Space Traffic Management: Preventing Satellite Collisions in Space

Dr. John Plumb has served as a US Navy submarine officer, as a science and military adviser in the US Senate, as an official for missile defense, nuclear weapons, and space policy in the Pentagon, and on the National Security Council staff at the White House. He currently works as the head of government relations for the Aerospace Corporation, the only Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) dedicated to the space enterprise. John holds a bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Low earth orbit (LEO) is increasingly congested – by active and dead satellites, old rocket bodies, the occasional wrench dropped by an astronaut, and small pieces of debris. With the arrival of mega-constellations of satellites (e.g. Starlink, Planet Labs) LEO will become exponentially more congested this decade, driving the risk of collision up with it. To make matters worse, collisions in space don’t just pose a risk to the two objects colliding: the resulting fragments pose a collision risk to entire orbits, for years to come. New rules, standards, and processes are needed. This talk by Dr. John Plumb examines the scope of the problem and potential solutions to reduce the risk of collisions and preserve access to space. © 2020


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