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The Current International Legal Setting for the Protection of the Outer Space Environment: The Precautionary Principle Avant La Lettre


  • Claudia Cinelli,

  • Katarzyna Pogorzelska

  • Claudia Cinelli is author of sections 5–6 and 8–12 and she supervised the manuscript as a whole. Katarzyna Pogorzelska is author of sections 1–4 and 7.


Over the last decades, space-based technologies have significantly contributed to the socio-economic advancement of humankind. While reliance on outer space has increased, the security of the space assets enabling the benefits has significantly decreased due to a laissez-faire approach in the exploitation and exploration of outer space and the subsequent proliferation of space debris. The problematic issue of space debris is getting to the point where it should be treated with precaution. The precautionary principle, broadly applied in the protection of the terrestrial environment, may also have the potential to enhance the regime for environmental protection of outer space. This article analyzes the current legal regime, at international and European levels, for the protection of the near-Earth outer space environment, focusing on the issue of space debris. The article examines the rationale behind an avant la lettre application of the precautionary principle to the protection of the outer space environment.