Debris of ISRO Rocket Found in Australia

Recently, an intriguing discovery was made on the shores of western Australia, where a large object was found. The Australian Space Agency has confirmed that the object is debris from an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) rocket. The rocket’s origin and the potential implications of falling space junk have raised questions about international regulations and liability in such cases.

The Confirmed Debris

The debris found on the shores of western Australia has been verified by the Australian Space Agency to be remnants of an ISRO rocket. ISRO’s additional evaluation strongly suggests that the debris probably originated from one of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rockets. According to ISRO officials, the object appears to be an unburnt part of the PSLV rocket used for launching a navigation satellite for the IRNSS constellation approximately two months ago.

Concerns about Falling Space Junk

The discovery of space debris on Earth raises concerns about potential threats to life, property, and marine life. While most falling space objects are relatively small fragments that do not pose significant risks, larger objects can be hazardous if they land in populated areas or oceans.

Notable Past Incidents

Instances of falling space junk making headlines are not unprecedented. In 1979, the Skylab space station, a precursor to the International Space Station, disintegrated, and large chunks of it fell into the Indian Ocean, with some debris reaching land in western Australia.

International Agreements and Liability

International regulations exist to address the issue of space debris, including objects falling back to Earth. The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects outlines the liability of launching countries for any damages caused by their space objects on Earth or to other space assets. This provision makes the launching country “absolutely liable” to pay compensation for any harm caused.

An Overview of the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects

  1. The Space Liability Convention, a treaty established in 1972, extends the liability rules set forth in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.
  2. Effective since September 1, 1972, the Liability Convention has garnered ratification from 98 States, with 19 signatories yet to ratify, and four international intergovernmental organizations accepting its rights and responsibilities.
  3. States bear international responsibility for all space objects launched within their territory, regardless of the launching party. If a space object originates from State A’s territory, facility, or under its influence, State A holds full liability for any resulting damages.
  4. In cases of joint space launches involving two collaborating states, both nations are jointly and severally liable for damages caused by the space object, granting the injured party the option to sue either state for the complete compensation amount.
  5. The Liability Convention mandates that claims must be raised by one state against another state, complementing existing and future national laws to compensate parties harmed by space activities.
  6. Unlike typical national legal systems, which permit individuals or corporations to initiate lawsuits against others, the Liability Convention confines claims solely to the state level. Consequently, individuals seeking compensation for space object-induced damages must pursue claims through their country against the responsible launching state.

Compensation Payment Incidents

Though there have been instances of falling space objects causing damage, compensation payment has occurred only once under the Convention. In 1978, Canada sought damages from the then Soviet Union for a satellite with radioactive material that fell into an uninhabited region in its northern territory, resulting in the Soviet Union paying 3 million Canadian dollars.



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