29 September 2011. Issue 52 of the "ESPI Perspectives" series discusses a new approach put forward by former ESPI Research Intern Christopher Lehnert on how to deal with the pressing problem of orbital space debris removal. The author examines different scenarios on how an international consensus in this matter could be reached, as well as on what kind of internationally recognised institutions could tackle the practical issues involved. Furthermore, he attempts a comprehensive and global analysis of the challenges that would have to be met on a political, legislative, administrative, financial and operational level.
At the same time when outer space activities become increasingly important to states, the room for actions and new actors tends to get smaller and the risk that outer space becomes inaccessible is rising. Decision-makers have recently taken the topic of space sustainability on their agenda, investigating policies to coordinate future actions. Nevertheless, they are ignoring the danger that already existing threats pose to the space environment. Attempts to counter existing space debris are rare and lack a sound concept that takes international treaties and interests into account. This issue of the ESPI Perspectives series takes legal, policy and commercial issues into consideration, in an attempt to find out how a comprehensive model for mitigating the space debris threat could be designed. In doing so, it calls for a legal definition of space debris, amendments to existing treaties and a programme guided by the international community in order to unleash the power of the commercial space sector.
Christopher Lehnert, author of “ESPI Perspectives 52”