Space debris

The Space Legal Issues with Mega-Constellations

Nowadays, we hear more and more about constellations and mega-constellations projects consisting of hundreds or thousands of small spacecraft. A satellite constellation is a group of artificial satellites working together. Is it legal? What are the space legal issues?

Understanding the Rogers Commission Report

On January 28, 1986, seven astronauts were aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger and were preparing to leave for almost a week in outer space. Seventy-three seconds after takeoff, Challenger exploded. What had happened?

The first come, first served technique in space law

The first come, first served technique, used for a long time in satellite telecommunications law in order to allocate the natural resources of space (geostationary orbit, frequency spectrum) between States, is in the foreground currently in the context of the allocation of domain names allowing access to the Internet.

Advertising in outer space: the beginnings of commercial drifts?

Advertising is everywhere: on posters (paper or digital), in magazines, on TV, on the Internet, in our smartphones, and even soon in our connected and autonomous cars. Is the next step the sky? Will we one day see giant billboards floating in the clouds… even in outer space?

Marine pollution caused by space debris

Even the fauna is scarce. “There are few fishes in this area because ocean currents do not pass through and do not provide nutrients to this area, which makes marine life scarce” say some specialists. Space objects can therefore crash without risk in this area, before sinking four kilometers deep.

The case of force majeure in space law

Similarly, space debris among those present in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), not listed because less than ten centimetres in size, could cause damage to a satellite or even compromise a launch. If it is established that these debris did indeed cause the damage, force majeure may be claimed, insofar as it is impossible to predict the presence of these small debris.

Legal issues concerning a Chinese booster which crashed in a rural area

According to the China National Space Administration, on November 23, 2019, China launched a Long March-3B rocket to put two navigation satellites BeiDou into orbit from the launching site of Xichang, located in the Sichuan province. Unfortunately, one of the boosters crashed and hit a rural village near the launching site of Xichang.

Will outer space soon become inaccessible?

The growth of debris in outer space is exponential and collisions between discarded satellites could well trigger a chain reaction known as “Kessler Syndrome”. It would then be impossible to put satellites in orbit.

Swarm Technologies and space law

Swarm Technologies, the Silicon Valley creator of “SpaceBee” picosatellites, is an American start-up based in California. On January 12, 2018, four satellites of the American start-up were illegally put into orbit by Antrix Corporation Limited; what are the space legal issues?

Is the orbital environment a natural resource?

“Our orbital environment is a natural resource. Just as we need to protect our rivers, forests and oceans on Earth, we believe our orbits need to be monitored and maintained in order to be sustainable”. When a valuable, naturally-occurring resource, is difficult to substitute, its preservation is of prime importance.

Harmful contamination, harmful interference and space debris

For this new Space Law article on Space Legal Issues, let us study the concept of harmful contamination, harmful interference and that of space debris, as it is presented in Article IX of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, Magna Carta of space law.

Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space

A positive step towards protecting the human environment was taken on December 14, 1992, with the adoption by the U.N. General Assembly of the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space. These eleven Principles, with the Resolution adopting them, culminate efforts going back to 1972.

The law of salvage

The law of salvage is a principle of Maritime Law whereby any person who helps recover another person’s ship or cargo in peril at sea is entitled to a reward commensurate with the value of the property salved. Maritime law is inherently international, and although salvage laws vary from one country to another, generally there are established conditions to be met to allow a claim of salvage.

An introduction to Orbital Mechanics

Orbital mechanics is the application of the laws of physics to describing the motion of spacecraft. It is one of the fundamental topics in astronautics and is essential to the design, implementation, and operation of a space mission. As well as defining the sorts of orbits that are possible, orbital mechanics is needed to determine spacecraft trajectories.

The legal status of space debris

Considering the growing problem of space debris, sometimes referred to as space waste or space garbage, let’s study the legal status of space debris, and ask ourselves, for this new space law article on Space Legal Issues, the following question: are space debris space objects?

In-orbit transfer of ownership

For this new Space Law article on Space Legal Issues, let’s focus on the mechanism and consequences of, concerning space objects (especially satellites), the in-orbit transfer of ownership. Let’s focus on Satellite Ownership Transfers and the Liability of the Launching States. A space object may be sold/bought while in outer space. There is no objection by principle to a transfer of registration.

Jurisdiction and control by an intergovernmental organisation

For this new Space Law article on Space Legal Issues, let’s focus on the exercise of jurisdiction and control over a space object by an international intergovernmental organisation. Let’s study the case of the ISS module Columbus. Which entity would be internationally liable? Which entity has jurisdiction and control over the space object?

Viking, the first Swedish satellite

Viking, the first Swedish satellite, was launched on an Ariane 1 rocket as a piggyback payload together with the French satellite SPOT 1, on February 22, 1986. Operations ended on May 12, 1987. Viking was used to explore plasma processes in the magnetosphere and the ionosphere.

X-Men and Space Law

X-Men: Dark Phoenix kicks off with the X-Men heading into outer space (and thus becoming astronauts, according to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty), responding to a distress signal from the Space Shuttle Endeavour to rescue the crew of the spacecraft/space object which has critically been damaged. As Space Law enthusiasts, the question we may ask ourselves is the following one: are there laws in outer space concerning astronauts? What are those? Were they respected by the X-Men?

Orbital slots and space congestion

Today, any company or nation planning to launch a satellite to GEO must apply to the ITU for an orbital slot, and popular regions over North America, Europe, and eastern Asia have become so congested that few or no slots are left for new entrants to the market. With most of the so-called hot orbital slots taken, what opportunities remain for satellite operators to develop new positions or make better use of the existing slots?