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Space Debris and Its Threat to National Security: A Proposal for a Binding International Agreement to Clean Up the Junk

Posted by on Thursday, June 28, 2012 in Articles, Vol. 44 No. 3, Volume 44, Volumes.

In 2007, a Chinese anti-satellite missile destroyed an aging weather satellite, creating millions of pieces of space debris.  In 2009, the collision of two satellites created thousands more.  By  2010, more than 95 percent of all man-made objects in Earth’s orbit were debris.  Such a sudden and massive addition to the space debris environment since 2007 poses a direct threat to operational satellites and continued space access.  This in turn threatens U.S. national security, to which space access and use is vital.  Unfortunately, future increases in the number of space-faring nations and corresponding launches will only exacerbate this space debris threat.  Some experts now fear that a chain reaction of space debris collisions threatening sustainable space access for centuries is unavoidable unless international action to minimize and remove the debris is soon taken.  This Article argues that such international action should come in the form of a binding international space debris agreement, and puts forth the draft agreement at Annex A as a starting point for discussion.

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