Date of Award

January 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Aerospace Sciences

First Advisor

Michael S. Dodge


There is much dispute over which agency should take charge of creating and enforcingspace debris regulations. The controversy stems from the highly underdeveloped legal framework that is limited to the IADC guidelines, the Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices (ODMSP), and Space Policy Directive-3. Currently, the Federal Communications Commission is attempting to take the lead role in this effort by establishing the new 5-year space debris disposal rule. However, it is argued that Congress did not declare it to be within their jurisdictional purview. Congress has not yet explicitly stated their intent to have a centralized authority in establishing relevant regulations for this issue, but the resolution may reside with the most practical authority. It can be argued that the Department of Commerce (DOC) is the most practical, given the increasing amount of commercial involvement in the space domain. The DOC has the obligation to license commercial assets, monitor their compliance with domestic standards, and in some cases engage with shutter control. The DOC in having that obligation, would make it sensible for them to expand their responsibility to ensuring compliance with newly formed space debris mitigation regulations. Also, the DOC has been deemed as the primary authority for SSA and STM through SPD-3, the ORBITS Act, and the SSA Transition Act. Therefore, the intent of Congress is clear. Even though other agencies will be contributing in their own specialized manner, the DOC will set model STM regulations for other agencies to adopt. In addition, with the inherent rudimentary nature of the legal framework, it can be assessed that regulations, legislation, and policy need to jointly establish clarity and codify solutions to the space debris crisis in a timely manner.