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Who is legally responsible for space debris?


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#1    and then

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 09:01 PM

http://www.foxnews.c...tors_picks=true

I saw the story and it occurred to me that regardless who had sent this device into space and for what purpose it had toiled there, I would not be happy if the thing took me, or even my property out as it came home.  Does anyone know if there are any treaties or space laws that say who pays up if a sizeable object landed in mid town Manhattan during rush hour and kills say... 48 people?
Just curious....

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#2    questionmark

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 09:08 PM

if you can identify the providence of the object then whoever sent it up, but given the millions of pieces swirling around up there: good luck trying.

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#3    and then

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 09:33 PM

View Postquestionmark, on 16 February 2014 - 09:08 PM, said:

if you can identify the providence of the object then whoever sent it up, but given the millions of pieces swirling around up there: good luck trying.
Understood, but in a case such as this that's posted, we know the origin.  I'm just curious because the attitude in the article is one of lack of concern.  A kind of "the odds are on our side" fatalism.  Regardless who's it is, are there any cases where someone has set precedent by having to pay for the damage caused by their equipment reentry?

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#4    Sir Wearer of Hats

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 09:41 PM

If you throw a can of drink out a window and it hits and hurts someone, are you liable?
Same logic IMO.

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#5    davros of skaro

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 09:41 PM

HHHmmm?

From Ambulance chasers to space junk reentry chasers.

It would have to be sizeable for it to do ground level damage due to the Earth’s atmosphere, and its subsequent breakup due to aerodynamic heating and loads.

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#6    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 09:46 PM

Technically the state that launched the object (or which paid for the launch) is legally liable under Article VII of the U.N. Outer Space treaty, which states:

Quote

Each State Party to the Treaty that launches or procures the launching of an object into outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and each State Party from whose territory or facility an object is launched, is internationally liable for damage to another State Party to the Treaty or to its natural or juridical persons by such object or its component parts on the Earth, in air or in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies.
Source: United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

However whilst states accept this article for functioning satellites they do not necessarily do so for space junk.

This article from 2012 gives a fuller explanation: The Space Review - Addressing the challenges of space debris, part 2: liability

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 16 February 2014 - 09:48 PM.
added link for quote.

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#7    DieChecker

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 04:42 AM

View Postquestionmark, on 16 February 2014 - 09:08 PM, said:

if you can identify the providence of the object then whoever sent it up, but given the millions of pieces swirling around up there: good luck trying.
Doesn't the US track every piece of space rubbish that is big enough to reenter the atmosphere? Seems everybody would already know the origin of anything that big.

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#8    DieChecker

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 04:43 AM

View PostWaspie_Dwarf, on 16 February 2014 - 09:46 PM, said:

Technically the state that launched the object (or which paid for the launch) is legally liable under Article VII of the U.N. Outer Space treaty, which states:

I wonder how that is going to work with Civilian corpations getting into space now? Nations will have to be responsible for their citizens space junk?

Here at Intel we make processors on 12 inch wafers. And, the individual processors on the wafers are called die. And, I am employed to check these die. That is why I am the DieChecker.

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#9    keninsc

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 05:36 AM

I've always heard it's the responsibility of the country who put it up, however with the advent of privatized spacecraft being sent up then it would fall (pun not intended but works nicely here) to the company to whom it belonged. I don't know if you could sue NASA if one of theirs fell and took out your house, or if NASA put up a satellite for a telephone company if they'd have to share responsibility.


#10    DieChecker

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 05:44 AM

View Postkeninsc, on 17 February 2014 - 05:36 AM, said:

I've always heard it's the responsibility of the country who put it up, however with the advent of privatized spacecraft being sent up then it would fall (pun not intended but works nicely here) to the company to whom it belonged. I don't know if you could sue NASA if one of theirs fell and took out your house, or if NASA put up a satellite for a telephone company if they'd have to share responsibility.

That is too easy Ken, because you'd just need to dissolve your company every five years or so to avoid responsibility. If the company is gone, then who would be responsible?

Here at Intel we make processors on 12 inch wafers. And, the individual processors on the wafers are called die. And, I am employed to check these die. That is why I am the DieChecker.

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#11    keninsc

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 05:46 AM

What? You don't like easy?


#12    ChrLzs

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 07:26 AM

View PostDieChecker, on 17 February 2014 - 04:42 AM, said:

Doesn't the US track every piece of space rubbish that is big enough to reenter the atmosphere? Seems everybody would already know the origin of anything that big.
Yep.  Even 'dead' old satellites are tracked as much as possible (at night they are easily visible as the Sun catches them overhead just after dusk and before dawn) - their orbits are constantly watched - go see www.heavens-above.com..), and when they fall out of the sky they are either immediately identified or it might take up to a week or two before the one that is now no longer orbiting is positively ID'd.  And of course if any wreckage is found, there will be forensic clues..

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#13    toast

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 08:25 AM

View PostDieChecker, on 17 February 2014 - 04:42 AM, said:

Doesn't the US track every piece of space rubbish that is big enough to reenter the atmosphere? Seems everybody would already know the origin of anything that big.

It´s not only the US, there are 12 space agencies involved coordinated by the IADC (Inter Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee).
Here an informative link to ESA: http://www.esa.int/O...nal_cooperation


Edited by toast, 17 February 2014 - 08:25 AM.

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#14    questionmark

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 03:11 PM

View PostDieChecker, on 17 February 2014 - 04:42 AM, said:

Doesn't the US track every piece of space rubbish that is big enough to reenter the atmosphere? Seems everybody would already know the origin of anything that big.

They can't, and even mostly those tracked cannot be identified to its origin because they don't have to be gigantic to cause considerable damage, an object the size of a 3/4" nut, provided it stays in one piece, could be quite a projectile given the acceleration by gravity.

Luckily most disintegrate before hitting the ground, but that does not have to be the case always.

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#15    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 04:02 PM

View Postquestionmark, on 17 February 2014 - 03:11 PM, said:

They can't,

You will be surprised at just how small an object can be and still be tracked by radar:

Quote

NASA and the DoD cooperate and share responsibilities for characterizing the satellite (including orbital debris) environment. DoD's Space Surveillance Network tracks discrete objects as small as 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter in low Earth orbit and about 1 yard (1 meter) in geosynchronous orbit.
(My emphasis)
Source: NASA


View Postquestionmark, on 17 February 2014 - 03:11 PM, said:

and even mostly those tracked cannot be identified to its origin because they don't have to be gigantic to cause considerable damage,
Most of these objects will have been tracked from the moment they entered orbit. If they are the result of an explosion or a collision in orbit that will be known too.


View Postquestionmark, on 17 February 2014 - 03:11 PM, said:

an object the size of a 3/4" nut, provided it stays in one piece, could be quite a projectile given the acceleration by gravity.
Acceleration duse to gravity has little to do with it. An object needs to be travelling at around 17,500 mph to enter orbit in the first place.

If it enters the atmosphere friction will far outweigh acceleration from gravity, slowing the object down, not speeding it up.


View Postquestionmark, on 17 February 2014 - 03:11 PM, said:

Luckily most disintegrate before hitting the ground, but that does not have to be the case always.
It will pretty much ALWAYS be the case for small objects. When a small object does survive to hit the ground it is because it was part of a large object which broke up during re-entry. Big satellite re-enters - small fragments hit the ground.

Since the scenario that and then gave us was of people being killed on the ground by space debris your argument about small objects is irrelevant.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 17 February 2014 - 04:04 PM.
added source link for NASA quote.

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