How Can NASA's Revise Their Space Debris Treaties

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This paper is to analyzes the space debris dangers and risks of future exploration. There are two main issues for space exploration. Since the 1970s space exploration has widened our understanding of space, but so far for every mission that starts, it has repercussions. In 2015 National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) reported over 3 million kilograms of space debris, in a Lower Earth Orbit never returning after its mission. Since the early 90's cases of satellites and space equipment colliding with another bring many more risks in the long run.

Audience Scenario Comment by Najee Jenkins: The target audience for this proposal is [target audience goes here > must be a professional organization that can take action based on your recommendations > you may also include any potential secondary audiences | one or two sentences]

This is primarily pointed to the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA). For secondary it will be towards Safety and Mission Assurance organizations. This study will bring issues of space debris and the askes if the revision of space treaties is needed to be taken into action so that before the claimed mars exploration.


Ever since the launch of the first satellite, there have been more than 128million space debris since 1999. (European Space Agency) reports over 4800 lunches were made and 6000 satellites were launched into orbit. Before 2007 revision of the methods of getting satellites into orbit was to deliberately cause an explosion below the upper stage of the rocket that disjoins the satellite and the upper stage engine, causing bursts that flee small remnants and materials in all directions. Which brings that result of space debris to 400%. This poses a real problem since most of these disjointing processes of the rocket occurs at high altitude which has lingered estimated half-centuries or longer to that object re-entering earth's surface adding more danger in outer space. One well know collision occurred in 2007 between Chinese weather satellite(Fengyun-1C) and decommissioned Russian satellite(Cosmos 2251), both collided at a speed of 16km/s, which NASA categorized the collision to be contributed to one-third of the whole debris that is found in space.

It is thought out by Donald Kessler if there is too much space junk in orbit, that collision with other objects in space, it may cause a domino effect creating more junk also known as Kessler syndrome. This topic is very dire and important for any ongoing or future space exploration.

The first proposal that needs to be discussed is its regulation, is there a law or NASA's guideline for any space exploration? That means from launch to its return. Bringing NASA to revise their standards and guidelines when it comes to space exploration. The only universal treaty held is called the Magna Carta, a basic outline for safe space exploration from 1967 which is outdated in many aspects. It is believed that bringing up this question can bring NASA's attention in revising old guidelines and updating space conditions...

This also focuses on NASA's implementations in mitigating space debris and on to remove risks of space debris, by removal of it for future explorers and programs, in levitating them by discussing methods of removing debris found in (Lower Earth Orbit). This paper will review the studies on space debris and inform them of research questions that remain unanswered. This study is only to deliver on the risk of future space exploration and review space regulations as of 2020 and could be subjected to change as newer evidence is replaced and implemented with new ones.

Review of Literature

Since the 2000s, large amounts of space missions and exploration have gained much advancement and discovery throughout history. Improvement of satellite designs, robotics, and randivious techniques and orbital maneuvering systems. What remained unchanged were the standards of launching and lack of safety of the space environment.

Like many of the times when space shuttles are launched after it has entered the atmosphere and Earth Lower Orbit( under 650km) phases or stages of rocket paints, propellant fragments tend to remain in space for a long time potentially be lethal for nearby explorers and settles.

What are the potential risks of space exploration if space treaties aren't being updated or revised? To unfold the question it's imperative to look into the international treaties that NASA strictly follows by, The Outer Space treaties, a treaty in which was agreed upon by the United Nations for basic rules and functionality for space exploration. Although it is over 50 years, Outer Space treaties are revised annually adding onto current articles but, falls short of defining current space procedures and mitigation plans of space debris.

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Article I: “The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind”…

Article VI: 'States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions outlined in the present Treaty'...


NASA announced its own standard Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices guidelines in 1995 to protect the fellow life of astronauts and control the growth of the population of space debris. The procedure consists of material quality control and benchmarking welding, and failure analysis (Corbett, J 2015). This is well for lowering the amount of debris that goes when anything is launched into space. Besides, it is also first to take in NASA's Technical Standard to set an and operating satellite lifetime to 25year or lower to decrease the risk of probability of orbital collision with other debris.

