IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


2nd August, 2023 Science and Technology

Disclaimer: Copyright infringement not intended.


  • A recent incident involved the discovery of debris from an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) rocket on the shores of western Australia.


Incidents of Space Debris

  • Falling space junk incidents, often involving small rocket fragments surviving atmospheric friction, are relatively common but rarely make significant news.
  • Notable incidents include a 25-tonne Chinese rocket chunk falling into the Indian Ocean in 2021 and the disintegration of the Skylab space station in 1979, with some parts landing in western Australia.

Risks and Danger

  • Falling space junk can threaten life, property, and marine life when falling into oceans, covering 70% of the Earth's surface.
  • However, recorded incidents of significant damage caused by falling objects have occurred in uninhabited areas.

International Regulations

  • The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects is an international agreement complementing the Outer Space Treaty.
  • The convention makes the launching country "absolutely liable" to pay compensation for any damage caused by its space object on Earth or to a flight in air.
  • It aims to ensure accountability and encourage responsible space activities.

Liability and Compensation

  • In the recent Australian incident, India could have been liable to pay compensation if the PSLV rocket debris had caused any damage, even if it fell into the ocean and was swept ashore.
  • The amount of compensation is determined based on international law, principles of justice, and equity.
  • Liability applies regardless of whether the damage is caused by the space object directly or as a result of its fall to Earth.

Past Compensation Cases

  • The convention has resulted in compensation payment only once when Canada sought damages from the Soviet Union for a satellite with radioactive substance that fell into an uninhabited region in its territory in 1978.
  • The Soviet Union reportedly paid 3 million Canadian dollars as compensation.
  • This case highlights the importance of international cooperation and adherence to liability conventions.

Mitigation and Prevention

  • Space agencies worldwide, including ISRO, employ mitigation measures to minimize space debris generation during satellite launches and space missions.
  • Initiatives include controlled re-entries, orbit adjustments, and responsible disposal of defunct satellites.


Incidents of space debris falling back to Earth, though not uncommon, have not caused significant damage to inhabited areas. The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects plays a crucial role in governing compensation for damages caused by space junk. These international regulations and liability conventions are essential in ensuring accountability and addressing potential risks posed by space debris to human populations, marine life, and the environment. Continued adherence to these conventions and increased efforts in space debris mitigation and prevention will contribute to future safe space exploration and activities.





Q. What is the role of international regulations, like the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, in addressing space debris incidents, and how can space debris mitigation be enhanced for safe space exploration? (250 Words)