SIA: Act Now on Space Traffic Management, Sustainability

Distribution of space debris around Earth (Credit: ESA)

Satellite Industry Association says tens of thousands of satellites aren’t going to manage themselves

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 24, 2020 (SIA PR) – The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today announced the release of a number of recommendations addressing the issue of space traffic management, with the goal of supporting a long-term sustainable and safe space environment for commercial satellites and spacecraft. 

The recommendations were included in a SIA White Paper titled “The Future of Space and Space Traffic Coordination and Management (STCM)”.   The White Paper shares SIA and its members’ views and recommendations regarding the creation of a modern STCM regime, capable of supporting long term space sustainability and continued innovation and U.S. space leadership.

“Thanks to technological leaps in innovation and increased accessibility to space, the commercial satellite industry is currently undergoing tremendous growth which is anticipated to increasingly expand in the coming decade.” said Tom Stroup, president of SIA.  The Association and its members are extremely focused on the critical importance of addressing the issue of space traffic management and sustainability now – while developing and maintaining a safe and long-term sustainable on-orbit environment for both domestic and international commercial satellites and spacecraft.”

In the White Paper, SIA projects the profile of active satellites operating in low earth orbit will change substantially in the upcoming 5-10 years with tens of thousands of satellites being proposed.  Regardless of how many of the proposed large constellations are eventually flown, it is clear that that the current framework of space regulations and policies requires review and, in some cases, revision to prepare for the imminent surge in space usage.  With this in mind, the SIA White Paper shares the following four recommendations:

  1. Action and funding is needed now. The commercial satellite sector is innovating quickly and driving U.S. leadership in space. SIA urges the U.S. government to act now and to implement a more modern STCM environment to support this innovation, including leveraging both commercial and government capabilities to yield a U.S.-developed cutting edge space sustainability model. This activity requires adequate funding to enable all the related activities foreseen in Space Directive 3.
  1. The Framework should be established, but the specific technologies to meet requirements should not be dictated. Space companies are world-renowned for their ingenuity. Allowing innovative ways to meet the specified requirements of a modern space safety framework will encourage development and ensure the most cost-efficient and effective technologies are utilized.
  2. Governments should encourage best practices. The commercial space industry has a long track record of responsible operations in space and counts on a safe environment to undertake ongoing and future space business. Solidifying the participation and support of the commercial industry to ensure wide-spread adoption of space safety practices is critical and will reduce the need for unnecessary and often burdensome regulations and is action that can be taken now.
  3. Any effective solution must be whole of space and endeavor to meet global needs. A successful, modern and sustainable space traffic management system will include all of the types of space activities (listed in this White Paper), U.S. and international alike. This will require the relationships and leadership of the U.S. government, commercial stakeholders and like-minded space-faring counterparts to meet the important goals of space sustainability.

To view a copy of the SIA White Paper “The Future of Space and Space Traffic Coordination and Management”, please click HERE.

About The Satellite Industry Association

SIA is a U.S.-based trade association providing representation of the leading satellite operators, service providers, manufacturers, launch services providers, and ground equipment suppliers. For more than two decades, SIA has advocated on behalf of the U.S. satellite industry on policy, regulatory, and legislative issues affecting the satellite business. For more information, visit www.sia.org.