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Guest: Dr. Michael Gleason; Topics: Space debris. U.S. Space Sustainability Initiatives, TRLs for debris solving projects and mare.
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We welcomed Dr. Michael Gleason back to the program to discuss U.S. Space Sustainability Initiatives, space debris problems and more. Please see the three papers I linked to on our blog for this program. Most of our attention was focused on his paper "A Short Guide For Understanding And Assessing U.S. Space Sustainability Initiatives." As such, the majority of our air time was spent on space debris and regulatory issues.
Michael and I started the discussion with addressing the Population Explosion in Space, the first subtitle paragraph in Dr. Gleason's paper. He went over satellite statistics with us from 60 years ago to today, pointing out how this has crowded specific, selected orbits. This subject addresses the constellations going up by SpaceX and others plus the Space Force and more. Don't miss all of what was said in this beginning part of our conversation on the matter. We talked about expected satellite lifetime, deorbiting rules and conditions and thanks to emails from Adrian, also how the atmosphere, temperature and other factors can influence deorbiting or even satellite lifetime.
Dr. Gleason said that LEO, where most of the congestion happens to be, is unregulated plus countries are in charge of their own regulations. He indicated it might be preferable for a global level of regulation for the industry. Listen to what our guest said about this and then post your comments about it on our blog for this program. Listener Todd sent in an email about debris mitigation. Our guest then talked about the difference between debris mitigation and active debris work now. Treaties and existing law were talked about along with other forms of international agreements. Also, the chain of custody which he explained was a big deal to consider.
Marshall was our first caller wanting to talk about the GPS systems and Starlink plus other constellations. Marshall and Michael had an interesting call about crowded orbits, interference with other satellites and the recent NASA-SpaceX MOU on traffic management. They talked long term sustainability with Michael referring Marshall to his guidelines per the paper referenced above and linked to on our blog. Based on this discussion, Adrian in San Diego sent in a note talking about atmospheric variables that could impact satellite de-orbiting, stability, traffic management and more. Don't miss what our guest had to say in response to the emails sent us by Adriane.
Fremont John called with questions about debris and coordinating activities for R&D with other companies working on similar problems. Our guest talked about debris tracking but said it was not using modern equipment. Most of the tracking is actually carried out by older systems designed to track ICBMs. Don't miss this part of the discussion. John also talked about Secure World Foundation dialogs and programs on the topic and he even referred to Dr. Gleason's earlier paper, "The Value of Space," suggesting that the debris issues can be a bit risk factor with impact for everyone.
Listener Sharon sent in a note asking Michael about the current TRL for dealing with space junk. Michael quickly summarized what was going on from Astroscale in Japan to work by ESA and others. The issue of who would pay for the solutions looms large over all aspects of the industry. Once again, U.S. leadership in these space areas came up with our guest saying why it was so important for the US to be the space leader.
As we neared the end of the discussion, I mentioned to our guest that I thought this subject and others as well were rich in rhetoric and short on outcomes. This lead to an outcome oriented discussion with our guest on the subject of the paper we have largely been discussing on this program. In fact, he said he created Table 1 on page 5 of his paper so that people could track what was going on and pay attention to outcomes when they come known. Take a look at Table 1: "Understanding and Assessing U.S. Space Sustainability Initiatives." Post your thoughts on outcomes, this table and the question I raised on our blog for this show. In addition, late in the show we talked about the team approach to the business over the go it alone one person show type of business. Also, the meaning of success.
Michael offered us summary comments as we took another question from a New York listener regarding SPD-3 and traffic management. Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Gleason on our blog for this show. You can reach our guest through me or through the Center For space Policy And Strategy at The Aerospace Corporation.