subjects” of general international law and international space law and are considered to possess rights and obligations under international law. While States have historically been recognised as the principal subjects of international law, non-State actors, such as international organisations, non-governmental entities, multinational corporations, and (arguably) individuals, are increasingly empowered with rights and subjected to obligations on the international plane. International space law, although embedded in general international law, contains unique principles and rules that are in some cases different from those of general international law. With the changing nature of activities due to technological developments, and the proliferation of actors in the space domain, it is necessary to critically examine the issues as to what are considered the subjects of international space law. This question is important both from the doctrinal perspective, and as a matter of practical relevance, as space activities are increasingly being undertaken by non-State actors under the jurisdiction and control of, or having a nexus with, several States.


Kuan-Wei Chen
K.W. Chen, Centre for Research in Air and Space Law, McGill University, Canada.

Ram Jakhu
R. Jakhu, Institute of Air and Space Law, McGill University, Canada.

Steven Freeland
S. Freeland, Western Sydney University, Australia.

    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

Arbitration in Space-Related Disputes: A Survey of Industry Practices and Future Needs

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 2 2019
Keywords space law, space related disputes, arbitration, dispute resolution
Authors Viva Dadwal and Eytan Tepper
AbstractAuthor's information

    To better understand the viability of arbitration in space-related disputes, we designed a survey that examines the use of arbitration clauses in contracts used by space companies, and if the use thereof is mandatory. More specifically, the survey gathers data on contracting parties’ preferred seats of arbitration, arbitration institutions, selection process for arbitrators, and choice of procedural and substantive rules. The survey also captures actual use of arbitration within space related disputes by collecting data on how often such arbitration clauses have been invoked and the number of disputes ultimately resolved by arbitration. Finally, the survey solicits industry preferences for the future development of arbitration as a form of dispute resolution in the space sector. The survey is built in a way that allows break down of results and comparing segments, inter alia, based on the type of contract (e.g., launch contract, insurance contract, investment contract, contract for supply of parts or services). The results of the survey will expose the demand for arbitration and the successes and barriers for the use thereof. Furthermore, the results will allow us to evaluate the success of existing arbitration infrastructure for space-related disputes, including the PCA Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Outer Space Activities and the Panels of Arbitrators and Experts for Space-related Disputes. To our knowledge, there exist no surveys or catalogues on the use of arbitration in spacerelated disputes. The results of the survey will provide empirical data and trends that may be used by scholars, policymakers and practitioners to anchor future theoretical papers and policy recommendations.


Viva Dadwal
V. Dadwal, Faculty of Law, McGill University, 3644 Peel St, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1W9.

Eytan Tepper
E. Tepper, Institute of Air & Space Law, McGill University, 3690 Peel Street Montréal, Québec, Canada H3A 1W9.

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 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.
Article

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.
Article

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.
Article

Real-Time Challenges for the Registration Regime: Where to?

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 9 2018
Authors Georgia-Eleni Exarchou, Yvonne Vastaroucha, Pelagia-Ioanna Ageridou, e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Registration is the sole basis for “jurisdiction and control” in outer space (Art. VIII OST) and also constitutes the basis for responsibility over a space object. It is therefore evident that ambiguities regarding registration are crucial for the safety of space operations. The discussion about registration has been escalating lately as space is becoming increasingly accessible with the diversification of space subjects. Simultaneously the practice of States indicates reduced diligence in registering their space objects. Initially, the present paper briefly recapitulates the different registries and processes based on the general rule that a launching State shall register a space object set by Art. II of the 1976 Registration Convention. It then turns to current challenges concerning the registration procedure as well as its consequences. Firstly, the term “launching State” is scrutinized, aiming to address several cases of private launches where registration was omitted. Subsequently, the challenges posed by the transfer of ownership of in-orbit space objects are discussed. In this context, it is examined whether there is a rule of international law allowing for the transfer of registration where the registering State has no effective control over an object. Secondly, the paper analyses the notion of “launching State” in light of joint launching and launchings realized by international organizations. It further attempts to answer the relevant question of registration of mega-constellations. The paper concludes by reviewing the possibility of the desirable harmonization and standardization of the registration regime under the Registration Convention, the UNGA Resolution 62/101 and the newly added Guideline 6 of the Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities in light of the aforementioned developments.


Georgia-Eleni Exarchou
National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Yvonne Vastaroucha
National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Pelagia-Ioanna Ageridou,
National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Iliana Griva
National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.
Article

Owning the Hosted Payload and International Space Law

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 9 2018
Keywords the hosted payload, the launching State, space law, liability
Authors Akiko Watanabe
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article deals the issues concerning the hosted payload under international space law. To understand the hosted payload projects, the types of the contracts for such projects are discussed, but the harmonization between the risk allocation of the parties concerned and liability issues for damage caused by the hosted payload is mainly studied.
    The hosted payload satellite is said to be the one that the main owner of the satellite spares some space on it for the other party. The details of the projects can be agreed between the parties depending on the projects. Such details are mostly confidential, but the author tries to show the types of collaboration by using the actual examples.
    As the hosted payload satellite has more than two parties that have interests in the satellite, it is very important to agree in advance how to allocate the risks between the parties. On this, especially for the projects between the non-governmental entities, the indemnification against the damage of the third parties caused by such satellite should be included. Notwithstanding such allocation, since the damage from the space activities may become enormous and the financial ability of the non-governmental entities may be limited, the State should be the final bearer of the liability against victims as international space law has in mind.
    Under international space law, the launching State is liable for the damage caused by space activities. The definition of the launching State under international space law could be found in the Liability Convention or the Registration Convention. When the hosted payload project is driven by the non-governmental entities, the identification of the launching State becomes difficult; such definition involves States, and makes it difficult to determine the launching State for activities of the non-governmental entities. As international space law has focused on the protection of the victims, the relief of the victims of the hosted payload projects should be dealt accordingly. In this respect, it would be ideal that the owner or the operator of the hosted payload (or the State which such owner or operator belongs to) should be regarded as the launching State. Through the discussion at UNCOPUOS or the changes found in the State liability under general international law, the possibility to include such party as the launching State is to be examined.


Akiko Watanabe
Independent Researcher, Tokyo, Japan, akiko.watanabe109@gmail.com.

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

Nicola Rohner
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