Broadcast 1389 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

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Guests: Classroom featuring Brian Weeden, Dr. Livingston, Dr. John Jurist. Topic: Space Sustainability: Environmental and Crowding Issues Across All Orbital Domains. Lesson 11 for The Space Show Classroom focused on Space Sustainability issues with guest instructor Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation. Brian's paper on this subject is on the Classroom Blog under Lesson 11 Presentation Materials and at We started our first of two segments with a definition of space sustainability and where we as space-fairing nations were in terms of a pending disaster because of orbital debris pollution. We talked about human spaceflight and issues surrounding it. From our human spaceflight discussion, we evolved to satellites of all types and scientific payloads. One of the questions and comments brought up by Dr. Jurist was the difference between natural debris and man made debris. Brian also took us through Conjunction Assessment and we discussed it in terms of the US and the Russians who are the only ones that can do it at this time. A listener brought up issues about potential SSP systems. As you will hear, there is not much debris in the orbits that would be used for an SSP system. Listen carefully to what Brian said about this. We talked about GPS and its importance and how evolved economies would be adversely impacted without access to space resources. As we drew to a close in the first segment, Brian talked about the size of objects and said being hit by anything 7CM and larger would be catastrophic. From 1-6CM serious damage would be sustained. As we started the second segment, we summarized and addressed a few additional questions on orbital debris and GPS, including a discussion on the vulnerability of GPS to a hostile attack. We then focused our attention on Space Situational Awareness (SSA)which implies one knows what is going on in space all the time. So far, the US and the Russians are the strongest nations applying SSA but more and more countries are starting to use it. SSA also implies the use of Space Traffic Management. Some of the questions Brian brought to our attention included who pays for these services and who makes important decisions. He said the UN Treaties were OK but were based on the framework of the Cold War. What is happening now is more in line with voluntary agreements. Brian also said there was no legal definition for space debris so legally there no way to discriminate between valuable space hardware and useless space debris. We talked about which countries are getting more and more involved in these discussions and as it turns out, most do, even those nations considered rogue. Toward the end of the program, a question came in about the use of a nuclear bomb to deflect or destroy an incoming NEO. Brian said it was not allowed by current treaties but that the problem would not be solved until a real incident was upon us and a nuclear nation had to make such a decision. We talked about the role of the UN COPUOS, the UN Action Team 14 and the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). For your questions and comments, please post them on The Space Show Classroom Blog under this post at All questions sent to me will be posted on the blog.



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10 Jul 2010 Dr. John Jurist, Dr. David Livingston, Dr. Brian Weeden
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  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • The Space Foundation Conference

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