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One of the purposes of maritime salvage law is to provide an incentive to retrieve distressed vessels before they can cause further damage to other vessels and to navigable waters. This purpose is needed as much in orbit around Earth as on its seas. However, current space law has no salvage provisions. The increasing crowding of near-Earth space creates urgent policy implications for incentivising the retrieval and repair or safe deorbit of non-functional satellites to preserve the safety of orbits crucial for life as we know it – and for the safety of the planet below, which is even more crucial.

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