Space Debris and Its Threat to National Security: A Proposal for a Binding International Agreement to Clean Up the Junk

By Imburgia, Joseph S. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, May 2011 | Go to article overview

Space Debris and Its Threat to National Security: A Proposal for a Binding International Agreement to Clean Up the Junk


Imburgia, Joseph S., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


ABSTRACT

In 2007, a Chinese anti-satellite missile destroyed an aging weather satellite, creating millions of pieces of space debris. In 2009, the collision of two satellites created thousands more. By 2010, more than 95 percent of all man-made objects in Earth's orbit were debris. Such a sudden and massive addition to the space debris environment since 2007 poses a direct threat to operational satellites and continued space access. This in turn threatens U.S. national security, to which space access and use is vital. Unfortunately, future increases in the number of space-faring nations and corresponding launches will only exacerbate this space debris threat. Some experts now fear that a chain reaction of space debris collisions threatening sustainable space access for centuries is unavoidable unless international action to minimize and remove the debris is soon taken. This Article argues that such international action should come in the form of a binding international space debris agreement, and puts forth the draft agreement at Annex A as a starting point for discussion.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I.    INTRODUCTION

II.   THE MEASURABLE PROBLEM OF SPACE DEBRIS
      A.  The Cascade Effect
      B.  The Problem Is Getting Worse
          1. China's 2007 Intentional Obliteration
             of an Old Weather Satellite
          2. Low Earth Orbit
          3. Geosynchronous Earth Orbit
          4. China Is Not the Only Culprit; Russia
             and the United States Are Also to Blame
          5. The Problem with Models

III.  THE NATIONAL SECURITY IMPACT

IV.   THE HISTORICAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK
      A.  Space Debris v. Air Debris
      B.  The 1967 Outer Space Treaty
      C.  The 1972 Liability Convention
      D.  The 1975 Registration Convention

V.    UNITED NATIONS DRIVES NONBINDING FRAMEWORK
      TO DEAL WITH SPACE DEBRIS
      A.  COPUOS Makes Space Debris an Agenda
          Item
          1. STS Discusses Measurements of Space
             Debris
          2. STS Discusses Space Debris Mitigation
             Measures
      B.  COPUOS's 2007 Nonbinding Guidelines
          for Space Debris Mitigation
      C.  UN General Assembly Adopts Nonbinding
          Mitigation Guidelines

VI.   COPUOS's LEGAL SUBCOMMITTEE MUST PROPOSE
      A BINDING AGREEMENT
      A.  Cleaning Up the Junk
      B.  Spreading the Cost to Fix the Problem
      C.  Space Situational Awareness
      D.  Enforcement Mechanisms

VII.  CONCLUSION
      ANNEX A

[A]lthough the current hazard to most space activities from debris is low, growth in the amount of [space] debris threatens to make some valuable orbital regions increasingly inhospitable to space operations over the next few decades. Indeed, some experts at NASA believe that collisions between space assets and larger pieces of debris will remain rare only for the next decade, although there is ongoing discussion about this assessment. (1)

[D]ecades of space activity have littered Earth's orbit with debris; and as the world's space-faring nations continue to increase activities in space, the chance for a collision increases correspondingly. (2)

I. INTRODUCTION

In 1986, the Soviet representative to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) "was of the view that the space debris problem affecting the space environment must be dealt with immediately." (3) Almost twenty-five years later, the international community still has not sufficiently dealt with the problem. Sadly, space debris continues to threaten the survivability of space-based assets and manned spaceflight. On March 12, 2009, space debris forced astronauts aboard the International Space Station to take shelter in an escape capsule out of fear that debris would collide with the station. (4) Based on the current space debris environment and the very real threat it poses, it is now time for the international community to heed the Soviet representative's advice and deal with the space debris problem. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Space Debris and Its Threat to National Security: A Proposal for a Binding International Agreement to Clean Up the Junk
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.