Integral Systems CEO John Higginbotham believes the Feb. 11 collision of an Iridium satellite with a defunct Russian military satellite will test global diplomacy, legal and unilateral military and commercial space issues for years to come.
Higginbotham says the collision calls for immediate prioritization of protecting military and commercial assets, as well as action on national and international levels. "The time is now for the various space communities to come together in some fashion to sit down and address this issue," he told Via Satellite. "The satellite industry has never seen such a critical and complex event like this before."
Since the collision over Siberia that destroyed the Russian Cosmos telecom spacecraft and the Iridium satellite, there has been widespread discussion over preventative measures and the global political ramifications of a collision involving both commercial and military spacecraft. "Clearly, there are domestic and global constituents that are attempting to contribute to the solution," he says. "The U.S. Air Force does great work in attempting to track space articles. The United Nations has a number of initiatives that aim to raise the cognizance of these issues with space-faring nations and the commercial operators and ad hoc user groups are trying to track things as best they can as well. The problem is, these are disparate efforts that need to come together on some kind of a coordinated national and international convention. We also need to coordinate this between military and commercial operators as well."
Higginbotham, whose company manufactures space awareness, telemetry and tracking systems for the commercial and military sectors, discusses the possible policy outcomes and his hopes that a deeper understanding of how liability conventions work in this industry will lead to changes in the way the industry approaches protecting its assets.
VIA SATELLITE: What are the immediate effects of this collision on the industry as a whole?
HIGGINBOTHAM: The realization that this was a catastrophic event for the entire industry, which absolutely legitimizes and verifies the critical need for improved space situational awareness. It directly relates to the need for monitoring and managing the space environment. We realize that we simply cannot have this kind of thing happening in our industry — it is potentially devastating to future operations in space if we don’t get this situation under control.