Managing Traffic in Space

Colorado Springs, Colo. The Federal Aviation Administration would like to develop an implementation plan “as soon as possible” to begin transitioning responsibility for collecting and disseminating safety-related space situational awareness data from the Air Force to the FAA, the associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the FAA said Wednesday. “We would want to accomplish that transition in a crawl, walk, run manner, so that all of the key stakeholders were comfortable with the approach that was being used, and with the resulting products and services,” George Nield said at the 32nd Space Symposium, adding that the transition could be accomplished in a “surprisingly short period of time.” Earlier in the day, Doug Loverro, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, noted that the Air Force does space traffic monitoring, not space traffic management, and suggested that the FAA or another agency should take the lead on managing traffic in space. The Department of Defense doesn’t have the proper regulatory authority to look at the problem and tell operators to adjust their paths to avoid collision—only a civil agency can do that, Loverro said. A good regulatory framework is important because it will give entrepreneurs the assurance they need that they will be able to fly safely in space, he said. “I want the US to be ahead of the rest of the world on this,” Loverro said, to develop the norms and establish rules in the same way the US was preeminent in establishing air traffic controls. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) this week announced a sweeping proposal that would require a lead government agency to be designated for space traffic management by 2020.