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Space debris and the need for space traffic control

November 2013

Phillip A. Slann


The article summarizes the talking points of a session in the summer Royal Aeronautical Society 2013 conference. The session focused on the issues of space debris and space traffic control. The speakers at the session urged that man-made space debris is building up at an alarming rate and that increased efforts need to be focused on debris mitigation. The speakers also noted that the technology to remove space debris is currently inadequate and that focus should be placed on developing fast and efficient means to control debris. There was also recommendations for increased regulation on the rights and responsibilities of individuals and organizations to maintain space. Certain methods of methods being developed to remove debris were discussed but they struggle in accuracy because the majority of space debris is currently small and hard to detect. To close, comments were also made on the need for traffic control across the globe for new satellites and universal frequencies for communication both in space and on earth.

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Policy Implications

This article can be used in the consideration of future endeavors in space policy. The session stressed an urgent lack in defined rights and responsibilities of those who have satellites in space. Possible requirements for mitigation of debris or assignment of the task could prove vital in ensuring space remains viable. The article notes that as space debris continues to compound the ability to implement new satellites and maintain them for extended periods will prove difficult, as even small debris can cause large damage. Policy to ensure mitigation efforts are done correctly and do not damage other spacefaring actors is also recommended. Finally, the article also recommends policy to set forth a way for continued communication between manned spacecraft both in the atmosphere and upon leaving.

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