Industry looks to decentralized approaches to space sustainability

LONG BEACH, Calif. —

That cooperation is already in place among some satellite operators through the Space Data Association (SDA), where members exchange data on their spacecraft to coordinate safe space operations. “Collaboration amongst competitors is really key to sharing sustainable space,” said Tobias Nassif, director of the SDA.

“All of the founders of the SDA are fierce competitors in the marketplace,” he said, primarily in communications. “We came together because we knew we had a common problem that, if we were to have a collision, have a problem in space, it not only affects one but it affects all.”

The SDA is a “perfect example” of how such company-to-company coordination can work, said Josef Koller, co-founder of the Space Safety Institute at The Aerospace Corporation. “More and more companies and nations are starting to realize the importance of spaceflight safety, that it’s in the interest of all of us and we ought to get together and have that discussion and information exchange.”

That approach, he said, does not require some kind of central authority. “We need to rethink this notion of the need for a centralized body of space traffic management,” he said, instead calling for a “peer-to-peer” decentralized approach. “Modern technology has given us a lot of ways and means to think about different approaches to managing all the different participants.”

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