Mon. Sep 27th, 2021

National space agency leaders agree that space traffic management (STM) ought to be a top priority, but they disagree on who should be in charge of it.

The presidents of European and North American space agencies stressed the necessity of space traffic management during a discussion panel at 36th Space Symposium on August 25, given the growing number of space objects in the orbit as well as the threat they present to space activities.

“From our perspective, space traffic management is a highly essential topic,” said Walther Pelzer, president of DLR, the German space agency.

He stressed, however, that “quick” remedies at the national level should be avoided. “This is not the appropriate way from a German perspective,” he remarked. “It will not be viable if everyone came up with their ideas.”

Instead, he favoured a United Nations-led strategy. “We are conscious that putting the United Nations as well as the word ‘speed’ in the same sentence is difficult,” he said. “However, we must conduct space traffic management within United Nations in order to resolve this issue in a long-term manner.”

Pelzer used the continuing deliberations about STM at the UN’s Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space as an illustration subsequently in the panel (COPUOS). “I believe that discussing it within the UN and with the most relevant stakeholders is the best way to find a shared solution.”

However, Josef Aschbacher, the European Space Agency’s director-general, believes that relying just on the UN is insufficient. “We must move quickly,” he stated. “We also want to find other ways because, as Walther so eloquently stated, we cannot wait any longer if we expect for those procedures to finish.”

He was in favour of alternate ways that could run concurrently with the UN-led long-term strategy but could be adopted sooner. “We require to find another way among the big parties to actually govern and make sure that environment stays a secure place to run our satellites,” he said.

“We need a solid international framework as there will be a lot of new actors from other countries,” Philippe Baptiste, the president of CNES, the French space agency said. He noted that while the fact that existing private space owners are responsible is “wonderful,” it isn’t enough. He did not expressly support an UN-led approach or other global possibilities.

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