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This article is written by Shubhangi Upmanya, a first-year student of Vivekananda Institute of professional studies, Indraprastha University. In it, she has discussed the principles adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations regarding the International Television Broadcasting, Remote Sensing of the Earth and the use of Nuclear Power in outer space. 

Introduction

The era of space-age began soon after the launch of Sputnik I by the Soviet Union. Its launch opened the door for new scientific, technological, political, and military developments. It was placed in the orbit of the Earth to transmit radio transmissions but it failed some days after. After that, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik II, but it too operated only for 4 days against the planned 10 days. Every country at that time wanted to be in that space race with America launching Vanguard TV3, soon after Sputnik I and Sputnik II. 

While space-age brought in an insurgency in the transmission and communication, it also created many problems of legal nature which had to be solved. The conquest of the space-age has brought with it new challenges for international decision making. A need was felt to impose legal obligations on such activities concerning outer space and having a direct relation to the Earth. These activities include television broadcasting and remote sensing of the Earth.

In this article, we will be discussing the principles adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nation.

Types of Satellites

There are two types of satellites, natural and artificial. Natural satellites include the Moon and the Earth whereas artificial satellites are man-made ones, which are sent to the orbit of the Earth. Now, there are many different types of artificial satellites, distinguished on the basis of the functions they perform. Among them, there are communication and remote sensing satellites.

Communication satellites transmit and amplify radio telecommunications signals through a transponder. Further, it constructs a communication channel to connect the source transmitter and the receiver which are present at different locations on Earth.

On the other hand, the remote sensing satellites are used to collect all the related information about an object.

Types of SatellitesHistory

1976 to 1980 was the epoch of the beginning of the satellite TV industry. Arthur C. Clarke, a science fiction writer, was the first to propose a global communication system. 

Sputnik was the world’s first artificial satellite and since then around 9000 satellites have been launched by the countries, out of which around 1500 are still operational while others have added to the space debris.

Talking particularly about the communication satellites, the first television signals were transmitted from Europe to North America through a satellite named “Telstar”. The first television signal from the United States to Japan was transmitted via Relay 1 in the year 1962.

In the year 1963, the first geosynchronous communication satellite, namely Syncom 2, was launched. Furthermore, Intelsat I (nicknamed “Early Bird”) was launched in the year 1965, which was the world’s first commercial communication satellite. Talking about Direct Broadcast Satellite(DBS), the first of this kind was named ATS-6 and was launched in 1974.

You must have heard of DTH(Direct -to- Home) Television, Ekran-1 was the first DTH satellite launched by the Soviet Union in the year 1976.

We will now be looking at the principles governing the use of artificial satellites for international television broadcasting.

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Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting

 Purposes and objectives 

  1. All the activities carried out in the field of international direct television broadcasting via communication satellites will be carried out in such a manner that is consonant with the sovereign rights of the respective States.
  2. It also has to be consistent with principle 42 of non-intervention, as well as with the right of everyone to seek, receive and impart information and ideas as provided in the concerned United Nations instruments.
  3. Activities like these should promote the free dissemination and mutual exchange of information and knowledge in cultural and scientific fields. It should further assist in educational, social and economic development, which is very necessary for developing countries. 
  4. Such activities should also enhance the quality of life of the people living in the concerned state and provide restoration to the political and cultural integrity of States with due respect.  
  5. These activities should be carried out in such a manner that is compatible with the development of mutual understanding and the strengthening of friendly relations accordingly.
  6. All the activities should also ensure that all the states thoroughly cooperate with each other and also with the people of the different states with the interest to maintain international peace and security.

Applicability of international law

  1. All the activities in the field of international direct television broadcasting by the use of artificial satellites shall be conducted according to international law. 
  2. Also, the activities will be carried out in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations as well as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, adopted on 27 January 1967.
  3. The activities have to be in accordance with the relevant provisions of the International Telecommunication Convention and its Radio Regulations and of international instruments relating to friendly relations and cooperation among States.
  4. The activities have to take into account all the provisions related to human rights.

Rights and benefits 

  1. All the states in the world have an equal right to carry out activities related to the field of international direct television broadcasting by means of artificial satellites.
  2. The states also have an equal right to authorize such activities by persons and entities under their jurisdiction. 
  3. Further, it is provided that all the states and their citizens are entitled to the benefits received from such activities and meanwhile they should enjoy such benefits obtained.
  4. Access to the technology related to this field should also be made accessible to all states without discrimination on terms mutually agreed by all concerned.

