Committee (IADC), and the United Nations (UN).8 The IADC guidelines were presented to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) in February 2003. The guidelines were used by the STSC as a basis for UNCOPUOS’s formulation of its own space debris mitigation guidelines, which were ultimately endorsed by the UN General Assembly (UNGA)9 in Resolution 62/217 on December 22, 2007. The UNGA acknowledged that the IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines “reflect[ed] the existing practices as developed by a number of national and international organizations”10 while encouraging other member states to likewise adopt and implement the guidelines in domestic regulations.

The UNCOPUOS guidelines are very similar, but not identical, to the IADC guidelines. “The UN COPUOS and IADC guidelines are couched in the form of seven guidelines containing general recommendations to be implemented by States primarily through national legislation, regulations, and/or policy directives.”11 The IADC and UNCOPUOS guidelines differ in objective, scope, applicability, and terms and definitions, as well as mitigation plans (Table 11.1). These differences will provide opportunity for conflicting views of what is permissible and possible. There is tension between the various guidelines and their influence on nations. A major issue is whether implementing one set or another will impose costs on nations that choose to abide by them. Therefore, it is the position of some nations that costs ought to be borne by the nations that created the debris and that any accepted debris guidelines should be established on a fault-based system.12

The IADC is “an international governmental forum for the worldwide coordination of activities related to the issues of man-made and natural debris in space” whose “primary purposes … are to exchange information on space debris research activities between member space agencies, to facilitate opportunities for cooperation in space debris research, to review the progress of ongoing cooperative activities, and to identify debris mitigation options.”13 Its members are the space agencies14 of 12 space-faring nations.15 The IADC is also the voluntary organization that advocated the IADC guidelines and brought them through an international political process.

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8 United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Towards Long-term Sustainability of Space Activities: Overcoming the Challenges of Space Debris, A Report of the International Interdisciplinary Congress on Space Debris, Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, 48th Session, Document A/AC.105.C.1/2011/CRP.14, United Nations, New York, N.Y., February 3, 2011, p. 27.

9 United Nations (UN), Report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, General Assembly Official Records, 62nd Session, Supplement No. 20, Document A/62/20, United Nations, New York, N.Y., 2007, paragraphs 117 and 118 and annex. The UN General Assembly in its resolution endorsed the Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of COPUOS in 2007. See UN, “International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space,” General Assembly Resolution 62/217, UN General Assembly Official Records, 62nd Session, Agenda Item 31, Document A/RES/62/217, UN, New York, N.Y., January 10, 2008, paragraph 26.
UN General Assembly resolutions that do not address internal UN matters are nonbinding with the status of recommendations which member-nations have no formal obligations to obey. UN Charter, Articles 10 and 14.

10 United Nations, “International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space,” January 10, 2008, paragraph 27.

11 United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Towards Long-term Sustainability of Space Activities: Overcoming the Challenges of Space Debris, A Report of the International Interdisciplinary Congress on Space Debris, 2011, p. 27.

12 Typical of this view is the one expressed by Belgium that a fault standard ought to be applied to any orbital debris guidelines or principles. See J.I. Gabrynowicz, National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law, University of Mississippi School of Law, “Unpublished notes re: UNCOPUOS LSC AM Session,” on file with author, April 1, 2011.

13 Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee website, available at http://www.iadc-online.org/index.cgi.

14 For ease of discussion, the word “agencies” is used to refer collectively to centers, administrations, and organizations. Technically, under the national law of the nations in which they exist, these are different legal entities with different legal personalities, rights, responsibilities, and obligations. The reason that a particular nation chooses to establish a particular kind of entity is relevant to its national interests. However, for the limited purposes of this study, it is less relevant and the distinctions are not addressed. However, in the future there could be activities and situations in which the precise legal personality of an entity may be relevant.

15 The IADC’s members are:

•  ASI (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana)

•  CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales)

•  CNSA (China National Space Administration)

•  CSA (Canadian Space Agency)

•  DLR (German Aerospace Center)

•  ESA (European Space Agency)

•  ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation)

•  JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

•  NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

•  NSAU (National Space Agency of Ukraine)



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