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Space debris and obligations erga omnes – a legal framework for States’ responsibility?

Krzysztof Niewęgłowski1
Maria Curie Skłodowska University in Poland1

Document details

Publishing year2021 PublisherESA Space Debris Office Publishing typeConference Name of conference8th European Conference on Space Debris
Pagesn/a Volume
T. Flohrer, S. Lemmens, F. Schmitz


Space debris is an issue which concerns all States which are dependent upon outer space for their economic and scientific development. The space debris problem has potential to preclude access to outer space which will have dire consequences for all States, both developed and developing. Although there are no explicit and specific norms in international space law regulating issue of space debris, certain rules of conduct and obligations imposed on States in regard of the subject can be interpretated from the five international treaties which together form the legal framework of international space law (the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the 1968 Rescue Agreement, the 1972 Liability Convention, the 1975 Registration Convention, and the 1979 Moon Agreement).

Obligations to protect the environment of outer space are international obligations erga omnes and by using the framework of international responsibility for internationally wrongful acts it is possible to protect them. The aim of the article is to outline the mechanisms that can be used in contemporary legal regime to create effective and operative way to ensure, that States conduct will be coherent with the common interest of international community as a whole. Moreover, the article will raise the subject of customary character of the Outer Space Treaty and the it’s potential for the evolution towards jus cogens. Elucidation of the legal character of the international obligations concerning space debris can provide useful tools for a States to properly react to any misconduct happening in the outer space. Presented ideas and issue solving mechanisms can also be implemented into the UN system by equipping international organizations with the means to actively monitor and oversee the space debris issue.