International cooperation 

  1. All the activities carried out in the field of international direct television broadcasting by the use of artificial satellites should be based upon international co-operation.
  2. Such activities should also encourage co-operation on an international level among the states.
  3. Such cooperation should be the concerned objective of appropriate arrangements made henceforth. 
  4. The developing countries should be necessarily given special and adequate consideration.
  5. As they need it the most among other states, it will help to fulfil their needs related to the use of international direct television broadcasting by the use of artificial satellites.
  6. Giving special consideration to the developing countries will also help them to accelerate their national development greatly.

 Peaceful settlement of disputes

  1. Any dispute which is of international nature if arise from all the concerned activities covered by these principles should be settled with the help of the established procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes.
  2. Such disputes have to be agreed upon by the parties to the dispute in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. 

State responsibility 

  1. All the states will be liable to hold up international responsibility for all the concerned activities in the field of international direct television broadcasting by the use of artificial satellites that are carried out by them or under their jurisdiction.
  2. All the states will also be liable for the international responsibility to ensure the conformity of any such activities with the principles set forth in this document.
  3. When international direct television broadcasting by the use of artificial satellite is carried out by an international intergovernmental organization, the responsibility referred to in paragraph 8 of this document should be held up both by that international governmental organization and by all the states participating in it. 

 Duty and right to consult 

  1. In case any broadcasting or receiving state within an international direct television broadcasting satellite service established between them is requested to do so by some other broadcasting or receiving state within the same service, then it should immediately enter into consultations with the state which requested for the service.
  2. It should enter into consultations with the requesting state with regards to its concerned activities in the field of international direct television broadcasting by the use of artificial satellites.
  3. It should be done without prejudice to other consultations that the requesting state may undertake or is already in the process of undertaking, with any other State on that subject.

Copyright and neighbouring rights 

  1. States should cooperate on a bilateral and multilateral basis for the protection of copyright and neighbouring rights, without prejudice to the concerned provisions, present in the international law.
  2. Co-operation should be ensured by means of appropriate agreements between the interested states or the competent legal entities acting under their jurisdiction.
  3. In such cooperation, they should give special and adequate consideration to the interests of developing countries in the use of direct television broadcasting. It should be done for the purpose of enhancing and accelerating their national development. 

Notification to the United Nations 

  1. All the States conducting or authorizing activities in the field of international direct television broadcasting by the use of the artificial satellite should inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to the greatest extent possible, of the nature of such activities.
  2. This process has to be followed in order to make certain as well as to promote international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes and to keep the interest of all the states intact.
  3. On receiving this information, the Secretary-General should disseminate it promptly and effectively to the relevant specialized agencies, as well as to the public and the international scientific community. 

Consultations and agreements between States 

  1.  A state which has in mind the view to establish or authorize the establishment of an international direct television broadcasting satellite service should notify the proposed state or states who will receive such service about such intention, without any delay.
  2. The state which intends to establish or authorize the establishment of an international direct television broadcasting shall promptly enter into consultation with any of those states which request the service.
  3. An international direct television broadcasting satellite service shall only be permitted to be established after the conditions set forth in paragraph 13 of the document have been met.
  4. Such conditions should be fulfilled on the basis of agreements and/or arrangements in conformity with the relevant instruments of the International Telecommunication Union and in conformity with these principles. 
  5. With respect to the unavoidable overspill of the radiation of the satellite signal, the relevant instruments of the International Telecommunication Union shall be exclusively applicable.

To elaborate on the last point, we will now discuss general goals for radiation protection and nuclear safety. The goals are provided under Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space. The General Assembly adopted these principles in its thirty-fifth session.

Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space

It is necessary to make sure that the satellites which are sent to space and use nuclear power should do so in a particular manner as per the principles regarding the use of nuclear power, adopted by the General Assembly.

