South Africa is to ratify the Convention on International Liability for Damage caused by Space Objects of 1972 and the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
Cabinet last week decided to submit the two conventions to Parliament for ratification.
The amount of “space junk” has steadily been increasing since the launch of the first man-made object into space, the Russian satellite Sputnik, in 1957.
The wikipedia explains space debris consist of everything from entire spent rocket stages and defunct satellites to explosion fragments, paint flakes, dust, and slag from solid rocket motors, coolant released by nuclear powered satellites and other small particles.
“Space ‘junk` has become a growing concern in recent years, since collisions at orbital velocities can be highly damaging to functional satellites and can also produce even more space debris in the process. Some spacecraft, like the International Space Station, are now armoured to mitigate damage with this hazard. Astronauts on spacewalks are also vulnerable.”
The European Space Agency estimates there are more than 600 000 objects larger than 10mm in orbit.
The oldest piece of “space junk” still in orbit is the US satellite Vanguard I launched in 1958 in answer to Sputnik.
It is not clear why SA is only now adopting the two conventions, although it may relate to the imminent launching of the Department of Science and Technology-owned Sumbandilasat satellite.