A report published by the congressionally chartered National Academy of Public Administration [NAPA] recommended that in the near future, as space becomes increasingly crowded, the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) in the Department of Commerce be selected to act as lead agency for commercial Space Traffic Management [STM] and Space Situational Awareness [SSA].
The study, published last week, determined that the OSC was the agency best suited to address potential future congestion issues in Earth’s orbit, and requests that congress quickly work to firmly establish and regularly fund the OSC to take on this role.
“This report provides clear recommendations on how Congress and the stakeholder community should expeditiously proceed to address the looming crisis in space,” NAPA President and CEO Teresa Gerton said in the study. “Taking prompt action will serve to greatly enhance important commercial and research enterprises connected with the endless expanse that lies above us.”
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said he was happy that the NAPA study confirmed that his department was to lead this endeavor.
“I am pleased to see that following an intensive survey of key government and industry stakeholders, NAPA’s findings independently validate that the Department of Commerce is the best civil agency to lead the commercial and international SSA/STM mission,” said Secretary Ross in a statement. “The findings of the Senior Panel highlight the urgent call to action needed to ensure a safe and sustainable space environment to support a thriving U.S. and global space economy. We look forward to working with the Congress to quickly advance this critical space mission.”
The Department of Commerce will work alongside the US Space Force, who will focus on the military side of the SSA/STM mission.
“The space operating environment has become more contested and competitive. This is driving the need for the U.S. Space Force to focus our space domain awareness capabilities on the military-unique aspects of our mission,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting, U.S. Space Force Deputy Commander in a press release. “We are excited about the Department of Commerce taking on basic space situational awareness and space traffic management functions because it both frees up the Department of Defense’s resources to focus on national defense, while allowing the Department of Commerce to rapidly innovate and mature the service called for in NAPA’s report. This is truly a partnership which will make America stronger while enabling the promise of space for the American economy and that of all space faring nations.”
The study states that space is likely to become more congested with thousands of satellites and other debris already in orbit, as the “space economy” raked in over $400 billion in 2019. The OSC will be mainly in charge of managing the data.
“On behalf of the Office of Space Commerce, I would like to thank NAPA and the Senior Panel for their deep interest in the many complex aspects of dealing with the space debris problem. We are pleased with the affirmation of OSC’s role and the collaborative, open architecture approach that we have started to undertake, based on the President’s guidance in Space Policy Directive – 3,” said Director of the Commerce Department’s Office of Space Commerce Kevin O’Connell. “We look forward to working with our interagency, industry, and international partners to find rapid options for improving space safety and sustainability. The emergence of a new space safety industry is key to the growth of space commerce.”
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