Others seem to disagree with the idea of it being 25 years of lifetime to be too long, as chief scientist of NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office (J. C. Liou) presented some simulation data in two given scenarios. One is if 25 years lifetime of the deorbiting rule was to be implemented the debris could result in an increase of 330% in debris in the next 2 centuries. The second scenario calls for 5 years lifetime of deorbiting, which can significantly decrease the growth to 100% over 2 centuries. While the second scenario has the lowest percentile in debris risks it simply costs additional and is not cost-efficient for satellite operators. Ultimately the implementation is well documented and attempted in prevention but it is far from reliable. 'We do have good policies and practices in place, but we are just not doing a very good job globally to implement those policies, practices, and requirements to limit the generation of orbital debris'(J. C. Liou).



The issue of this subject is more complex to start with. Starting by understanding since the birth of space exploration, increasing numbers of debris from rocket fragments, small bolts the size from a few millimeters in diameter to something large as few meters traveling at speeds of 18,000miles per hour. Understanding the sheer speed that it travels poses a threat to anything that comes in its direction make it difficult in tracking them. Since the beginning of space travel, the only liable treaties or law that all nations follow is the Outer Space Treaties, this treaty was written 50years ago and fails to change through modern technological changes and discovery. (Robert Lightfoo 2017)

Therefore NASA established the first and only safety and assurance guidelines in 1995. This provides appropriate movement in goals of mitigating the space debris problems. This mitigation program consists of a collection of data collected by studies made by satellite operation centers and rigorous material benchmarking and integrity testing before the materials are made onto rockets or orbiting units. Although this is the early stages of medications it is far from what can be used universally.


The History of Space Debris Mitigation treaty is still in its developing stages, and still is undergoing constant updates and implementation as time changes. Major revisions were taken in 2004, to minimize quantities of debris that were to be put into space. To make an effective stance for reducing debris, Commission's of orbital debris rules were taken to improve and correct the guidelines and standards that were adopted...

  1. Debris released by every operation/launch must be kept to a minimum.
  2. The probability of failure in spacecraft designs should be minimized, any failure should be analyzed for reducing errors.
  3. In any time of probability if collision in space should be kept to a minimum, during space vehicle and satellite are being designed, precalculation is taken before launching.
  4. Any intentional separation of a space vehicle that can potentially cause debris should be disjointed at a Lower altitude.
  5. After missions, any unused fuel, stored energy, or onboard sources must discharge properly post-mission.
  6. Vehicles that have completed missions must avoid remaining in Lower Earth Orbit for a long duration.
  7. Spacecraft must avoid remaining in the Greater Earth Orbit region after its mission to mitigate interference.

These are the requirements and spacecraft specifications of each applicant in which they reviewed by the Commission, this also included licensing, grants, amateur satellite, and test plans for material integrity before launch. Since the birth of orbital rules was relevant only in the U.S this only applies to companies that manufacture engines and rockets. Since recent treaties change was made in 2004 the numbers of special technology that are capable of causing chaos to operate spacecraft and space explorers, made it a priority for NASA's (Space Debris Mitigation Program), raised the question of security and responsibility for every launch they carry out. Debris remains in orbit for centuries if it is not removed for the orbit, which rose a problem of orbital location which a satellite orbits(LEO) or anything below 650 km, this is where most commonly where satellites are deployed and where space debris is known to be found. On the other hand, any other planning applicants who wished to deploy above (LEO) or entering the Non-Geostationary Satellite Orbit. This deemed it necessary and needed approval and authorized by the Commissions.


NASA's Space Debris Mitigation program has set many standards and regulations providing rigorous guidelines for sustainability and safety for space explorations. This awareness and regulation is the history gained by the experience made by studies and unfortunate incidents that occurred throughout the revision of the treaties. Much more it is hard making a concrete space treaty in which all nations follow, but it allowed security protocols to take place in which if a state were to launch commercial satellites, and that undergoes and does not meet the space debris regulation, potentially, can be denied from launch and in space, then be labeled as mistrusted parties. Throughout the article, if changes would be added in utilizing legality in space and ground, it's necessary to put down an official orbital law that helps mitigate debris and to respect the foundation of space exploration as humans. Anyone who breaks them is listed into potential threat and needs restriction of space activities. NASA should implement flexibility in there mitigation program and if it is to be updated periodically, providing legal definition and changes should be addressed. to support their claims in

Furthermore, for new implementation to be useful and reliable it deems correct legal definitions. Many would find it misleading mitigate space debris


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How Can NASA’s Revise Their Space Debris Treaties. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 19, 2024, from
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