International Institute of Space Law

Article

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
Author's information

Stefan A. Kaiser
Wassenberg, Germany.
  • Abstract

      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.

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