Space Policy Experts: Obama Administration Making Progress on Space Debris Issue
[Satellite News 03-29-11] While SES Senior Vice President of Engineering and Space Data Association (SDA) Chairman Stewart Sanders believes that the United States is not properly managing its space debris issued, he hailed U.S. President Barack Obama’s National Space Policy as a “great document” and spoke of its importance in engaging the U.S. commercial satellite sector with international governments.
“With an increased risk coming from debris, we have opportunities including better cooperation. There is a great deal of continuity between space polices between administrations. We are sharing two main assets, RF spectrum and the space assets. We are still pushing and working with the government to get engagement and want to engage with the government to improve our knowledge,” Sanders said. “I don’t need to data mine the government’s database, but I would like to use their database to solve common problems. A very large proportion of the U.S. government’s traffic is on our satellites. We have to fill in the gaps of the data we need. There are classified objects that we need to make sure they are engaged with.”
Coming from a military perspective, Audrey Schaffer, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy for the U.S. Department of Defense, said that one of the Pentagon’s main objectives is to strengthen stability and security in space and enhance the strategic national security advantages. “We also want to promote responsible, peaceful and safe use of space. We also want to provide improved space capabilities. The strategy is about our intent to cooperate with industry. Our desire is for more resilient capabilities. We have to use an integrated approach to solving these issues. The strategic environment has changed. We recognize we need to change.”
The Pentagon is responsible for tracking roughly 22,000 man-made objects in orbit – with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more objects too small to track. The international cooperative environment now involves almost 60 governments and nations now operating in space, said Schaffer.
“The EU has proposed a code of conduct in space. We are working with them on that. We all have an interest in sharing environmental and weather data. We need to preserve the space environment,” added David Turner, deputy director, Office of Space & Advanced Technology, U.S. Department of State. “We facilitate the technical agencies cooperation. We take the lead in enhancement of security, stability and responsible behavior in space. We promote adoption of policies that facilitate full and timely access to environmental data. We want to have a better database of space objects. We want international data standards. We want better space surveillance for debris monitoring and awareness.”
“We have new participants in space. We want to have safe launch operations as well as satellite in the guidelines (of the space policy). We want to develop space situational awareness (SSA) to preserve the space environment using civil and commercial capabilities,” added Chirag Parikh, director of space policy, National Security Council.
However, while international collaboration was broadly welcomed, building on the U.S. space base should not be sacrificed for this cooperation, according to U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Wright (ret.), senior vice president & general manager, Military and Intelligence Group, Integral Systems.
“International cooperation has been confused with outsourcing. I am not sure that was what the space policy meant. We are about to sign another SSA agreement with France. Should we depend on international cooperation, as it means reducing our spending here? We have to think through that and figure out where we are headed. There is a slippery slope in terms of international cooperation if it goes too far. The space industrial base — I think we need to come to understanding of what this means. There are key technologies we must have and can’t outsource. Some see it as a euphemism for jobs. In these times of lesser affordability, we have to make the most of our architectures. We may not be able to build expensive new systems,” he said.