International Institute of Space Law

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Issue 4, 2019 Expand all abstracts

Space Traffic Management: Not Just Air Traffic Management for Outer Space and More Than Data Analytics

Keywords Space Traffic Management, Air Traffic Management, Space Situational Awareness, data analytics, technical measures, regulatory measures, space traffic rules
Authors Stefan A. Kaiser
AbstractAuthor's information

    Space Traffic Management is a complex concept that consists of technical, organisational and regulatory elements. It is not foreseen in the Outer Space Treaties and yet considered a crucial concept for a safe and sustainable access to space and interference free operations in space. Space Situational Awareness and Space Surveillance and Tracking are not identical to Space Traffic Management which is broader and reaches farther. Space Situational Awareness and Space Surveillance and Tracking are cognitive elements of Space Traffic Management. Air Traffic Management is often used as a reference for Space Traffic Management. However, not only the legal regimes of sovereign airspace as opposed to the regime of Outer Space are substantially different. Alone the differences of the physical characteristics support different technical approaches in air space and Outer Space. Motions in air space that follow aerodynamics and ballistics tend to be short lived and henceforth air traffic control has evolved from short term, tactical measures. Opposed to that, objects in Outer Space follow orbital dynamics and their trajectories persist for longer periods, so that control procedures need to address longer term effects and be of a strategic nature. In that context, Air Traffic Management has evolved in an opposite direction than Space Traffic Management. During recent years, rule-making for Space Traffic Management takes new roads. Lacking hard treaty law, an increasing range of non-binding standards, national regulations, practices of private bodies, voluntary information exchanges and cooperative routines tend to synchronize selected elements of Space Traffic Management. In addition, data analytics is taking an expanding role in Space Situational Awareness.

Stefan A. Kaiser
Wassenberg, Germany.

Jonathan C. McDowell
Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA, USA.

    Lagrangian Points constitute a stable gravitational point between two or more celestial bodies. Previously used for scientific endeavours, such as the SOHO mission, in the future, Lagrangian Points may also serve to be both commercially and strategically advantageous given the nominal amount of resources required to keep a satellite or similar orbital asset in station-keeping on a Lagrangian Point.
    To that extent, Lagrangian Points may be viewed as having a commercial ‘value ’ because of the competitive advantage afforded to the owner/operator of a spacecraft occupying such a position. This ‘value ’proposition has certain similarities with geostationary orbital positions in Earth orbit.
    Although propertisation of space and celestial bodies is prohibited under the Outer Space Treaty 1967 (UN), orbits within space still remain rivalrous and commercially lucrative (Green, et al. 2018). By operating in a Lagrangian Point, satellites could effectively exclude competing services from also operating within those Lagrangian Points. For example, where one satellite — or a satellite constellation — operates within a Lagrangian Point, another satellite or satellite constellation might be precluded from operating within the same space of that Lagrangian Point, or its proximity.
    This paper builds on previous work regarding the regulation of natural monopolies to mitigate anti-competitive behaviour risks (Green, et al. 2018) and proposes recommendations on how the risk of natural monopolies forming amongst Lagrangian Point missions may be mitigated under a variety of instruments available to both UNOOSA and the ITU.
    In addition to this, this paper considers the military use of Lagrangian Points to mitigate the risk of transforming space into a warfare domain.

Thomas Green
Thomas Green, PhD Student, University of Wollongong.

Patrick Neumann
Patrick Neumann, Chief Scientist, Neumann Space Pty Ltd.

Kent Grey
Kent Grey, Partner, Minter Ellison, 25 Grenfell Street, Adelaide 5000 Australia.

Trevor Sandlin
Trevor Sandlin, Executive Officer, USNS Fall River, United States Merchant Marine.

