Thursday, February 19, 2009

Space Salvage Laws?

In the wake of the collision of a defunct Russian satellite with a live US commercial communications satellite, Popular Mechanics explores the legal angle of cleaning up space debris. Of note is this observation:

Finally, current space law doesn't allow another solution to the space-junk problem: Salvage. Under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, nations retain "jurisdiction and control" over their spacecraft even when they are inoperable, meaning that a salvage operator wouldn't be able to take title or claim an award for recovering a defunct craft as is done on earth. Space lawyers (yes, there are space lawyers) have been arguing for years that the proliferation of space junk makes some sort of salvage law necessary, but up to now there has been little progress. The technology for recovering defunct satellites is there, though cleaning up smaller debris fragments would be much, much harder. That's a reason to try to get a handle on the problem sooner, rather than later. A space salvage law might even give a shot in the arm to commercial space efforts, by providing yet another money-making option.

Of course, a law per se might not have to be developed if some sort of contractual agreement can be had.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd head up a company to hire a crew to fly up there and clean it up. There's got to be an initiative to at least clean up any nuclear waist.