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Space Debris Mitigation as an International Law Obligation

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A Critical Analysis with Reference to States Practice and Treaty Obligation

image of International Community Law Review

Human space activities have grown rapidly in recent decades, but the international legal framework, comprising of the five space treaties, has largely remained unchanged since the 1980s. One of the consequences is that international responsibility and liability for space debris, which is a major hazard to space activities, have also remained uncertain for years. Nonetheless, States have responded to these problems by implementing national voluntary measures. More importantly, two major non-binding international instruments have been laid down by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee and the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, respectively. This article argues that, in light of recent States practice established under these international instruments, and a proper interpretation of the space treaties, it has been recognised by the international community that States are obliged to mitigate the generation of space debris, a failure of which will lead to international liability.

Affiliations: 1: LL.B., P.C.LL. (CityU hk); LL.M. (Cantab)


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