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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.

    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.

    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.

    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; thomas.cheney@northumbria.ac.uk.
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.

P.J. Blount
University of Luxembourg.

    International cooperation is the key to the strongest peace in the world, to really constructive relations and the political, economic, cultural and humanistic development among all countries, all peoples and all mankind. There is an “extraordinary danger of the current moment,” the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said on January 25, 2018, when it decided to move the hand of the iconic Doomsday Clock to 2 minutes to midnight. The last time the symbolic Clock was this closing to midnight was in 1953, at the height of the First Cold War. (2) Now, 65 years later, we are in a Second Cold War, which propels a new and millionaire arms race into space, preparing a space war of inestimable consequences. The world community is “seriously concerned” about this concrete possibility, that can result in a limitless global collapse.
    The UN General Assembly Resolution 72-77, of December 7, 2017, makes an appeal “to all States Members, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to preventing an arms race in outer space with a view to promoting and strengthening international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes”. This resolution also “requests the Committee [The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space – UNCOPUOS] to continue to consider, as a matter of priority, ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes.” In its point of view, “the Committee should continue to consider the broader perspective of space security and associated matters that would be instrumental in ensuring the safe and responsible conduct of space activities, including ways to promote international, regional and inter regional cooperation to that end.” (3) As if that were not enough, we are facing an unprecedented climate crisis today. The mainstream media seek to conceal or minimize the fact. But this is part of the problem of the need to maximize international cooperation. Without it, the crisis will continue to spread and threaten the lives of millions of people around the world. In this way, can international space cooperation be carried out effectively “on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis,” as proposed the Declaration on International Cooperation (General Assembly Resolution 51/122, of December 13, 1996)? (4)
    Is it possible to ensure today “an equitable situation” on “a mutually acceptable basis” between developed and developing nations, whose distance increases more and more, mainly in military affairs? The present paper aims to discuss this and other similar issues.


José Monserrat Filho
Brazilian Association of Air and Space Law (SBDA); Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC); International Institute of Space Law (IISL).

Catherine Doldirina
International Institute of Space Law, Italy, kdoldyrina@yahoo.com.

    The paper provides an overview on recent legal issues in Earth Observation data and services resulting from changes in technologies and markets, which at least some qualify as disruptive. The developments bring some well-known legal issues in Earth Observation into new perspectives. In addition, many typical legal issues in the IT and E-commerce sectors become now directly relevant in Earth Observation.
    The market for Earth Observation data and services is changing dramatically. Around the world, government agencies and commercial companies are investing in new Earth Observation satellites, sometimes including large constellations of small satellites. The rise of Earth Observation satellites goes along with a massive increase in available data. Overall, the Earth Observation market is showing positive developments, with average yearly growth rates of 10% or more. Earth Observation data and services are now increasingly provided via the internet, through online platforms with typical ecommerce type elements. Cloud computing services are used to handle the massive data volumes to be accessed via such platforms. Generally, we see a slow shift from the traditional data provision approach based on data licenses to more comprehensive services based on contracts and related Service Level Agreements (SLA). From the legal perspective, the above-described technology and market developments do not raise previously unknown issues. Commercial E-commerce platforms and Cloud Computing services have been introduced since several years and the legal issues related to them have been tackled by legislation, codes of conduct and business practice. However, the transposition to and use within the Earth Observation sector raises challenges for institutional and commercial stakeholders. In addition, some well-known legal issues in Earth Observation come into new perspectives. This includes data policies, copyright, data licensing, personal data protection, standardization and interoperability, as well as warranty and liability for Earth Observation data and services. The paper provides an overview from a European perspective.


Ingo Baumann
BHO Legal, Germany, ingo.baumann@bho-legal.com.
Article

Public Procurement Rules, Forms of Financing and Their Impact on Competition in the Space Field

A General Overview with a Focus on the Italian Legislative Framework and Its Practical Implementation

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 2 2018
Authors Marina Gagliardi, Giorgio Garagnani, Nicoletta Bini e.a.
Author's information

Marina Gagliardi
Italian Space Agency.

Giorgio Garagnani
Italian Space Agency.

Nicoletta Bini
Italian Space Agency.

Cristina Marabottini
Italian Space Agency.
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.
Article

Report of the 60th Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space

Adelaide, Australia, 2017

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 6 2017
Authors P.J. Blount and R. Moro-Aguilar

P.J. Blount

R. Moro-Aguilar

Michael S. Dodge
Department of Space Studies, John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, University of North Dakota.

Robin J. Frank
Associate General Counsel for International Law, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), United States. Mr. David R. Lopez, Intern, International Law Practice Group, Office of the General Counsel, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and a 2017 J.D. Candidate, University of Houston Law Center (Texas) is the primary author of Section 4 of this paper. In addition, the author thanks Mr. Lopez for his research and editing assistance on other parts of this paper. The author also thanks Benjamin W. Juvelier, Intern, International Law Practice Group, Office of the General Counsel, NASA and a graduate student at American University (Washington, D.C.), JD May 2017; MA in International Service in December 2017 for his research assistance for this paper. In addition, the author thanks her colleagues in NASA’s Office of International and Interagency Relations for their assistance, in particular Ms. Sherry Copeland, Program Specialist, for her outstanding research on NASA agreements discussed in this paper. Finally, the author thanks her colleague Laura Burns, NASA’s Law Librarian for her substantive and extensive research assistance. Any errors in this paper are the author’s errors alone.

Tatiana Ribeiro Viana
Tatiana Ribeiro Viana (corresponding author), Sapienza – University of Rome, Italy, tativiana@tiscali.it.

Juliana Macedo Scavuzzi dos Santos
Juliana Macedo Scavuzzi dos Santos, Brazilian Association of Air and Space Law (SBDA), Canada, juliana.scavuzzi@mail.mcgill.ca.

Camilo Guzmán Gómez
Camilo Guzmán Gómez, Universidad Sergio Arboleda, Bogotá − Colombia. camilo.guzman@usa.edu.co.

Pilar Zamora
Pilar Zamora, Visión de Valores, pzamora@vision devalores.com.

Hamid Kazemi
Dr. Hamid Kazemi, Aerospace Research Institute, Iran, h.kazemi@ari.ac.ir.

Ali Akbar Golroo
Dr. Ali Akbar Golroo, Aerospace Research Institute, Iran, ali@ari.ac.ir.

Sadaf Amrin Fathima
Student of Master’s in Space and Telecommunication Law, Center of Air and Space Law (CASL), NALSAR University of Law, India.
Article

International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities

Analysis from an Institutional Perspective

Journal International Institute of Space Law, Issue 7 2015
Authors Anastasia Voronina
Author's information

Anastasia Voronina
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, U.S.A.

Olga S. Stelmakh
Parliament of Ukraine / DRSH Group Int., Ukraine
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