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The G7 and EU Join China in Call for Space Debris and Collision Regulation

We got a wake-up call on May 12th when an external camera discovered that a piece of debris that was too small to track had hit the International Space Station. (Image: NASA/Canadian Space Agency)

Last month, the Chinese government published space situational awareness and traffic management regulations and procedures designed to guard against collisions in orbit and mitigate space debris, and this month, at the G7 summit, delegates from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA, the UK, and the EU pledged to take action to tackle the growing hazard of space debris as our planet’s orbit becomes increasingly crowded.

They stated their commitment to “safe and sustainable use of space to support humanity’s ambitions now and in the future,” acknowledged the “the growing hazard of space debris and increasing congestion in Earth’s orbit” and agreed “to strengthen our efforts to ensure the sustainable use of space for the benefit and in the interests of all countries.”

They called upon all nations to work together, through groups like the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the International Organization for Standardization, and the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, to preserve the space environment for future generations. 

Even Russia is talking about cooperation in space. In a recent interview, Vladamir Putin said they were not splitting off from the U.S. and moving forward with China. He denied reports that Russia was preparing to give or offer Iran a satellite technology that will enable it to target military targets and said, “We don’t want space militarized, in the same manner, we don’t want cyberspace militarized.” (That’s not very encouraging is it :-)?

These are positive steps that would seem to set the stage for cooperation, at least between the G7, EU, and China. The governments and agencies named above must collaborate on this issue, but they need input from the organizations that operate and monitor satellites like SpaceX, GuoWang, the U.S. Space Force, NASA, LeoLabs, etc. Let’s hope they act quickly because, with tens of thousands of low-Earth orbit satellites approved for launch, the clock is ticking.

By Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

He has been on the faculties of the University of Lund, Sweden and the University of Southern California, and worked for IBM and the System Development Corporation. Larry maintains a blog on Internet applications and implications at cis471.blogspot.com and follows Cuban Internet development at laredcubana.blogspot.com.

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