Exploring the Legal Challenges of Future on-Orbit Servicing Missions and Proximity Operations

Anne Sophie Martin, Steven R. Freeland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


On-orbit servicing (00S) and rendezvous and proximity oper­ations (RPO) currently represent key elements regarding future on­orbit activities. If successfully implemented, these types of missions will greatly increase the viability of and benefits from space activi­ties. Several countries and companies are seeking to develop active debris removal (ADR), 00S, and RPO capabilities. However, these proposed activities raise several legal, safety, security and policy challenges. Indeed, the planned future servicing missions through a so-called space tug -including orbit correction, refueling, space debris removal and substitution of payload-highlight a new para­digm in space activities. On the one hand there is a necessity to avoid collision in orbit; on the other hand, in the case of on-orbit rendezvous, the activity is predicated on the docking of two space objects. This article identifies and discusses some of these major challenges, including any associated risks to space security, the "weaponization" of space and their impact on the sustainability of the space environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-222
JournalJournal of Space Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


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