In noting the parallels between debris or pollution in the seas of the world and debris in orbit, but also the lack of mechanisms in space for dealing with it, the NSS Policy Committee produced its latest policy paper, titled “Space Debris Removal, Salvage, and Use: Maritime Lessons.” The paper proposes mechanisms and systems for creating a safe space environment via active debris remediation and salvage, including ways to overcome daunting liability and compensation impediments. NSS also recommends actions that would create strong incentives for private owners and State Parties to the Outer Space Treaty to rapidly remove space debris, or salvage it for later use, both in orbit and on planetary surfaces.
Because spacecraft or payload owners and State Parties working alone might not have capability or economic means to carry out such debris remediation actions, NSS describes a way to harness market forces to help service the debris problem. Drawing on lessons learned over many years in the maritime context, NSS also proposes funding for liability compensation through mechanisms such as protection and indemnity (P&I) space clubs in collaboration with other stakeholders. In addition, NSS proposes a multilateral system that would strongly incentivize owners and launch-registered State Parties to relinquish control of derelict objects to thereby create a system where it is less expensive and dangerous to remove debris than to let it persist. Finally, NSS provides a notional agreement to establish a Space Salvage Entity (SSE).