Legal and Policy Aspects
Edited by Jan Wouters, Philip De Man and Rik Hansen
Chapter 4: Small satellites, large constellations and space debris: in dubio pro LEO?
This chapter discusses the legal challenges under international law associated with the planned implementation of large constellations of small satellites by a number of commercial space operators, including OneWeb, SpaceX and Boeing. The international community is increasingly aware of the challenges that the paradigm shift posed by these constellations may hold with regard to, inter alia, effective regulation and sustainability. Using the real-world example of the forthcoming OneWeb constellation as well as scientific studies on its ostensible impact on the space debris environment in low Earth orbit, the chapter seeks to critically frame a number of concerns relating to large constellations vis-à-vis international space debris mitigation guidelines, liability and reparations, the prevention of transboundary harm and the precautionary principle. Keywords: space debris mitigation; small satellites; large satellite constellations; international environmental law; transboundary harm; precautionary principle
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