State Accountability for Space Debris

A Legal Study of Responsibility for Polluting the Space Environment and Liability for Damage Caused by Space Debris


In State Accountability for Space Debris Peter Stubbe examines the legal consequences of space debris pollution which, he argues, is a global environmental concern. The study finds that the customary ‘no harm’ rule and Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty obligate States to prevent the generation of debris and that the international community as a whole has a legitimate interest in their compliance. A breach of these obligations entails the responsibility of a State and compensation must be provided for damage caused by space debris. The author treats responsibility and liability separately and thoroughly scrutinizes both legal regimes with the help of common analytical elements. Finally, Peter Stubbe argues that a comprehensive traffic management system is required so as to ensure the safe and sustainable use of outer space.
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Biographical Note

Peter Stubbe, Dr. jur. (2015), M.A. in International Relations (2009), works on ESA affairs and space law matters at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). He is the assistant editor of the Cologne Commentary on Space Law (CoCoSL) and has published a number of articles on international space law.

Review Quotes

"In an impressive way, the author sheds a new look at State accountablility for space debris, which should change the policies and behaviour of States. He even goes a step further and proposes a legal text for securing sustainable uses of outer space. Rarely has a thesis better combined careful and deep legal analysis with bold and visionary practical steps forward.... With Peter Stubbe's book and the ideas and proposals contained in it, handling the space debris issue can make a big step." Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Schrogl, Zeitschrift für Luft- und Weltraumrecht (ZLW 67,1, 2018).

Table of contents

List of Abbreviations

 A Environmental Degradation and Accountability
 B Research Question and Research Approach

1 The Space Debris Environment
 A Introduction
 B The Pollution of Outer Space with Space Debris
 C Space Debris as a Threat to the Utilization of Outer Space
 D Preliminary Conclusion

2 The Applicable Accountability Law: Responsibility and Liability Distinguished
 A Introduction
 B State Responsibility
 C State Liability
 D Preliminary Conclusion

3 Obligations of Space Debris Mitigation
 A Introduction
 B Conventional Law
 C Customary Law
 D General Principles of International Law
 E Other Sources—Measures of Space Debris Mitigation
 F Preliminary Conclusion

4 The Elements of State Responsibility and Space Debris
 A Introduction
 B The Objective Element: The Breach of an International Legal Obligation
 C Subjective Element: Responsible State
 D Responsibility Involving More than One State
 E Preclusion of Accountability: Circumstances Precluding Wrongfulness
 F Consequences
 G Invocation
 H Implementation and Enforcement

5 The Elements of State Liability and Space Debris
 A Introduction
 B The Objective Element: Causation of Damage by a Space Object
 C The Subjective Element: Launching State
 D Liability Involving More than One State
 E Preclusion of Accountability: Exoneration from Liability
 F Consequences
 G Invocation
 H Implementation and Enforcement
 I Preliminary Conclusion

6 Study Results and Perspectives on Further Regulation
 A Results
 B Perspectives of Implementation


Annex: Regulatory Proposal for a Space Sustainability Convention


Scholars and practitioners of international law, in particular space and environmental law, who are interested in the legal implications of space debris pollution.


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