Citing new satellite constellations that plan to collectively launch thousands of new satellites into Earth orbit, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to update its regulations on space debris for the first time in 15 years.
“Proposed deployments of large satellite constellations in the intensely used LEO region, along with other satellites deployed in the LEO region, will have the potential to increase the risk of debris-generating events,” the FCC said in a notice in the Federal Register. “New satellite and deployment technologies currently in use and under development also may increase the number of potential debris-generating events, in the absence of improved debris mitigation practices.”
SURREY, UK (University of Surrey PR) — The RemoveDEBRIS satellite, one of the world’s first attempts to address the build-up of dangerous space debris, has successfully used its on-board harpoon-capture system in orbit.
The Airbus Stevenage designed harpoon featured a 1.5 metre boom deployed from the main RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft with a piece of satellite panel on the end. The harpoon was fired at 20 metres/sec to penetrate the target and demonstrate the ability of a harpoon to capture debris.
PARIS (Thales PR) — More powerful and accurate, Earth Observation satellites feature major breakthrough technologies contributing to a better understanding of our planet, our oceans, our weather conditions… in a nutshell, our global environment. Earth Observation satellites, whether using radar or optical payloads, can also be used for defense uses, in particular for applications linked to maritime security or border surveillance. Moreover, powerful telecommunications satellites can offer High Speed Internet in certain coverage zones, directly contributing to bridge the digital divide, in particular in isolated areas.
Yet that only will be possible if they can find space in that space—a place to park in orbit that will not be vulnerable to the dangers of increasing space debris.
WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018 (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission today initiated a comprehensive review of its orbital debris mitigation rules. [Download proposed rules here.]
Orbital debris, also known as space debris, consists of a variety of objects, including non-functional satellites, that are orbiting the Earth. Debris can pose a risk to operations in Earth orbit, including satellites and manned spacecraft, and in some instances, pieces of debris falling back to Earth can pose a risk to persons and property on the surface of the Earth.
SINGAPORE, October 31, 2018 (Astroscale PR) — Astroscale Pte. Ltd (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in developing a space debris removal service to secure long-term spaceflight safety, obtained additional funding of US $50 million from a group of investors led by INCJ Ltd. (INCJ), and including funds operated by SBI Investment Co., Ltd. (SBII) and Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd. (Mitsubishi Estate) among others.
This is the fourth round of funding raised by the ground-breaking company based in Singapore and it brings the total amount of capital investment to US $102 million.
BREMEN, Germany (UKSA PR) — The United Kingdom and Australia will co-operate on activities including communications technologies, space situational awareness and satellite navigation, Science Minister Sam Gyimah announced today (3 October).
The Memorandum of Understanding, signed at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany, provides a framework for collaborative activities and the exchange of information, technology and personnel between both nations.
New Zealand Government and LeoLabs Ink Agreement to Extend Space Debris Tracking for Low Earth Orbit to the Southern Hemisphere
MENLO PARK, CA, USA September 29, 2018 — LeoLabs, Inc., the leading commercial provider of low Earth orbit (LEO) mapping and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services, today announced a broad-based agreement to build its next space radar in New Zealand. This establishes New Zealand as the site for the first radar of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. As the third radar in LeoLabs’ network, the New Zealand radar will be the first to track debris as small as 2cm in low Earth orbit.
J.-C. LIOU, M. MATNEY, A. VAVRIN, A. MANIS, AND D. GATES
In recent years, several commercial companies have proposed telecommunications constellations consisting of hundreds to thousands of 100-to-300-kg class spacecraft in low Earth orbit (LEO, the region below 2000-km altitude). If deployed, such large constellations (LCs) will dramatically change the landscape of satellite operations in LEO. Fig. 1 shows the current mass distribution in LEO. The top blue histogram shows the total and the three curves below show a breakdown by object type (spacecraft, rocket bodies, or other). The mass distribution is dominated by spacecraft and upper stages (i.e., rocket bodies). The yellow bars from 1100 km to 1300 km altitudes show the notional mass distribution from 8000 150 kg LC spacecraft or, equivalently, 4000 300 kg LC spacecraft. From the large amount of mass involved, it is clear that the deployment, operations, and frequent de-orbit and replenishment of the proposed LCs could significantly contribute to the existing orbital debris problem.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station serves as humanity’s orbital research platform, conducting a variety of experiments and research projects while in orbit around the planet.
