WASHINGTON, D.C. – Generals from the United States Space Force recently made headlines by urging the creation of commercial services to clear up orbital debris. These words emphasize the importance of reducing the possibility of a collision in space. According to business commentators, the government’s inaction in dealing with the problem is delaying private investment as well as efforts to clean up the environment. The business case, however, is not as evident from an industry standpoint, according to Bolger.
There is widespread agreement that space sustainability and safe spaceflight operations are in jeopardy, with 16,000 satellites planned to be launched between 2021 and 2025. However, Nick Bolger claims that measures to solve the problem are “challenged by shifting objectives of domestic and international governing agencies.”
The Space Force says it intends to buy debris cleanup services, but it’s unclear who will make those purchases if space traffic control is transferred to another agency.
He also expressed concern about the lack of uniform collision-hazard metrics. “Agencies self-regulate their space operations, using a variety of data sources and risk criteria to assess the requirement for collision avoidance measures,” according to the report. Despite this, Bolger pointed out that the government has demonstrated little interest in implementing space debris collection and remediation technologies in the near years.
Planning to incentivize industry!
Bolger said, ‘Space debris removal technologies like junk collectors and space tugs are currently in the initial stages of testing and development. But these companies still lack the wide number of customers.
Ways to incentivize commercial satellite operators to clean up debris:
- Changing insurance needs for satellites
- The United States needs satellite professionals to be properly insured for damages caused by 3rd parties and also for government damage claims.
“Operators will re-consider de-orbiting and cleanup services that enable them to avoid insurance payment for long time horizon,” said Bolger.
“Before entering orbit, the system would motivate operators to implement debris remediation plans,” he said. “As a result, the FCC has been required to seek additional public comment before releasing a new report and order,” he stated.
Furthermore, there is an ongoing debate among agencies about whether the long-standing “25-year norm” should be altered. According to this guideline, satellites and any debris from their launch should not be left in orbit for more than 25 years after their mission is completed. Some have advocated for a shorter timetable, particularly in densely populated areas of low Earth orbit.