General goals for radiation protection and nuclear safety

  1. All the states which launch space objects with nuclear power sources on board should venture to protect individuals, populations and the biosphere against radiological hazards;
  2. The design and use of space objects with nuclear power sources on board should, with a high degree of confidence, make certain that all the hazards which could occur in foreseeable operations or accidental circumstances are kept below acceptable levels as defined in paragraphs 1 (b) and (c) of this principle; 
  3. Such design should, with high reliability ensure that radioactive material does not cause significant contamination of outer space; 
  4. The appropriate radiation protection objective for the public recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection shall be observed during the normal operation of space objects when the nuclear power sources are on board, including re-entry from the sufficiently high orbit;
  5. During such normal operation there should be no significant radiation exposure;
  6. In order to limit exposure in accidents, the design and construction of the nuclear power source systems should take into account all the relevant and generally accepted international radiological protection guidelines;
  7. Except in cases where there lies a low-probability of occurrence of accidents with potentially serious radiological consequences, the design for the nuclear power source systems should, with a high degree of confidence, restrict radiation exposure to a limited geographical region and to individuals to the principal limit of 1 mSv in a year;
  8. Regarding the restriction of radiation exposure, the use of a subsidiary dose limit of 5 mSv in a year for some years can also be done, provided that the average annual effective dose equivalent over a lifetime does not exceed the principal limit of 1 mSv in a year; 
  9. The probability of the occurrence of accidents with potentially serious radiological consequences (mentioned above) shall be kept extremely small with respect to the design of the system;
  10. Future modifications of the guidelines mentioned in this document will be applied as soon as practicable; 
  11. The Systems and its components that are important to ensure safety should be designed, constructed and operated in accordance with the general concept of defence-in-depth;
  12. Pursuant to this concept, foreseeable safety-related failures or malfunctions must be of such a nature  that they are fully capable of being corrected or counteracted by an action or a procedure or if possible then can be corrected automatically;
  13. The reliability of systems important for safety should be ensured among other things. 
  14. It could be ensured by redundancy, physical separation, functional isolation and adequate independence of their components;
  15. Other measures possible can also be taken up to raise the level of safety.

Nuclear reactors 

Nuclear reactors can be operated:

  1.  On interplanetary missions; 
  2.  Insufficiently high orbits;
  3.  In low-Earth orbits, in case the nuclear reactors are kept in sufficiently high orbits after the operational part of their mission is concluded. 

Let’s understand what is meant by sufficiently high orbits. 

  1. The sufficiently high orbit is one in which the orbital lifetime is long enough to allow for a sufficient decay of the fission products to approximately the activity of the actinides;
  2. The sufficiently high orbit must be of such a nature that the risks relating to the existing and future outer space missions and those related to the collision with other space objects are adjusted to a minimum;
  3. The need for the parts of a destroyed reactor to obtain the required decay time before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere should also be considered in deciding about the sufficiently high orbit altitude; 
  4. Nuclear reactors should be restricted to use only highly enriched uranium 235 as fuel and not any other element. 
  5. The design should consider the radioactive decay of the fission and activation products; 
  6. Nuclear reactors should not be made critical before they already reached their operating orbit or interplanetary trajectory; 
  7. The design and construction of the nuclear reactor should make certain that it can not become critical before reaching the operating orbit during all the possible events which are foreseeable. It includes rocket explosion, re-entry, impact on ground or water, submersion in water or water intruding into the core.

There should be a highly reliable operating system to ensure an effective and significantly controlled disposal of the reactor. This has to be done in order to decrease the possibility of failures in satellites with nuclear reactors on board during the satellite is in operation while in an orbit with a lifetime less than in the sufficiently high orbit (it includes operations for transfer into the sufficiently high orbit).

Radioisotope generators 

  • The radioisotope generators can be used in case of interplanetary missions and other missions in which the satellites may leave the gravity field of the Earth. 
  • The radioisotope generators can also be used in Earth orbit in such a case where, after the conclusion of the operation part of the mission, they are stored in a high orbit. 
  • The radioisotope generators can be used in any case ultimate disposal is necessary.
  • Further, the radioisotope generators have to be protected by a containment system that should be designed and constructed with a view that it is able to withstand the heat and aerodynamic forces of re-entry in the upper atmosphere under orbital conditions which could be foreseen.
  • It may include highly elliptical or hyperbolic orbits where relevant. 
  • Upon impact, the containment system and the physical form of the isotope should be able to ensure thoroughly that no radioactive material is scattered into the environment.
  • It is to ensure that the impact area is completely cleared of radioactivity by a recovery operation. 

 Safety assessment 

  • At the time of launch, the launching state should, prior to the launch, ensure that a thorough and comprehensive safety assessment has been conducted.
  • This can be ensured through cooperative arrangements, where relevant, with those which have designed, constructed or manufactured the nuclear power sources, or will operate the space object, or from whose territory or a facility such an object will be launched.
  • Such an assessment will cover all concerned phases of the mission and will deal with all the systems involved.
  • Systems involved include the means through which the space object will be launched, such as the space platform, the nuclear power source, and its equipment. 
  • It also includes the means of control and communication between ground and space.
  • This assessment should be as per the guidelines which are specified and also according to the criteria for safe use.
  • The results of this safety assessment should be made publicly available prior to each launch along with an indication of the approximate intended time-frame of the launch.
  • This should be done to the extent feasible. Also, the Secretary-General of the United Nations should be informed, prior to each launch of this and of how states could be able to give out such results of the safety assessment as soon as possible. 
  • All of it should be done in accordance with Article XI of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.

Now we will move on to discuss the Principles Related to Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space.

Principles Related to Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space

Remote sensing is a process in which information about an object is collected from a distance. This is done by a satellite or aircraft. It observes and further performs an analysis of the object without actually coming into contact. 

