Current debris mitigation guidelines for operators flying satellites at low-Earth and geostationary orbits include, among others:
- avoid intentional generation of debris (including anti-satellite tests)
- minimisation of potential for accidental explosions
- a 25-year deorbit rule for missions in low-Earth orbit
- missions in geostationary orbit should be sent to a higher ‘graveyard orbit’ at the end of their lives, keeping out of the way of functioning satellites
- collision avoidance should take place when feasible, as well as minimising the risk of casualties on the ground due to re-entries
As summarised in ESA’s latest Space Debris Environment Report, most operators of satellites in geostationary orbit comply to these guidelines, but less than 60% of those flying in low-Earth orbit adhere (and only 20% in orbits above 650 km). Several countries have also conducted anti-satellite tests over the years.