Spring Cleaning & Orbital Junk
Near space exhibits similar problems. And just in time for spring inventory and purge, here's a good, tidy update from Futron on space junk mitigation efforts: Orbital Debris Mitigation: Regulatory Challenges and Market Opportunities (March 15, 2006).
Noting that "[s]ince 2000, the number of on-orbit objects larger than a bowling ball has increased by nearly 10 percent, with the United States and Russia each contributing approximately 40 percent of the total debris," Futron briefs us on orbital debris mitigation practices, policies and regulations at NASA, which "has been at the forefront of orbital debris mitigation efforts in the U.S. government," as well as related efforts at DoD, FCC, NOAA and FAA.
And the paper notes, in the international regulatory arena, "orbital debris mitigation activities are increasingly becoming a coordinated international effort lead by IADC [Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee], rather than a country-level effort."
As to a future policy and regulatory scenario:
United States government agencies generally anticipate that current orbital debris mitigation guidelines and regulations will face more rigorous enforcement in the next five years. Within the DoD, some observers expect that there will likely be greater efforts to encourage compliance with existing guidelines, but not in the form of strictly enforced rules. Like the DoD guidelines, the current NASA standards for mitigation are not expected to change significantly in the near future, but they are expected to be enforced more comprehensively. NASA plans to release new Procedural Requirements for orbital debris mitigation in 2006, which will emphasize taking direct action to minimize debris risk and more seriously applying NASA requirements to every mission. NASA is working to coordinate its increased mitigation efforts at both the national and international level with other U.S. government agencies and intergovernmental groups. At present there is no pending legislation that would establish any new orbital debris regulations affecting DoD or NASA missions, policies, or procedures. As described above, the FCC recently revised its regulatory requirements for debris mitigation and expects to maintain this new level of oversight and enforcement at least for the near term. NOAA and FAA expect to continue their current level of oversight and enforcement of orbital debris mitigation at least for the near term.
Alas, trying to keep things tidy is endlessly challenging.