Are there any international regulations about littering in space?

What, except from general social norms, would prevent private operator from discarding waste into deep space? And, in case of damage caused by rubbish, what options would have the suffering party to demand compensation?

  • $\begingroup$ This is two questions that should be split out and addressed separately. The first question is about international regulations or other dis-incentives to generating space debris. The second question has to do with compensation for damage caused by debris. Perhaps more importantly, was the intent to limit the scope of the question to discarding waste into deep space (i.e. not Earth orbit)? Space is big, so regulations have focused on the relatively crowded GEO belt and low-Earth orbit. We can't ever fill up deep space with junk, nor is there any meaningful risk of collision. $\endgroup$
    – Adam Wuerl
    Jul 18, 2013 at 0:13

1 Answer 1


Yes, there are international regulations, which shall be listed in this reply. How private entities fit in is still a disputed question. There is a lack of relevant cases, which could be used as a reference.

The "Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee" (IADC) has released the "Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines" (October 2002). If I remember it correctly, it boils down to a life-time limit in geosynchronous orbit or below of 25 years. Satellites launched in 2008 or later are required to able to be de-orbited or moved into a graveyard-orbit beyond geosynchronous orbit at the end of their life or the maximum of 25 years. The usual reference given for this statement in scientific publications is the "Space debris mitigation guidelines" of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), (A/AC.105/720, 1999 and A/AC.105/890, February 2007).

IADC: http://www.iadc-online.org/

Some further reading: An International Environmental Agreement for space debris mitigation among asymmetric nations, 2010.

  • $\begingroup$ Making that law is fine, but what if they do not comply, like maybe say malfunction and unit cannot be sent off or decreased orbit..? $\endgroup$
    – Rocky Way
    Nov 25, 2018 at 10:36

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