US commits to no anti-satellite tests that fill orbit with debris – TechCrunch

The US has said it will no longer conduct anti-satellite missile tests, a practice almost universally bemoaned by the space community for its tendency to fill orbit with dangerous debris. Vice President Harris announced the new policy today in hopes of leading by example—although it’s not long since we did.

The anti-satellite commitment is the first in a planned series of new “space norms” being considered by the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the State Department and others concerned about the safety of orbital operations.

The ability to take out a satellite in orbit is one of the capabilities that military forces around the world are happy to demonstrate, generally under the fig leaf of showing they can remotely deorbit a faulty piece of their own hardware. Of course, the main purpose is to show that they can knock anyone out otherwise Birds from the sky if deemed necessary.

China conducted an ASAT operation in 2007; the US did one in 2008; It was India’s turn in 2019, with Russia at the end of 2021.

Although everyone claims to know more or less how the debris cloud and other factors will play out, the simple fact is that each of these operations sends hundreds or thousands of objects into uncontrolled orbits. With thousands of satellites launched annually, these untracked debris events are no longer an academic menace.

During a visit to Vandenberg Space Force Base, Harris said the US would no longer conduct “destructive anti-satellite direct-ascending (ASAT) missile tests,” leaving things open to lasers and other methods, but we’ll cross the bridge , when we reach them. The US is “trying to establish this as the new international norm for responsible behavior in space.”

Getting people to agree on what can be done in space and how is a tricky one, as legally it’s more of a wild west, even with numerous agreements and pacts.

“There are countless debates about different standards — there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing them,” said Robin Dickey, space policy analyst at the Aerospace Center for Space Policy and Strategy. “The approach you take probably varies a lot depending on the content and the context.”

Sometimes that means working with partner agencies to find common best practices; sometimes it goes through the UN to make sure it’s a global conversation; sometimes (for example this time) a unilateral decision is made in the hope that a new normal will be established. Although it’s not that long since 2008 and our last ASAT test, the space community has changed immeasurably since then, and what was simply inadvisable then is no longer tenable today. (The cynics might point out that there’s no reason for us to do this again after we’ve demonstrated the ability, making that obligation a little redundant.)

“Setting these common expectations about what is and isn’t acceptable in space is a critical step in ensuring that space is safe and usable for all for decades to come,” Dickey said.

Of course, in the context of Russia and China decoupling their space programs from those in the US, Europe and beyond, there is a clearer purpose – to establish more actions like the recent test as not only unwise but inconsistent with international expectations .

US commits to no anti-satellite tests that fill orbit with debris – TechCrunch Source link US commits to no anti-satellite tests that fill orbit with debris – TechCrunch

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