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ASE Committee on Space Traffic Management & Orbital Debris

When Sputnik was launched in 1957 there was only one man made object in orbit.  Now there are over 500,000 spacecraft and space debris objects orbiting the earth.  Because these objects travel at speeds on the order of 8 kilometers per second, even a very small piece of material represents a hazard to other spacecraft should a collision (conjunction) occur.  Great effort is underway to better understand the orbits of all of these objects and to develop the capability to identify potential collisions. ASE fully supports activities aimed at making operations in earth orbit safe, efficient, and collegial, and is often asked for “the astronaut’s/cosmonaut’s perspective” on subjects that fall under these headings.  Space Traffic Management and Orbital Debris are two such topics where ASE sees the need for a coordinated, international effort to insure safe and efficient operations in earth orbit.

In 2017, the ASE membership agreed that Space Traffic  Management and Orbital Debris are issues of concern needing to be addressed to ensure safe and coordinated operations in earth orbit and ASE formed a Committee on Space Traffic Management and Orbital Debris, chartered to participate in developing a path forward for international coordination to ensure safe spaceflight through space traffic management and orbital debris mitigation.  At the XXXI Congress in Belarus, the ASE unanimously approved a General Statement urging the international spacefaring nations to rapidly develop policies, technologies, protocols and/or treaties on Space Traffic Management (STM) in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) that would assess impact risk from space debris objects: Read the Statement:  English | Russian

“The ASE urges the international spacefaring nations to rapidly develop policies, technologies, protocols and/or treaties on Space Traffic Management (STM) in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) that would assess impact risk from space debris objects. Development of a US Space Traffic Management (STM) structure is a first step, but the US is only one element of a growing international launch market. Space debris objects know no international boundaries, travelling around the planet in about 90 minutes each orbit (~17,500 mph or ~28,164 km/h). Similar to the history of aviation and maritime operations, the international space sector should collaborate in order to keep the doors of space open and safe for everyone.”

Below are links to a number of documents that show progress being made in addressing Space Traffic Management and Orbital Debris issues.  In most of these, ASE members were directly involved in developing the recommendations and writing the documents.  The ASE has consistently recommended a holistic approach to STM&OD that would include a comprehensive and structured program including:

–     Collision Avoidance and Data Sharing

–     Debris Mitigation

–     Behavior Guidelines (Code of Conduct)

–     Oversight Organization or Body

–     Communications Strategy

“National Space Traffic Management Policy”

Presidential Memoranda: SPD-3

18 June 2018

“Mitigation of Orbital Debris in the New Space Age”

FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

November 2018

“Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities”

U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

Approved June 2019

ASE STM/OD Committee Members

Mark Brown  (USA) – Chair

Alexander Alexandrov (Russia) 

Bob Cenker  (USA)

Cady Coleman (USA) 

Oleg Kotov (Russia)

André Kuipers (Netherlands)

Michael Lopez-Alegria (USA)

Ed Lu (USA)

Sandy Magnus (USA)

Pam Melroy (USA)

Steve Oswald (USA)

Dumitru Prunariu (Romania)

Pierre Thuot (USA)

Soyeon Yi (ROK)

Kimiya Yui (Japan)

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