n Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - The environmental responsibility of states for space debris and the implications for developing countries in Africa

Volume 46, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



Since the commencement of space activities with the launch of the first artificial satellites and the development of rocket technology in the 1950s by the USA and the then Soviet Union, a growing number of states have engaged in space activities, or intend to use space more intensively. Although these states do not have the capability to establish comprehensive space programmes similar to those of the space powers, some of them have at least set up space agencies in recent years. At present, more than fifty states have, to some extent, invested in domestic space activities, and the number of national space agencies is increasing steadily. Space activities are thus becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity, as states increasingly regard them as an important political investment in the future. The socio-economic benefits of using outer space have also made the development of space programmes attractive to a number of developing states, including some in Africa. The potential adverse environmental effects of outer space activities are self-evident. Although there are a number of environmental problems related to space activities, the most prominent is the issue of space debris. This contribution highlights some uncertainties and in the current outer space treaty regime. It concludes that the current space treaties are largely outdated and inadequate to address the space debris problem. It is submitted that an international dialogue, involving the developed and the developing states, should be initiated as soon as possible in order to conclude a consolidated binding legal instrument for the regulation of all aspects concerning the use of outer space.

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