• About
  • Advanced Search
  • Browse Proceedings
  • Access Policy
  • Sponsor
  • Contact
  • 8 Steps: Practical Ways To Ensure Space Is Usable In The 22nd Century

    Paper ID



    • Thomas Gillon


    Government of Canada






    Over the past several years the problem of orbital debris mitigation has gained increasing visibility. It has been demonstrated that debris will continue to multiply even if all launch activity is stopped. This raises the practical question - as users and abusers of space, of what can realistically be done to shift the momentum from debris creation to debris reduction. This paper will make eight suggestions intended to start a dialogue about achieving concrete results. Near Earth space is finite. In order to keep near earth space usable consider the following: 1) Stop the frivolous use of space – For example, golfing from the International Space Station (ISS) or the launching of a loved one’s remains into a final resting place in orbit should not be allowed. What we do in space matters. Creating unnecessary debris should be prohibited. It signals that we do not care. 2) Bring into space only what can be brought back. Responsible campers carry their litter out of the woods. Responsible space faring nations should plan to bring objects back to earth. The example here is the recent decision to jettison objects from the ISS that cannot be brought back to earth. 3) Rocket designs must be reviewed to ensure maximum safety. Some rockets seem to break up more frequently than others once in space. While there will always be debris creation at launch, all efforts should be taken to minimize this risk and to improve rocket designs with near debris-neutral capabilities. 4) Review satellite designs to assess the causes and consequences on break-up. Design satellites for near debris-neutrality. Prohibit designs with poor track records from future use. 5) Pursue technologies to remove debris. On-orbit docking and repair technologies are being developed. Projects specific to debris removal should be investigated. 6) Form an international body to seek out and implement debris reduction strategy – It must be non-political and non-military. There can be no confusion between debris reduction technologies and space weaponization. 7) Calculate debris half-lives to better communicate the permanence of debris, particularly in high LEO, MEO and GEO. 8) Establish a system of Debris Credits (borrowing from the terrestrial environmental movement). With few launching states and many satellite operators requiring their services, all space-faring states could subsidize reduced debris launches – if launch operators were compensated for using orbitally clean launch vehicles the market would force them to become more responsible. Much of this is not new and none of it would be easy. It is, however, deplorable that after only 50 years in space there are an estimated 35 million pieces of debris, 13000 of which are trackable and only 6-700 of these objects are actually operational satellites.