Is The World Increasingly Dependent on Space Systems?

Deputy Assistant Secretary Frank A. Rose today said the world is increasingly inter-connected through, and increasingly dependent on, space systems.

In his remarks at the 15th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference, Mr. Rose said the risks associated with irresponsible actions in space mean that ensuring the long-term sustainability, stability, safety, and security of the space environment is in the vital interest of the entire world community.

“I believe that 2012 will be a defining year for space security, and the work we all will do in responding to the challenges in, and the threats to, the space environment can help us preserve space for all nations and future generations.” -Mr. Rose

He notes that the benefits derived from space assets permeate almost every aspect of the lives worldwide. He adds space systems enable personal communications devices; facilitate the operations of global markets; enhance weather forecasting and environmental monitoring; enable global navigation and transportation; expand our scientific frontier; provide national decision makers with global communications, command, and control; and scores of other activities worldwide.

“Space is no longer an environment accessed nearly exclusively by two superpowers or a few countries. Barriers to entry are lower than ever, and many countries are enjoying access to, and the benefits of, space in unprecedented numbers.” -Mr. Rose

He reports that space is the domain of a growing number of satellite operators; approximately 60 nations and government consortia operate satellites, as well as numerous commercial and academic satellite operators.

However, while the space is becoming increasingly easier to access as well as to benefit from space, space is also becoming increasingly congested and contested.

“This situation means we need to think carefully through how we can all operate there safely and responsibly. Our goal is to ensure that the generations that follow us can also benefit from the advantages that space offers.” -Mr. Rose

He cites that decades of space activity have littered low Earth orbit with debris, and as the world’s spacefaring nations continue to increase activities in space, the chance for collision increases correspondingly.

He reports that the U.S. Department of Defense tracks roughly 22,000 objects in orbit, of which only 1,100 are active satellites. These objects include such things as “dead” satellites and spent booster upper stages still orbiting, as well as debris from accidents, mishaps, or intentionally destructive events.

“Experts warn that the quantity and density of man-made debris significantly increase the odds of future damaging collisions. Threats to the space environment will also increase as more nations and non-state actors develop and deploy counter-space systems.” -Mr. Rose

He stresses that today space systems and their supporting infrastructure face a range of man-made threats that may deny, degrade, deceive, disrupt, or destroy assets.

With the icreasing threat to the space system, Mr. Rose calls for the community of spacefaring nations to preserve the space environment for all nations and future generations.

He cites that 2012 will be a defining year for advancing this goal, with:

“Negotiations” on an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities;

“Initial meetings” of a U.N.-established Group of Government Experts on Space TCBMs; and

“The continuing work” of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) on the “Long Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities.”

He underlines that one of the ways the United States is moving forward towards this goal this year is through its pursuit of near-term, voluntary, and pragmatic transparency and confidence building measures, or TCBMs. TCBMs are means by which governments can address challenges and share information with the aim of creating mutual understanding and reducing tensions.

Space debris populations seen from outside geosynchronous orbit (GEO). Note the two primary debris fields, the ring of objects in GEO, and the cloud of objects in low earth orbit (LEO).

“Through TCBMs we can address important areas such as orbital debris, space situational awareness, and collision avoidance, as well as undertake activities that will help to increase familiarity and trust and encourage openness among space actors.” -Mr. Rose

He states that the United States, as guided by President Obama’s National Space Policy, will work with other space actors to pursue pragmatic, near-term TCBMs to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, space.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Frank A. Rose once said the space is becoming increasingly congested and contested.

The U.S. Department of Defense tracks roughly 22,000 objects in orbit, of which only 1,100 are active satellites. Experts warn that the quantity and density of man-made debris significantly increase the odds of future damaging collisions.

The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that an International Code enhances national security and maintains the United States’ inherent right of individual and collective self-defense, a fundamental part of international law.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.