Regulatory Context of Conflicting Uses of Outer Space: Astronomy and Satellite Constellations

Giuliana Rotola, Andrew Williams, ‘Regulatory Context of Conflicting Uses of Outer Space: Astronomy and Satellite Constellations’, (2021), 46, Air and Space Law, Issue 4, pp. 545-568,


The freedom of access to outer space has resulted in an exponential increase of objects located in Earth’s orbits. In the coming decade, up to 100,000 satellites in large constellations could be added to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) alone. These new activities require coordination with preexisting ones and consideration of the balance between the different interests at stake. This article addresses satellite constellations’ impact on astronomy and explores solutions to ensure that the development of both are coordinated and harmful interference is minimized. The research analyses former and recent international collaboration efforts to protect astronomy. The authors examine the international legal framework, evaluating the opportunity to consider astronomical observations as space activities, even when ground-based, and present the regulatory consequences of this interpretation, proposing the provision of information to the UN of the aforementioned activities through the mechanism of Article XI Outer Space Treaty (OST) and the protection of such activities through the consultation mechanisms of Article IX OST. Through the combined use of these articles and in compliance with the rules provided for by international space law, it should be possible to protect astronomy by coordinating with legitimate satellite constellations operations.

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