From One to Many: “Mega” (Constellation) Challenges to the Legal Framework for Outer Space

Anne-Sophie Martin, Steven R. Freeland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Over the more than six decades since the launch of Sputnik I in 1957,
approximately 8000-9000 satellites have been launched into Earth orbit.
However, the more recent emergence of large ("mega") constellations of
small satellites, whilst potentially offering great benefits for humanity,
will alter the paradigm of space as we know it. If the well-publicised
plans of just a few large corporations come to fruition, the number of
objects launched into space over the coming years will dwarf the number
thus far launched by a factor of up to ten to twenty times. This raises a
series of significant challenges for the current international legal framework for outer space, which does not specifically address all the issues associated with deployment of large constellations of satellites. This article examines the principal rules found in United Nations space law treaties that are relevant to large constellations of satellites and analyses various issues that these constellations might represent for the safety, security and long-term sustainability of space activities. It then proceeds to offer several suggestions as to how future international regulation might be developed to more specifically and directly address these concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-176
Number of pages47
JournalAnnals of Air and Space Law
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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