The long-term sustainability of space is an issue critical to the global community. The increasing congestion of space due to on-orbit debris poses a risk to active satellites that underpin much of the world’s activity. Acknowledging this issue, a virtual international workshop (the 5th such event) consisting of space subject matter experts was held in September 2020 to identify priority areas that need to be addressed by the international community to promote the responsible use of space to mitigate this risk.
The five priority areas identified at the event in 2019 regarding development of STM best practices were reviewed, updated, and revalidated. The highest priority recommendation is the need for a regulatory framework pertaining to the safe and responsible operation of satellites licensed at a national level as part of a wider Space Traffic Management (STM) initiative. Action is required from policymakers to enable the development of a national STM regulatory framework that can evolve into an international framework. Any industry driven voluntary, consensus-based STM standards may be necessary, but they are not sufficient to fully mitigate the risk of unintentional collisions on orbit that pose greatest risk to the sustainability of space.
The organizers stand ready to support the international community to progress on establishment of STM frameworks along with the other recommendations from this workshop. In parallel we will build upon these findings and engage with the wider space community at Space Symposium 2021.