Space traffic management (STM) — the identification and resolution of potential mission-ending collisions of operational spacecraft — is gaining increasing attention as the number of operational satellites in low-Earth orbit increases dramatically.
To maintain a safe and robust space industry, operational satellites and their supporting infrastructure must be resilient and responsive to mitigate mission termination or catastrophic collisions. We encourage institutional and policy maker efforts to develop, synchronize, and refine STM principles, including data sharing, improved state vector accuracy, near-real-time combined data messaging, and expanding global space surveillance assets. praise the
However, STM alone is insufficient to ensure safe spatial operations. Space debris management (SDM) — the mitigation and remediation of space debris, including debris and bulk debris — needs to be pursued even more urgently than STM.
Micrometeoroids and orbital debris are increasingly cited as the cause of satellite anomalies. You can reduce the orbital debris side of the problem by excluding objects that are most likely to participate in a collision. Our recent LEO Collision Risk Continuum paper reinforced that debris-to-debris coupling is more likely to generate debris than STM encounters (i.e. operational satellites against all resident space objects). Thousands of massive derelict objects – non-functioning payloads and abandoned rocket bodies – have been left in similar orbits. Makes collisions that produce large pieces more likely at . Specifically, our analysis identified the most likely collisions between spent Russian rocket bodies and Chinese and American debris debris and non-operational payloads. These impacts are most likely to occur between 775 and 850 kilometers, making this a top priority area to reduce the likelihood of debris generation.
This situation provides a unique opportunity for major space powers to work together to demonstrate the viability of active debris removal (ADR) and launch a commercial ADR industry.
The US, Russian, and Chinese space agencies (NASA, Roscosmos, and CNSA) have launched joint remediation missions to space debris management, even more urgent than space traffic management, to remove the 20 objects of statistically greatest concern in LEO. Must start. The European, Japanese and British space agencies (ESA, JAXA and UKSA) are pioneering this quest by mobilizing ClearSpace and Astroscale to conduct demonstrations of his ADR technology. Satellite communications (Intelsat, Inmarsat), earth observations (Landsat, SPOT), and SAR (Seasat, Radarsat) are examples of other technologies that have received government support over the decades.
ADR is environmental protection. The space environment is home to critical functions to support humanitarian efforts such as greenhouse gas monitoring, natural resource management, wildfire detection, and food security. Without timely intervention to remove the large, decades-old debris, the proliferation of operational satellites, and indeed the risk of collisions, will only increase. Simply saying the problem is “too complicated” ignores the warning signs. Humans are nasty — they wait until catastrophe strikes before taking action they know is necessary. A marathon starts with the first step. let’s start.
Darren McKnight Senior Technical Fellow at LeoLabs. He is responsible for developing space risk his algorithms, investigating space incidents, and providing customer support to space operators. Chris Kunstatter Global Head of Space for AXA XL, a division of AXA. Chris manages the space insurance portfolio and is actively involved in all aspects of AXA XL’s space activities, including technical, financial, actuarial analysis, coverage design, claims processing, industry outreach and business development. .
This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of SpaceNews magazine.