Speaking during the International Space University’s recently completed symposium on "Space for a Safe and Secure World,” University President Michael Simpson said that the 2007 student study on Space Traffic Management recommended ways to prevent space collisions.
Prepared by a team of 30 students from 17 countries during ISU’s Space Studies Program in summer 2007, the study took a hard look at the status of traffic management in earth orbit and focused on space traffic rules that would reduce the probability of debris causing collisions.
“Although this report has been publicly available through our web site and was presented to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) in February 2008, we believe that recent events make it imperative to make its availability more widely known,” President Simpson said.
ISU, the ‘gold standard in interdisciplinary space education’, is a graduate school offering a unique core curriculum covering all disciplines related to space programs and enterprises – space and earth sciences, engineering, satellite applications, policy and law, business and management, and space and society. ISU also provides short courses for professional development and life-long learning.
Since its founding on the campus of MIT in 1987, with noted author and visionary Sir Arthur C. Clarke as its first Chancellor, ISU has graduated more than 2700 students from 100 countries, many now in senior positions with commercial and government space-related organizations throughout the globe.
The ISU 2007 report on Space Traffic Management can be found on the ISU website (www.isunet.edu) at the link for ‘Student Reports’ under ISU Publications, or directly at: http://www.isunet.edu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=374&Itemid=251
The presentation to UNCOPUOS referred to above can be viewed at the following weblink: http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/pres/stsc2008/tech-05.pdf
Using the IAA Cosmic Study on Space Traffic Management as a starting point, the ISU study analyzed several of its key recommendations and presented new ideas. Since the study was completed in Beijing, China, students were able to benefit from important information emanating from the Chinese A-Sat test from both Chinese and non-Chinese sources.
Key measures suggested in the report include generalized collision avoidance, whereby conjunction assessments are made among all satellites and any other object to warn of potential collisions. This could be conducted by a central entity that receives tracking data from many nations.
The study also included a suggested system of orbital slots in Sun Synchronous Orbit, which gets particularly busy over the poles where all these satellites cross paths. Either of these measures would probably have allowed the Iridium-Cosmos satellite collision to be avoided.
The study was supported by the Arsenault Family Foundation of Superior, Colorado. Its sister organization, Secure World Foundation, subsequently hired two members of the ISU team that produced it, Ben Basely-Walker and Brian Weeden, to continue work in the area of enhancing international cooperation and public data sharing to avoid collisions of objects orbiting the earth.
The Secure World Foundation is a fully-funded, private operating foundation dedicated to the secure and sustainable use of space for the benefit of Earth and all its peoples. The Foundation engages with academics, policy makers, scientists and advocates in the space and international affairs communities to support steps that help achieve the secure, sustainable and peaceful uses of outer space with efficient and effective global systems of governance.
"The recent satellite collision highlights the need for international discussions between different space agencies on this topic," said Dr. Ray Williamson, Executive Director of the Secure World Foundation and a longstanding member of the ISU worldwide faculty. "This report offers a set of specific space traffic management measures that could be used as a starting point for such discussions."
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