Space Safety Coalition Formed

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A New Organization, the Space Safety Coalition, Seeks to Limit the Risk of Future Space Operations for All.

There’s a lot of junk in space. And we’re putting more of it out there faster than it’s falling back to Earth. In fact, if Elon Musk has his way, tens of thousands of new communications satellites will dot the night sky by the end of the next decade. The fact is, low-earth orbit is as viable a business location as anywhere on the ground these days. In that light, it seems only prudent that both nation-states and corporations cooperate to make that area as safe as possible for the people and equipment that must work there. That is the goal of the Space Safety Coalition.

Per the organization’s website, “The Space Safety Coalition (SSC, SpaceSafety.org) is an ad hoc coalition of companies, organizations, and other government and industry stakeholders that actively promotes responsible space safety through the adoption of relevant international standards, guidelines and practices, and the development of more effective space safety guidelines and best practices.”

Basically, the SSC is similar to the Better Business Bureau. The idea is old, tried, and true. Many people—especially business owners—don’t want any more government regulations than are absolutely necessary. And some (more than I’m comfortable with, really) want no government regulations at all. Therefore, in an effort to stave off the inevitable big-bad regulations, groups of individuals with aligned interests often band together and form these “ad hoc” organizations in order to effectively govern themselves. The idea works because if they are successful, it raises the standard of business practices for all. If they’re unsuccessful, however, and the government does feel the need to regulate, they’ll look to the organization for “best practices.” In that way, much of whatever framework was previously in place will stay in place. That’s typically how these organizations work. And now there’s one for space.

Recommendations and Goals

The Space Safety Coalition announced its list of best practices at the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies, or AMOS, conference. The AMOS conference deals with space situational awareness and space traffic management.

The list includes a variety of measures designed to increase the safety of operations in space. Some of the details include steps on how to exchange information with other organizations regarding satellite operations and a rule requiring de-orbiting satellites within five years. The current standard is 25 years. Other guidelines involve a safety-first approach to designing satellites, constellations, and launch vehicles.

Success Depends on Membership

While the intent behind the coalition is laudable, the unfortunate fact is that neither SpaceX nor Blue Origin are members. Neither Bezos nor Musk are big on outside influences telling them how to run their corporations, so their participation seems unlikely. Without that participation, the SSC may have a tough time getting any real change to happen. Though for PR’s sake, the larger firms will likely have their own “best practices” in place that will exceed or mirror those recommended by the SSC.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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