Journal of Air Law and Commerce


The ability to physically interact with an on-orbit object is an idea that has been stymied by its great cost. Yet the rewards are incalculable. Autonomous on-orbit servicing (OOS) vehicles can potentially repair or salvage an ailing satellite or remove it from orbit. The former can help recoup the considerable investment that goes into the development and construction of a satellite, and the latter would reduce space debris. In short, the development of OOS should be promoted. This paper will explore the legal ramifications and complications of unmanned on-orbit servicing missions. After reviewing the international framework and the current state of the affairs, this paper suggests that States have an obligation to repair, salvage or cause to be de-orbited defunct space objects and proposes an organizational framework that will promote compliance with efforts to clean up the junkyard that surrounds our planet.