Executives said that without universally approved norms and incentives to maintain space as a sustainable environment, safe satellite deployment by governments and commercial firms would become increasingly challenging. According to Jennifer Warren, who serves as the vice president in charge of the civil and regulatory activities at Lockheed Martin, current efforts to define “norms of behavior” for safe space activities are scattered and poorly integrated.
Warren said that while space sustainability is a common goal of many countries, “achieving and sustaining it demands a level of international coordination and partnership that we’re still aspiring to,” at an online session organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics on July 20. “How are we going to get there?” I believe it is best accomplished through a robust multi-stakeholder approach, rather than through debates between governments or the corporate sector.”
Warren stated that federal agencies, industries, universities, and non-governmental organizations “must all work together to drive a shared set of norms.” So that space players are not incentivized to embrace the regulations of one regulatory arena over another, norms should be “harmonized, if not standardized.” Lockheed Martin has pushed for the satellite operators to use the World Economic Forum’s Space Sustainability Rating, according to Warren (SSR). The WEF is working on a rating system that will give manufacturers and operators points for things like their plans to de-orbit systems after missions are completed, their orbital altitude, their ability to be identified and detected from the ground, collision-avoidance measures, the size and quantity of items left in the space from a launch vehicle, and data sharing.
Missions would get a rating and certification based on how they assist to space sustainability by voluntarily engaging in the SSR system. According to Warren, Lockheed Martin Space has offered its satellites as beta testers for the SSR. “Although it is voluntary, it is intended that the scoring would encourage appropriate behavior by manufacturers and operators, and the launch service providers.”
“It’s just one attempt, but it’s a critical starting step,” she explained. The Defense Department has begun a process to define space behavior guidelines, according to Warren. She expressed her delight at the news. “However, we must prioritize the global discourse with everyone at the virtual table,” Warren added. “One of the things we must figure out is how do we make sure we’re touching the whole space environment when we’re building norms, not just one element of it,” Warren said.