GISTDA in the process of drafting a space law following the crash of a Chinese rocket.
Several countries are monitoring the situation when parts of the People’s Republic of China’s Long March 5B rocket carrying the Tianhe’s core module to the Tiangong Space Station uncontrollably crashed to Earth on May 9, 2021.
China launched a Long March 5B rocket from its Hainan Island launchpad to transport the 16.6 meters Tianhe core module to the Tiangong Space Station. After completing its mission, the rocket’s first stage continued on its orbit around Earth. However, the gravitational effect of the Earth and changes in its atmosphere due to the Sun’s influence caused the debris to fall back to Earth uncontrollably.
In the most recent update, on Sunday, May 9, 2021, the Chinese Space Agency stated that fragments of the Long March 5B transport rocket has re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, splashing down into the Indian Ocean at approximately 10:24 am (May 9) Beijing time, between the coordinates of 72.4 degrees east longitude and 2.65 degrees north latitude, just west of the Maldives.
In Thailand, the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency, or GISTDA, which has been closely monitoring the situation, stated that Thailand would certainly not be affected by the incident. The splashdown occurred exactly as expected, stated Dr. Pakorn Apaphant, Executive Director of GISTDA, who also added that “even if pieces from the debris did not cause any damages to life or properties, but existing space laws clearly state details on reparations which must be provided by the satellites’ or space stations’ originating countries for any damages that might occur”.
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Consultations with Prof. Dr. Chukiat Noichim, Head of International Law at Mae Fah Luang University, who is the Thai representative on the Specialized Panel of Scientific and Technical Experts, under the Permanent Court of Arbitration Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Outer Space Activities (PCA Outer Space Rules), has made it known that;
” Space laws, regulations, and international practice that are specifically applicable to this type of incident are three laws under the United Nations’ Space Treaties, with the first law being the 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (“Outer Space Treaty”).
The second treaty is the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space (“the Rescue Agreement of 1968”), and the third treaty being the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (the “Liability Convention of 1972″). The agency that oversees the global operations of space affairs is the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). Thailand is currently a member of two of the previously mentioned treaties, and therefore, must promptly return parts of the space objects to the country who owns the objects upon request”.
GISTDA Executive Director also added that “individuals who come across falling space objects that fall onto Thai territory, must notify local state officials, which are then required to notify the relevant government agencies and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so as to further coordinate with the countries that own the space objects and other concerned international organizations. However, as Thailand is presently not a party to the Liability Convention,
Legally, Thailand cannot apply this treaty with the country that owns the space object and file for damages if these pieces of objects cause damages to life or property, though Thailand has not encountered any such incidents.
However, although Thailand has never been impacted by such events, there is no way to know whether they will occur in the future. Currently, several countries are increasingly competing in the production of space objects, such as satellites, or sending space stations into orbit, which may pose a future risk. Therefore, in preparation for future incidents, the National Space Policy Committee has assigned GISTDA to prepare a draft of the Space Affairs Act, which is currently in the process of deliberation from various agencies before presenting it to the Cabinet for approval.
The Act is intended to provide Thailand with laws related to the operation of space activities and establishing a central agency for the integration of the country’s space affairs, including to prepare Thailand to join the Liability Convention of 1972. It will result in Thailand being protected by law against any event where fragments of space objects owned by other countries falling to Earth and causing damages to any individuals or properties within the territory of Thailand, as well as providing a more concrete mechanism for claiming damages from the country of origin of the space objects. Progress on the development of this issue and other news can be accessed at www.thac.or.th
- “Space Law” with regards to space debris falling to Earth (bangkokbiznews.com)