On June 20, 2018, the space station deployed the NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite into space from outside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. This technology demonstration was designed to explore using a 3D camera to map the location and speed of orbital debris or “space junk.”
The NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite successfully deployed a net to capture a nanosatellite that simulates debris. Collisions in space could have have serious consequences to the space station and satellites, but research has shown that removing the largest debris significantly reduces the chance of collisions.
GUILDFORD, UK (Surrey Satellite PR) — RemoveDEBRIS began its experimental phase of its mission on 16 September with the deployment of the net to capture a deployed target cubesat.
The net was developed and supplied by a team of engineers at Airbus in Bremen, Germany.
The RemoveDEBRIS satellite platform was designed and manufactured by SSTL and houses two target cubesats and four debris removal technologies – a net, a harpoon, vision based navigation using cameras and LiDaR, and a de-orbit dragsail. The spacecraft is operated in orbit by SSTL’s engineers from our Spacecraft Operations Centre here in Guildford.
RemoveDEBRIS is a low cost mission funded jointly by the European Commission and 10 partners including Airbus, Surrey Space Centre, Ariane Group, SSTL, ISIS, CSEM, Inria and Stellenbosch University.
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement #607099.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that it will cost $127 million over five years to implement a House bill that gives the Department of Commerce authority to provide civilian space situational awareness and traffic management.
Of that amount, the Department of Commerce would spend $118 million for fiscal years 2019-23.
“The bill would authorize the appropriation of $20 million annually to implement the civil space situational awareness program, and an additional $5 million annually to develop and implement the pilot program,” the CBO report stated.
NASA would spend an additional $9 million over this period to establish and operate a research center focused on space situational awareness and traffic management.
Some of the costs of the program would be offset by fees.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved H.R.6226, the American Space Situational Awareness and Facilitation of Entity Management Act (American Space SAFE Management Act), introduced by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). This bill will establish the Department of Commerce as the civilian agency to provide civil space situational awareness and traffic coordination.
Chairman Smith: “This bill is an important step to secure the United States as the leader in space traffic management and improves the safety of all space operations. The number of commercial satellites in space are predicted to grow from 1,300 active satellites today to more than 10,000 in the next few years. Now is the time to solidify the role of the Department of Commerce in the development of space traffic standards and guidelines. The creation of an open basic data system that combines information from American commercial and government actors, as well as international entities, will provide for the overall safe operation and management of space. This bill also better enables the Department of Defense to focus its resources on national security.”
The House Science Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would transfer responsibility for space traffic management and situational awareness from the Defense Department to the Commerce Department over the objections of Democrats who said the measure rubber stamped a half-baked Trump Administration plan.
“This bill is an important step to secure the United States as the leader in space traffic management and improves the safety of all space operations,” Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement. “The number of commercial satellites in space are predicted to grow from 1,300 active satellites today to more than 10,000 in the next few years. Now is the time to solidify the role of the Department of Commerce in the development of space traffic standards and guidelines.”
The American Space Situational Awareness and Framework for Entity Management Act (American Space SAFE Management Act) is in line with Space Policy Directive 3, which President Donald Trump signed earlier this month. The program’s main goal is to prevent satellites from colliding with orbital debris and each other.
SpaceX has scrubbed the launch of NASA’s TESS exo-planet hunting satellite, which had been planned for Monday evening.
“Standing down today to conduct additional GNC analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of @NASA_TESS on Wednesday, April 18,” the company tweeted.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs earlier today. He made the following announcements:
Ret. Adm. Jim Ellis has been named to lead the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group; and,
The space council has come up with a set of guidelines on space traffic management that will be signed by President Donald Trump and implemented by the Commerce Department. A key goal of the new guidelines is to deal with the threat of orbital debris.