Avoiding space debris might require new legal framework, US lawmakers say

rod

Oct 22, 2019
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The ever-growing number of satellites in space prompted calls for change at a House hearing, although how this will be legislated is still under consideration.

Avoiding space debris might require new legal framework, US lawmakers say : Read more
"The ever-growing number of satellites and orbital debris in space prompted calls for change at a House hearing, although how this will be legislated is still under consideration. At issue is the rise of privately owned satellite constellations by companies such as SpaceX and OneWeb. Satellites today are smaller and more affordable than the big machines of past decades, thanks to advancements in technology. But with fleets of small satellites comes other risks, such as more chances for them to slam into each other. And high-profile near misses are starting to become more common."

As a stargazer, I periodically see satellites passing overhead or while viewing galaxies like Andromea, sometimes a satellite will pass right across the telescope field of view. Other sites are reporting more too like spaceweather.com and professional observatories encountering issues. Concerning near misses, I found this report very interesting today There could be meteors traveling at close to the speed of light when they hit the atmosphere, "According to a new study by Harvard astronomers Amir Siraj and Prof. Abraham Loeb, it is possible that Earth's atmosphere is bombarded by larger meteors—1 mm to 10 cm (0.04 to 4 inches) – that are extremely fast."

I would think if this meteor activity was taking place, there would be problems for satellites and the ISS, especially for larger sizes in this report. Add this to the debris problem with so many satellites orbiting now :)
 
Feb 19, 2020
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Not mentioned here, and it should be, is the increasing danger that a sizable impact between two or more large satellites will create many thousands of fragments, many of them too small to track with conventional instruments, that will collide with other orbiting craft or debris and create an Earth-encircling belt of debris that will not permit the entrance of any other spacecraft without damage and possibly disintegration. This sort of cascade effect has to happen only once to substantially reduce the usability of near-Earth orbits and present us with a sizable problem in reducing the debris enough to make spaceflight possible again. Every day we are without a means to reduce this danger increases the likelihood of it happening.

I am quite aware that the Starlink fleet could produce a similar effect even if the objects with which its members collide are equally small. The cascade may be smaller, but it will continue to grow over time and present its own unique problems for cleanup.

Another matter not mentioned, though it is clearly the driving factor, is that existing treaties and conventions on the use of space leave even defunct satellites and discarded launch components the responsibility of the launching nation to clean up -- even if the launchers are private companies. Prior to about 1990 the framework for agreements on the use of space followed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea... but that was before the US refused to ratify the latest agreement, which would have prohibited the exploitation of resources on the continental shelf of another nation, something that US extractive and mining interests very badly want. Without such a common framework, questions such as who is responsible for removing possibly unidentifiable space debris becomes much more difficult. In the present political climate, it's safe to say that the US will not give its approval to any UN agreement that does not provide the US with a substantial bonus in resources or claims against other nations for space debris they -- or someone else -- clean out of near Earth orbit. Of course, the US assumes that it will be the cleaning nation, collecting fines from other space-faring nations as it sees fit. You can be sure that any such treaty or convention that rewards the cleaning nation even if it is not the US will be opposed fiercely, not out of any idea of 'fairness' but from the overweening arrogance of the presumption that the US needs to collect from all other nations, because US.

This veritable ocean of hubris is likely to make any agreement regarding space debris impossible until after the cascade and the closing of near-Earth orbit, including the launch corridors for any lunar or planetary missions. All because the US wants to be the world's landlord, whether they like it or not. This way to degradation and decadence and the loss of space to humanity. Watch it happen live.
 

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