With the recent third anniversary of the in-orbit collision of an operational Iridium mobile communications satellite and a retired Russian satellite, space law attorney Michael Listner takes a look at the incident and its aftermath in The Space Review.
The Feb. 10, 2009 collision of Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 was one of the worst debris-creating events in space history. Russia and Iridium blamed each other for the incident, opening the possibility of unprecedented legal action under the U.N. Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, Listner says. However, because of conflicting information leading up to the crash and the absence of tracking data, neither side could gather sufficient evidence to meet the fault standard.
Despite the lack of legal resolution, the incident had a positive impact by bringing orbital space debris and space situational awareness into the public consciousness and providing incentive for international cooperation on the issue, Listner says.