The General Assembly adopted some principles related to remote sensing of the Earth from outer space. We will discuss some of the important principles now.

Principle I

Principle 1 has given some important definitions for the purpose of understanding the concepts.

  • The term “remote sensing” means the sensing of the Earth’s surface from space by making use of the properties of electromagnetic waves emitted, reflected or diffracted by the sensed objects, for the purpose of improving natural resources management, land use and the protection of the environment; 
  • “The term “primary data” means those raw data that are acquired by remote sensors borne by a space object and that are transmitted or delivered to the ground from space by telemetry in the form of electromagnetic signals, by photographic film, magnetic tape or any other means”; 
  • “The term “processed data” means the products resulting from the processing of the primary data, needed to make such data usable”; 
  • “The term “analyzed information” means the information resulting from the interpretation of processed data, inputs of data and knowledge from other sources”;
  • “The term “remote sensing activities” means the operation of remote sensing space systems, primary data collection and storage stations, and activities in processing, interpreting and disseminating the processed data”. 

Principle II

  • All the activities related to Remote sensing should be carried out for the benefit and keeping in mind the interests of all countries. 
  • It should be done irrespective of an individual country’s degree of economic, social or scientific and technological development and while taking into consideration the needs of the developing countries.

 Principle III 

  • All the activities related to Remote sensing should be carried out in conformity with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space (including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies)
  • All the activities related to Remote sensing should also be carried out in conformity with the relevant instruments of the International Telecommunication Union. 

Principle IV 

  • Remote sensing activities should be carried out in accordance with the principles provided in Article I of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. 
  • Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, in particular, provides that the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and while keeping in view the good interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and stipulates the principle of freedom of exploration and use of outer space on the basis of equality.
  • These activities should be carried out keeping in mind the principle providing for full and permanent sovereignty of all states and peoples over their own wealth and natural resources.
  • Along with it, due respect has to be given to the rights and interests of the states and their citizens.
  • This has to be done in conformity with international law prevailing in other states and entities under their jurisdiction.
  • Such activities should at all not be conducted in such a manner which can prove injurious to the legitimate rights and interests of the concerned state
  • States conducting remote sensing activities should promote international cooperation in these activities. 
  • To ensure this to this end, the states should make opportunities available to other states for participation therein. 
  • In each case, such participation shall be based on equitable and mutually acceptable terms. 

Principle VI 

  • In order to maximize the availability of benefits from remote sensing activities, states should be encouraged, through agreements or other arrangements, to provide for the establishment and operation of data collecting and storage stations.
  • The states should also be encouraged regarding the processing and interpretation facilities. It should, in particular, be done within the framework of regional agreements or arrangements wherever feasible.

Principle VII 

  • All the concerned participant states in remote sensing activities should make technical assistance to other interested states available.
  • It should be done on mutually agreed terms.

 Principle VIII

  • The United Nations and the other relevant agencies which come within the United Nations system will work towards the goal of promoting international cooperation, including technical assistance and coordination in the area of remote sensing. 

Principle IX

  • A State conducting a program of remote sensing should, with all due regards, inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
  • It should be done in conformance with Article IV of the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space and Article XI of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.
  • Moreover, the states should make available any other information which is relevant to the greatest extent feasible and practicable to any other state, particularly any developing country that is affected by such a program.
  • It will be done at the country’s request.

 Principle X 

  • Remote sensing should have a goal to promote the protection of the Earth’s natural environment. 
  • To ensure this to this end, all the participant states in remote sensing activities should disclose information to all the states concerned.
  • The information includes the matters in which they have identified information in their possession that is capable of averting any phenomenon harmful to the Earth’s natural environment. 

Conclusion 

The conquest of the space-age is burgeoning in today’s time. With such rapidly growing activities related to the exploration of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, there is also an exigency of the space laws to flourish. Existing space-laws are either weak in their language or are not providing exact solutions. There have to be new solutions to new problems. 

In the present time, every country wants to excel in the space race and in pursuance of that, they are many-a-times appearing on the first page of the newspaper for achieving something in outer space. But along with that many headlines regarding the contamination of the space through the use of nuclear power or banning of the television satellites, can also be seen. Hence, these activities have to be checked and eliminated from their roots.

References 

  1. https://www.unoosa.org/pdf/publications/STSPACE11E.pdf
  2. https://m.economictimes.com/industry/media/entertainment/media/tv-broadcasters-on-collision-path-with-space-department-over-satellite-use/articleshow/63278276.cms
  3. https://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/
  4. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/how-many-satellites-has-india-launched/article30107480.ece
  5. https://www.isro.gov.in/applications/television

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