Space

U.S. interagency panel will revise R&D strategy to deal with orbital debris

U.S. interagency panel will revise R&D strategy to deal with orbital debris

Dealing of the Interagency Group

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An interagency group inside the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) will supervise the orbital debris R&D program. It is concerned with issues of national security and space exploration.

The revamped strategy will build on the Trump administration’s existing R&D plan on orbital debris, which was presented in January 2021. It is impossible to “advance a shared national strategy for orbital debris risk management” due to a lack of collaboration among US departments and agencies, according to the text.

  • The Department of Defense collects debris data, tracks debris, and notifies operators of possible collisions.
  • NASA uses radars, telescopes, and in situ measurements to statistically sample debris too small to be tracked but still large enough to threaten human spaceflight and robotic missions
  • NASA also led the development of the U.S. Government (ODMSP) Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices
  • The Federal Aviation Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission all have policies or regulations intended to limit the creation or accumulation of debris

Debris-focused technology for the New Project

The US Space Force is leading a new debris-focused technological initiative that is just getting started. The interagency committee will address the Orbital Prime project, according to Lt. Col. Brian Holt, project head at SpaceWERX.

“The Department of Defense, especially the Space Force, will be represented,” he stated. Orbital debris is posing a risk of collision in the space environment. This envelops the Earth but is concentrated in particular in the most commonly utilized low orbits below 2,000 kilometers in altitude.

From low Earth orbit to geosynchronous Earth orbit, 36,000 kilometers above the Earth, the US government estimates there are more than 8,000 metric tonnes of orbital trash.

There are internal conflicts in the US government, according to space industry analyst Patricia Cooper, a former vice president of government affairs at SpaceX. The point of contention is how to deal with orbital debris. Furthermore, the United States cannot solve the problem on its own; it requires assistance from other countries that send satellites into space.

The Concerns and Challenges

Deorbiting satellites must be completed within 25 years, according to a long-standing rule, and there is mounting pressure to do so sooner. “There are some at NASA who believe that enforcing that rule is more important than tightening it,” Cooper remarked at the ASCEND 2021 conference.

Many home nations where constellations are licensed don’t have any documented debris mitigation rules, so “you can’t know what their plans are,” she said. “That is a worry, and I believe it places undue strain on the United States because all plans filed in the United States must be made public.”

But if you filed in China or Rwanda, your space safety technique will not be published.” Irrespective of these hurdles, “I see a positive deal of resolve. There’s a sense of impending need”, said Cooper.

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