WASHINGTON: Frustrated industry insiders, scientists and experts hold the U.S. government responsible for cleaning up the space environment dating back to the early space age, starting with debris created by federal agencies.
“One of the most important things governments can do is that 28% of the debris in low earth orbit was created by the U.S. government. And like many other environmental disruptions that won the Cold War, this one should be wiped out,” said Jonathan Goff, vice president of orbital services at exploration startup Voyager Space Holdings. , said in town hall style on Thursday. A virtual conference on space debris sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“If the U.S. Navy were to put a derelict ship in sovereign waters and create a security problem, it would likely go out and seize the ship…or hire a salvage company…and go ahead. We’re going to go and get the ship back on shore,” Doug Lovero, the former director of space policy at the Pentagon during the Obama administration, said at the conference. “Such a responsibility has existed for seafaring nations for decades, and there is no reason why governments should not have the same responsibility for derelict ships and derelict bodies in space today. I do not understand.”
Responsibility, according to many participants, includes the federal government for the further development and on-orbit demonstration of emerging technologies that will help revitalize markets and improve the business case for cautious investors. includes the funding of
“If the government takes that responsibility and says they will pay people to get rid of derelict and derelict ships, [rocket] A lot of the business aspects we’ve talked about so far are obvious,” added Loverro.
Some participants will use funding authorities such as the SME Innovation Research/SME Technology Transfer Grant as a model for others, through its SpaceWERX innovation hub, in the field of so-called active debris removal. He pointed to the Department of Defense’s efforts to foster innovation. Emulated by agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA.
But not only money is needed to address the burgeoning debris problem, but also the establishment of an agency focal point or inter-agency group to coordinate actions across governments, participants said.
“Hiding from the problem or going astray is no longer an option. Active management of the space environment requires our immediate attention, and the role of government is limited to technology alone. Instead, it should demonstrate leadership to help develop financial incentives, policy platforms, and more so that remediation services can thrive,” said Charity. Weeden, vice president of global space policy and government relations at debris removal startup Astroscale, said:
“Remediation is an interagency matter,” she added. “So we need a top-level coordinator. [who] Aspects of all departmental institutions involved can be taken into account. We initially believe that NASA is the right place and are open to other options and will discuss this. ”
The two-hour “listening session” provided industry insiders, scientists, and interested members of the public with an opportunity to voice their opinions on the White House’s National Orbital Debris Research and Development Program. [PDF] It was issued in January last year during the waning days of the Trump administration.
The Biden administration announced in early November that the OSTP would update its plans. The plan, which has been criticized by many experts for merely promoting further research on an already widely understood issue, has launched a public his comment period through the end of the year. This request specifically addresses “the areas of research and development that are priorities for government-sponsored initiatives/coordination, the role of academia, nonprofits, and industry stakeholders in addressing these actions, and the public sector. and potential avenues for coordination among stakeholders across the private sector.”
As a follow-up, OSTP was announced on December 17 [PDF] We will be holding two town hall-style virtual opportunities for oral comment as follows:
- January 13 Debris mediation: “The active or passive manipulation of debris objects to reduce or eliminate the risks they pose to operational space assets. “This could include moving debris from trajectories that pose a high risk to spacecraft to low-risk trajectories, and finding ways to reuse or recycle existing debris.”
- Jan 20, Debris Mitigation: This refers to “limiting the creation of new debris through careful selection of spacecraft and rocket designs.”
At times, Thursday’s conference resembles the “grunt broadcast” of the TV comedy Seinfeld’s Festivus celebrations next door, and at other times it descends into what can only be seen as shameless self-promotion of the products of various tech companies. There was also a thing. That said, there was widespread agreement on many of the recommendations.
For example, aside from liability and funding issues, a number of commenters noted the need to shorten the 25-year deadline for removing non-functioning satellites from LEO. agency battle.
Another common thread is that the Department of Commerce has stepped back by properly funding NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce, giving it greater authority to take on a civilian space traffic management role, and making the Department of Defense a commercial and non-space entity. It was that we need to free ourselves from the work of warnings. US operator in possible orbital collision involving debris.
In fact, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Defense Department’s Assistant Secretary for Space Policy, John Plum, said at a confirmation hearing on Thursday that space traffic management is “absolutely essential” and that the transfer of responsibility is a reality. promised to help.