The Sustainability of Large Satellite Constellations: Challenges for Space Law
The number of satellites launched into outer space is increasing significantly. The quantity of space objects orbiting the Earth, especially in low Earth orbit, is causing serious concerns for space agencies as it poses a key threat to the sustainability of space activities. Many space agencies are attempting to reduce the generation of space debris by following non-legally binding space debris mitigation guidelines. These guidelines are common instruments for space law development in the ‘post-treaty’ era and are voluntary in nature. Consequently, no binding international norms regulating space debris exist today. Also, it has become apparent that these mitigation guidelines are not comprehensive enough and the current legal and regulatory framework does not adequately respond to the new challenges presented by large satellite constellations, particularly the proliferation of space debris. The aim of the author is to discuss some of the sustainability issues and legal challenges relating to future large satellite constellations. The goal is to present possible solutions and important proposals aimed at ensuring international cooperation as a key element in the sustainability of human activity in outer space, guaranteeing free access to outer space by all nations, continuing freedom of exploration and use and avoiding harmful interference.