Summary of Four Steps to Global Management of Space Traffic

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The satellites that you rely on for your weather forecasts, communication and navigation are in danger. They could collide with each other, or with one of the thousands of pieces of debris up there. Space expert Jamie Morin sketches a road map towards better managing these risks. Don’t expect a technological silver bullet in this levelheaded exposition of what needs to be done. Intensified tracking and large-scale information exchange should be able to prevent mayhem in orbit. The article will compel anyone fascinated by the evolving human infrastructure in space.

About the Author

Jamie Morin is the executive director of the Center for Space Policy and Strategy, part of the Aerospace Corporation. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Futures Council on Space Technology. At the US Department of Defense, he led the Air Force Space Board and Air Force Council.

 

Summary

Today, the US government can track about 20,000 objects in orbit around Earth.

Among those 20,000 objects are 1,500 functioning satellites. The rest consists of satellites that are no longer working, booster rockets and various bits and pieces. In late 2019 the Space Fence project of the US Air Force will be able to see about 200,000. 

The world needs a system of space traffic management.

The number of active satellites is going up rapidly. As satellites get smaller, they become cheaper to put into orbit. The American company SpaceX has a plan to provide space-based internet from 12,000 small satellites. All this will make the probability of collisions go up. And each accident will in turn increase the number of objects in orbit. In 2007, a Chinese ...


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