by Nima Nayebi –
The question confronting us today is: who owns the GSO? The inevitability of technological and scientific progress promises a future full of challenges for space lawyers, who will ultimately be responsible for the composition of (and adherence to) international law in this new frontier. In this Note, I will explore a topic that may initially seem like a plot out of Star Trek, but is very much real, and will become even more relevant as humanity ventures farther from home.
In recent years, “parking spots” in the geosynchronous orbit have become an increasingly hot commodity. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), since the launch of the first television satellite into a geosynchronous orbit in 1964, the number of objects in Earth’s orbit has steadily increased to over 200 new additions per year. This increase was initially fueled by the Cold War, during which space was a prime area of competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Yet over two decades after the end of the US-Soviet space race, even the global financial crisis that began in 2007 does not seem to have diminished the demand for telecommunications satellites positioned in GSO. This ongoing scramble to place satellites in GSO prompted some developing equatorial countries to assert sovereignty over the outer space “above” their territorial borders, presumably with the hope of extracting rent from the developed countries that circulate their technologies overhead. So far, the international community has rejected this notion, but the legal status of the GSO remains in limbo.