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Space Traffic Management (STM) Needs Action
Members of the Senate space subcommittee are concerned that the Commerce Department was not acting fast enough to implement Space Policy Directive 3, including implementing a civil space traffic management system.
(Debris in Orbit [NASA])
At the hearing, witnesses warned that delays in setting up the system, as well as establishing norms of behavior for safe space operations, not only posed a risk to space safety but also to U.S. leadership. “Ensuring a global commitment to space safety and space sustainability has never been more important,” said Karina Drees, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “Space situational awareness represents the most pressing issue to address today.”
“It is imperative that the United States lead the endeavor of setting these rules,” said Marcus Holzinger, a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado. “If other nations lead these efforts, then they are going to be making the rules and regulations and, quite frankly, those will not be to the benefit of our own industry and national enterprises.”
I think the first time I thought about some sort of traffic management for space was when I read Methuselah's Children, the 1941 classic by Robert Heinlein:
Approaching Earth, he called over the patrol frequency and asked for a parking orbit, as he did not wish to put the Chili down on Earth. It would waste fuel and might cause talk. To be sure, he could have picked an orbit without permission, but there was a long chance that the Chili might be noticed and charted in his absence, and investigated as a derelict. It was safer to be legal about it.
An orbit having been assigned, he attained it and settled down in the groove.
(Read more bout parking orbits)
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