International states are free to use and exploit space orbits, in accordance with the principles of international law, the Charter of the United Nations and space law and environmental, terrestrial, oceanic or space orbits, in accordance with the text of Principle II of the 1992 Rio Declaration. 

In view of the rapid and dangerous development of space activities and clandestine research, it has become increasingly difficult to identify and determine the environmental damages caused. The environmental pollution of outer space is one of the most serious contemporary international environmental issues. States that launch space activities by introducing any harmful substances, nuclear energy sources or carrying out illegal physical activities such as nuclear explosions or collisions in the outer space environment have or are likely to have consequences.

A definition of pollution in terms of its contamination of outer space environment in all outer space treaties, as well as in the declarations and decisions of outer space affairs of the United Nations does not exist. In the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which governs the activities of states in outer space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, a legal text that defines the intended environmental pollution of outer space does not exist. However; there is identification of pollution sources to outer space environment and its causes. It is stated in the text of Outer Space Treaty of 1967 Article IX, the obligation of States parties, that it is necessary to avoid the occurrence of any harmful contamination of outer space, as well as any adverse changes in the ocean of our planet or its environment with non-terrestrial materials. Also banned are experiments of any kind involving weapons on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.

The sources of pollution of the outer space environment and the reasons set forth in the text of Outer Space Treaty of 1967 Article IX are activities or experiences that cause harmful pollution of outer space and the changes that damage space objects surrounding the Earth or the Earth itself. Moreover, nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction are forbidden and if placed in orbits around the Earth or the moon or any other space this is as crime as contained in the text of Outer Space Treaty of 1967 Article IV. As well, any parts scattered both above ground (on the territory of another State) or in airspace or outer space from sources of pollution that entails international responsibility are included as outer space and are an object of this treaty. Additionally, the United Nations General Assembly recommended in its resolution No. A/RES/52/56 of 12th February 1998 ” to give more attention to the development of peaceful uses of outer space with international cooperation and all aspects relating to the protection of the outer space environment and conservation, particularly those aspects that have an impact on the Earth’s environment”

The Moscow Treaty of 1963 banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere and outer space and under water, it has indicated in its preamble to “put an end to the pollution of the atmosphere and the ocean where human lives”. It also announced its primary objective, which is to put an end to the race for or armament production or testing of all types of nuclear weapons, and to stop nuclear weapons testing explosions.

The Moscow Treaty of 1963 Article I stipulates that each member of this Agreement shall undertake to prohibit, prevent and not conduct any test of a nuclear weapon or any other nuclear explosion anywhere under his or her authority in outer space. However, this treaty did not recognize the pollution of the environment, but rather mentioned the causes of pollution resulting from nuclear explosions that cause harmful radioactivity. The “pollution”, for this Instrument, “means the human modification of the environment by the introduction of undesirable elements, or by unwanted use of these elements “. The responsibility for the pollution of the outer space environment and modified ecosystem of outer space is the result of human use and so there must be a legal organization addressing this behaviour to limit the damage to this area. The “Space Pollution” definition thus must include two pollution factors. First, it is either through the introduction of undesirable elements into this environment, such as nuclear test residues, radiation from nuclear power sources, space objects, remnants or parts after they crash, or any other element of outer space pollution. The increase of such space experiments or objects, in violation of the components of the outer space ecosystem, would also have adverse environmental effects, which would have a negative impact on the future of space activity and would damage the space activities of States at present. The other factor determined by the definition is “The Undesirable Use of Those Elements” in the case of increased launch volume and increased number of satellites which cannot be accommodated by limited-use orbits such as the geostationary orbit.

Outer Space is unable to accommodate space-based orbits such as the geostationary orbit, increasing them, especially after the end of their effectiveness and if not removed or withdrawn to orbits to clear, they will lead to obstruction of space traffic and result in danger and damage in the event of a collision. The undesirable elements can be defined as “all harmful elements including space debris”.

It should be noted that of all international instruments on outer space issues, this definition is the only mention on pollution and although it is not binding, because it is contained in a draft international document.

It is a good initiative to alert the international community to the urgent need for a legal definition of the pollution of the outer space environment. The definition contained in the draft did not cover all elements of outer space pollution and its causes, as those causes and elements were linked to a result of, technical development.

Adverse effects, such as: damage to the Earth and its surroundings; the disruption of space activities, including telecommunications, scientific research and other peaceful activities of other States and impaired validity of legitimate space orbits around the Earth must be on the focus for outer space to replenish next-generation space-related concerns and research.

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