    The discussion of Space Traffic Management (STM) has rapidly emerged over the past couple of years but policy decisions or concrete actions are yet to be ignited to date. From the beginning of discussions of the Draft International Code of Conduct for Space Activities (ICOC), a combination of a top-down approach engaging the political commitments of States and a bottom-up approach of technically affordable solutions have become essential for realizing sustainable space activities at a global level. These approaches are the logical conclusion of the need to establish common standards and safety regulations across the entirety of operations in outer space. However, after experiencing the multiple disappointments of topdown approaches, some began as bottom-up approaches but ended up as top-down, including the Draft Best Practice Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Space Activities at Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Outer Space (COPUOS), ICOC, and the Report of the Group of Governmental Experts for Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Space Activities; therefore, methods of engaging actors must be carefully designed. At this point, considering from the actors’ incentives, a bottom-up approach among civil operators towards global STM rule-making for safe space operations should be promoted. This paper will describe the main reason why the operators have to be the main players at this stage, based on the reluctance of States to regulate traffic in outer space. States are unlikely to regulate other traffic areas, apart from their incentive to maintain the order of the area, as they do not have sovereignty over any part of the area. Civil operators, on the other hand, will become liable for damages due to on-orbit accidents in the near future. The current evaluation standard of fault liability for on-orbit damage will change in the near future, due to the accumulation of cases involving the practical standards of operations. In these circumstances, those operators who do not conform to the stipulated standards will be deemed liable for damages. Therefore, at this stage, operators have incentives to take an important role in the de facto rulemaking process by producing practical standards and guidelines. This process will help secure the future of space activities while forming standards of fault liability affordably.

Yu Takeuchi
Institute of Space Law, Graduate School of Law, Keio University, 2-15-45 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan 108-8345. Management and Integration Department, Human Space Flight Technology Directorate, JAXA, 2-1-1 Sengen, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan 305-8505.

    In 2018, the president of the United States released his Space Policy Directive-3, which commands several sectors of the federal executive apparatus to reassess their current and future efforts to address space traffic management and space situational awareness issues. The reasons for this Directive can be boiled down to the belief that the continued use of the orbital realm depends on responsible management, which in turn depends on myriad factors that include the development of new technologies, the refinement of data gathering, and the clarification of governmental operational roles. In particular, the Directive calls for enhanced standardization of safety and best practices, and doles out tasks for relevant agencies, among which the Federal Communications Commission plays a significant role. Given the FCCs influence on the licensure of satellites and the proliferation of constellations, it will be a leader in fulfilling the obligations set out in SPD-3. In October of 2018, the FCC announced it would revisit its much older orbital debris management rules, with an eye towards their revision and in light of its responsibility for increasing traffic in outer space. In November, they released their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, in which they tackle a multitude of germane topics, from spectrum use to orbital lifetime, and from choice of orbit to post-mission disposal. The comment period opened up in early 2019, and more than eighty comments were submitted to the FCC by various industry representatives, federal agencies, and international entities. This essay proposes to examine how the FCC’s planned changes will address concerns outlined in SPD-3, what work remains to be done, and challenges the agency faces in ensuring U.S. compliance with international space law and environmental obligations.

Michael S. Dodge
Assistant Professor, University of North Dakota, Department of Space Studies.

    The importance of Space Traffic Management (STM) has increased in the international space community and has become widely recognized. This might be due to the increasing need to enhance space safety and security. Today, STM is still a controversial issue and there is no internationally agreed standard, definition, or framework in this regard. Recently, states are realising the importance of the topic and the need for further international collaboration. Therefore, several states, international organizations and individuals started to dive deep into this topic. The UAE Space Agency has conducted a study on the application of STM to national policies and regulatory designs. This study reviewed some of the international studies such as the IAA Cosmic Study of 2017. It also reviewed some domestic regulations and policies such as the 2018 U.S. policy on STM. The study in general focused on certain areas such as the definition of STM, provisions in the international space treaties that are relevant to STM, elements of space traffic management, and whether if these elements covered by the UAE Space Policy, draft Law, and Regulations. The UAE Space Agency, has interest in STM in general. The study has taken into consideration the main elements and standards of STM, when developing the domestic regulations and processes. The UAESA has and will continue also to join other global efforts towards developing a suitable international regulatory framework for STM. In this paper, the study’s elements and comparisons will be described, along with concluding remarks. In addition, it will indicate how these conclusions about STM were integrated into the National Space Policy and various Regulations within the UAE Space Regulatory Framework.

Fatheya Al Sharji
Space Policies and Legislations Department, UAE Space Agency, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Chuck Dickey
TCTB, LLC, P. O. Box 591031, Houston, TX 77259.

P.J. Blount
University of Luxembourg.