Between Active Debris Removal and Space-Based Weapons: A Comprehensive Legal Approach
The growing population of space debris has the potential to seriously compromise the exploration of and access to outer space. It is now generally agreed that large portions of Earth’s orbits are on the threshold of an irreversible situation making the removal of non-functional space objects a necessity. While the technologies to carry out removal operations are being developed, the outer space legal regime has not kept the pace with these challenges. Active debris removal technologies present both opportunities and risks. The dual use nature of these technologies is one of the most challenging questions, as the same technology could be used to deorbit debris or damage functional satellites. In the light of these considerations, this analysis discusses how the space law regime applies to these issues with the purpose of setting out possible legal solutions based on the interrelations between active debris removal technologies and space weaponization.