Legal Issues of Satellite Telecommunications, the Geostationary Orbit, and Space Debris
Astropolitics, 5:173–208, 2007
Posted: 16 Nov 2014
Date Written: 2007
Satellites are the best means for a rapid expansion of telecommunications services nationally and globally. However, the level of that expansion is greatly determined by the availability of the two indispensable tools for satellites, which are orbital positions and radio frequencies. Growing demand for geostationary orbital (GEO) slots and radio frequencies by a rapidly increasing number of commercial satellite operators and expanding dependence on satellites for military purposes give rise to shortage of slots and spectrum to allocate as well as an increase in satellite interference. Concurrently, increasing space activities and anti-satellite (ASAT) tests are generating man-made space pollution, particularly space debris, and consequently are making the use of outer space more expensive and dangerous. The problems shortage of appropriate orbital positions, satellite interference and space debris are serious. Unless resolved in a timely fashion, they would pose significant barriers and dangers to all (civilian, commercial and military) satellites and could result in denial of access to space in practice by all states. This paper first describes the current situation of shortage of GEO positions and increase in satellite interference. Secondly, current international regulatory regime governing the access to and use of these tools has been analyzed with a view to highlight the weaknesses therein. Thirdly, the problem of space debris is discussed with a view to show how difficult it is becoming to carry on space operations and how important and urgent it is to have an appropriate legal regime in place. Finally, a few recommendations are made emphasizing the need for international cooperation in order to strengthen the international regulatory regime so that the required telecommunication services remain readily available to all and outer space remain pollution-free environment to be used for and by all states.
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