Recently, the Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy, or CSPS, has released a couple of new papers on policies which examine the potential importance of future space traffic management. A necessary step they foresee needing to take for the safety of space activities such as the proliferation of many satellites which are extremely hard to track as well as a vast number of small and medium-size satellites which are planned to be installed into orbit in the near future.

The first of the new proposed policies, the GPS Transponders for Space Traffic Management, introduces an exciting new way of planning the management of space traffic. This new method is based on satellites and crafts being equipped with standard onboard GPS transponders. This would be a huge step from the half-century-old system currently being used to track satellites and spacecraft. As part of the DOD Space Surveillance Network, basic radar and telescopes are what we currently use to manage space traffic. A very outdated technology.

Equipping future satellites and spacecraft could be a huge step for mankind. It would give spacecraft crews a much more reliable method of positively identifying satellites and other crafts as well as space stations. Which would make leaps and bounds on avoiding future space collisions and cut back on unnecessary maneuvers and lost time.

The second of these papers outlining proposed policies, New Space Activities: Implications for Space Traffic Management, covers a diverse range of potential solutions for space traffic issues. The main concern of this paper is addressing the difficulty of tracking the growing number of objects in space as well as ways to perfect future orbital predictions.

“The space community needs to decide who will be responsible for space traffic management, and what those responsibilities will entail. Satellite operators will also need significantly better space situational awareness.” says Marlon Sorge, a senior project engineer who works for the Space Innovation Directorate of Aerospace. Sorge is one of the authors of the paper.

Sorge goes on to state that the DOD has spent several years looking at these problems but that time left to find solutions is quickly running out. Sorge also suggests that there are several possibilities for achieving better situational awareness in space. Among suggestions are attaching tracking devices such as the GPS transponders, extending the existing Space Surveillance Network, as well as requiring space operators to manually report orbital data figures.