State Responsibility and Need of International Legal Consensus for a Debris-Free Environment

At 50th Colloquium on Law of Outer Space, 2007 Hyderabad, India
Authors: Mr. Sethu Nandakumar Menon &
Mr. V. Gopala Krishnan
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Bangalore, India.

In the last two decades, the global space activities have increased manifold, resulting in numerous benefits for humankind through various space-based applications. But at the same time, this resulted in some undesired menace to outer-space environment. Space debris is the front-runner of space-menace caused by active players mostly because of disregard to their international responsibility. This paper addresses the issue of Space Debris, its status according to international treaties and issues surrounding its existence. It urges for an internationally acceptable legal consultation programme by studying certain important constituent elements, to control and mitigate the threat.

The paper first looks into the definitional aspects of the term ’Space Debris’ firstly from a technical view point. The paper then analyses the main space treaties to bring-out the status of Space debris and to show the prevailing inadequacies to mitigate this menace. Further on, the paper studies the responsibility aspect of contributing to the creation of Space Debris. Even though, a clear-cut international responsibility is absent at the moment, the paper critically analyses the extent to which the state responsibility can be inferred and the various international obligations surrounding this issue. The paper finally scrutinizes the pertinent need for an international consultation and consensus which make way for a multi-party workforce to reduce and decrease the threat caused by Space Debris.