Space Traffic Management as a Guiding Principle of the International Regime of Sustainable Space Activities

AuthorYu Takeuchi
PositionAssociate administrator at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency '( JAXA'). LL.B.(Sophia), M.A.(Hitotsubashi)
Space Traffic Management
as a Guiding Principle of
the International Regime of
Sustainable Space Activities
Yu Takeuchi
The necessity of Sustainable Development of Space Activities, which can be seen as a
concept receiving some impression from Sustainable Development, has been actively
debated over last decade. This paper examines the current status of the international
regime of space activities by comparing the international regime of sustainable
development and analyzing the norms and principles applied in the Draft Code of
Conduct of Space Activities of the EU and the Long Term Sustainability of Space
Activities. The paper concludes that the Space Traffic Management system should
set the guiding principles for international space activities.
Space Traffic Management, Long Term Sustainability of Space Activities,
Draft Code of Conduct of Space Activities of the EU
I. Introduction
Space activitieshave drastically changed in the past half a century in terms of actors.
In the beginning, only the United States and the Soviet Union could conduct space
activities. Governments were expected to exclusively carry out space activities at that
KFBJM3)3122*  319
* Associate administrator at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). LL.B.(Sophia), M.A.(Hitotsubashi). The
views expressed herein are entirely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of JAXA or the
Government of Japan by any means. The author may be contacted at: 1-6-5 Marunouchi,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8260 Japan.
1There is no official definition for space activities.However, this paper will use this term to mean every activity
expected to reach outer space and contains the possibility to interfere the current activities. It includes launch,
operation, maneuver or re-entry of orbital or suborbital objects.
time. The number of participants, however, has gradually increased. Entering into the
century, the international community faces a different situation. Today, the UN
Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (COPUOS) counts 70 countries in its
membership as of 2010.
Commercial space flights have become a usual launch activity
in spacefaring nations. Satellites, including those for government use, are under
consideration for private sector operation, introducing a financial system of Public-
Private Partnerships (PPP) or Private Finance Initiatives (PFI). Even space tourism
is under development. Though the space industry still remains at an early stage in its
development, the activities themselves increase the number of participating actors as
well as sectors.
This situation has triggered the space debris problem.
It has been recognized since
the late 1980s; the temporary results of its discussion were concluded in the UN Space
Debris Mitigation Guidelines of 2007.
On February 12, 2009, however, there was a
serious collision for the first time between two large-scale satellites.
In January 2007,
Chinas Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile demonstration resulted in more than 3000
pieces of space debris in scattered orbit.
The international community shared a sense of
crisis about these situations and raised the issue of maintaining long-term sustainability of
space activities as a primary international issue.
Though the issue of the sustainability of
space activities first arose to prevent an arms race in outer space, harmonizing the
development and protection of the environment is a parallel and common interest for
sustainable development. Both goals are equally important to pre-empt international
This paper attempts to develop a Space Traffic Management (STM) system as a
guiding principle for preventing conflicts among space activities in the international
community. Part II will examine the current international legal regime governing space
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2United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer
Space: Members,
available at (last visited on Aug.
09, 2011).
3UN Technical Report on Space Debris, U.N. Doc. A/AC.105/720, at 26 & 39 (1999).
4Space Debris Mitigation Gu
elines of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the COPUOS, U.N. GAOR 62nd
Sess., U.N. Doc. A/AC.105/890 (2007),
available at
elines.pdf. (last visited on Aug. 9, 2011).
5Cosmos 2251, a Russian Non-Functional Satellite, and Ir
ium 33, a US Functional Satellite Crashed at the 789km
altitude of North Siberia.
See Collision Between Two Satellites in Orbit: Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251, available at (last visited on Aug. 9, 2011).
6National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA),
Chinese Debris Reaches New Milestone
, 14 O
3 (Oct., 2010),
available at
ODQNv14i4.pdf (last visited on Aug. 9, 2011).
7Gerard Brachet,
Long-Term Sustainability of Space Activities, in
: T
IR ed., Mar. 31 -Apr. 1, 2008).

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