EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

From space debris to planetary defense: a provisional ground for resilient international cooperation in outer space activities  

Diego De Blasi
Diego De Blasi
  • Italy (

International cooperation has definitely been shaping the development of the Corpus Juris Spatialis and relative principles under the aegis of the United Nations (see A/Res/1962/XVIII). To this extent, the concept of space as global commons represents the core debate of Space Agencies (ESA), whilst manned and unmanned exploration of the universe are flying to next generation. On the other hand, all space activities will be reasonably linked to both anthropic and natural risks: other effective provisional advancements in international space law are so much needed to addressing space debris and planetary defense as common global challenges

First of all, the space debris issue is susceptible to fostering the aferomentioned level of innovation in space law by these multilateral efforts. All “composite material components” accumulating in considerable amount in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO/collinear Lagrangian points) may possibly lead the way to a comprehensive review of the terms laid down in the Outer Space Treaty (ex plurimis, article IX). Morevover, the further existence of international customary law, which is notably ascertained “as evidence of a general practice accepted as law” (art. 38, let. b, ICJ Statute), might also create hermeneutical tools to tackling such critical task. In addition, a long-term solution may hopefully give birth to the establishment of an international agreement on space debris clearing, providing for adequate international binding norms and structural organization of international guidelines (IADC/UNOOSA) 

Secondly, planetary defense measures vis-à-vis the so called “Cosmic Hazard” shall be carried out by emphasizing the application of international space law and regulations thereto. In particular, the legal use of explosive devices (NED) may be found as slightly critical in light of the applicable international norms and regulations. Moreover, cosmic hazard issues also engage with a very complex level of decision making, to be carried out by a specific vote of the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) in application of the procedure laid down in article 27 of the UN Charter. On the other side, this particular dilemma may call upon States to undertake responses against natural space threats by preventing potential liability of the States (see article VII OST and International Liability Convention for Damages caused by Space Objects)

Eiusmodo, the liability conventional framework shall either have some comprehensive interpretation of the principle of “vis major (quae humana infirmitas resistere non potest)”. In compliance with article II, it must be noticed that failing attempts by Parties- whenever space threats may be encountered in different circumstances  - connects directly with the regime of absolute responsibility for eventual damages occurred to third Parties.

To be concluded, both space debris and planetary defense stand together as resilient pillars of international cooperation in space affairs: the accountable exploration of outer space shall previously take also into account of such perspectives for the exclusive benefit of Mankind  



How to cite: De Blasi, D.: From space debris to planetary defense: a provisional ground for resilient international cooperation in outer space activities  , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-492,, 2021.

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