The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is organizing a series of virtual listening sessions next month on potential solutions to the problem of orbital debris, as the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Orbital Debris Interagency Working Group develops an implementation plan for release next year.
The implementation plan is to build on the January, 2021 National Orbital Debris Research and Development Plan which resulted from the June, 2018 Space Policy Directive-3 (SPD-3) for the United States to lead space traffic management and space debris mitigation globally.
The Institution for Defense Analyses (IDA) Science and Technology Research Institute is to manage the virtual listening sessions–one on orbital debris remediation on Jan. 13 and one on orbital debris mitigation on Jan. 20, per a Federal Register notice.
Russia’s test last month of a direct ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) weapon–a collision that generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable debris–has the U.S. Space Force (USSF) wanting more tools, including sensors, to track the debris. USSF wants to use software fusion to build orbits for those new debris pieces.
The Nov. 15 test of the Russian DA-ASAT weapon against one of that nation’s defunct satellites also created hundreds of thousands of smaller debris pieces, U.S. officials said.
Debris removal and satellite repair will likely be important USSF missions in future years.
The Nov. 15 Russian ASAT test generated roughly half the debris of a 2007 Chinese DA-ASAT test that created 3,000 pieces of orbital debris larger than 10 centimeters.
The Biden administration held its first National Space Council meeting on Dec. 1 during which Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks condemned ASAT testing and said that DoD wants “all nations agree to refrain from Anti-Satellite weapons testing that creates debris” (Defense Daily, Dec. 1).
Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said during the meeting that the ASAT test was “absolutely a wake up call.” She discussed the Office of Space Commerce (OSC)’s efforts, at congressional direction, to create a space traffic management pilot program and a repository with information on space objects.