Jurisdiction and Control Aspects of Space Debris Removal
In recent years, the unrestrained creation of space debris by space-faring nations has gradually converted the outer space into an extraterrestrial dumping site. In view of this ongoing concern, legalising space debris removal by a non-registering state, under the existing international space law regime, is essential to invert such growing trends in debris population. While Article VIII of the Outer Space Treaty (“OST”) merely confers “jurisdiction and control” over a space object to the “State of registry,” three specific aspects of this jurisdictional clause merit special attention, namely: the qualification of debris as a “space object”, the distinction between “identifiable” and “unidentifiable” objects, and the continuity of the granted “jurisdiction and control.” Particularly important is whether the granted “jurisdiction and control” attaches permanently to the registering state, or lapses with the conclusion of effective physical control. This article suggests that a balancing between the provisions of the OST, especially Articles I and IX, seemingly favours the latter view and, at the end of the day, the establishment of a hierarchy of needs is necessary to be able to prioritise the conflicting interests of states under modern space law.