Space may be the final frontier, but commercial interests, our international partners and the military are trying to put an end to the Wild West environment in orbit, and they may have found a friend in Donald Trump.
Trump has pledged to work with civilian companies during his presidency to advance America’s position in space and that may well include developing a space traffic control system and increasing safety in orbit.
Commercial operators at the annual Spacecom convention this week said they hope the Trump administration modernizes and upgrades space regulations, SpaceX spokeswoman Caryn Schenewerk told Space.com.
“If we don’t start that process today, every day we don’t start it is a day longer that companies are trying to fit square pegs into round holes.”
That sentiment was echoed by Winston Beauchamp, the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space, at the Defense One space summit Thursday, according to Space News.
“We need to be able to operate in space both to advance our state of technology and eventually get the human race off this planet onto another planet. We can’t do that if we have to try to fly through a shell of debris.”
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer took up the call for regulation reform in space Friday at a Washington Space Business Roundtable luncheon, according to Space News.
“You’re very unique. It’s very rare where I sit down with folks from an industry who say we want to plus-up the regulatory bodies who regulate us.”
There are very few regulations in space, which once didn’t matter, but has increasingly become an issue as private companies push to develop a new economy in orbit above Earth.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 requires individual countries to authorize and monitor the activities of its citizens in space, but there’s no international body charged with supervision and in the U.S., no agency has clear authority to handle the issue.
America, however, is leading the international community in establishing principles and best practices in space over time, Rear Adm. Brian Brown told Space News.
“Much like the maritime laws that we have, they established over time by safe and responsible behaviors and patterns of life.”
More is needed, however, which is why all the major players in space are seeking increased regulations to govern the growing activity in orbit.
Space reform could include the hand-off of space traffic control from the Air Force to a civilian company, regulation of lunar landers, commercial satellites, and private space stations.
There are more than 500,000 pieces of space trash larger than a marble in orbit around Earth traveling at 17,500 mph, which could pose a serious threat to spacecraft, space stations, and satellites.
There is no entity charged with cleaning up the mess, although China recently launched a space garbage collector and Europe plans to do the same very shortly. Stray pieces of metal from damaged satellites would only add to the chaos, which is one reason military personnel warn against any conflict in space.
There’s also issues about owning resources in space. The Outer Space Treaty is a little vague on details about who would own resources extracted from the moon or passing space rocks. Luxembourg passed a law earlier this month guaranteeing resource extractors the right to the minerals and ice they extract. A similar law was passed in the U.S. last year, but some dispute its international validity.
Trump’s space agenda has so far focused on empowering the commercial sector and that could lead to creation of some type of regulatory oversight body empowered to protect the growing economy in orbit.
What do you think about the possibility of space regulation reform under President Trump?
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]