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Event Details

Panel Discussion 2 — Earth orbit use


Wednesday, November 2, 2022


7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. CET (UTC +1)


Scott Shackelford, Indiana University, USA


Alex Gilbert, Colorado School of Mines, USA
Augusta McGuinness, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
Miles McAnulty, Arizona State University, USA
Luca Thanei, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Miles Lifson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA


The pre-recorded presentations mentioned below will be available ahead of the conference and need to be watched before the panel discussion takes place.

Pre-recorded Presentations
Developing Effective Governance of Nuclear Power in the Space Commons

Alex Gilbert, Colorado School of Mines, USA

Abstract: Space nuclear power systems are an enabling technology for space exploration and commerce. Radioisotope generators and fission reactors can power probes, rovers, space mines, bases, and provide propulsion. However, the use of space nuclear systems requires crafting a durable and effective regulatory framework. Five major elements of nuclear law (safety, security, waste, non-proliferation, and liability) must all be adapted for nuclear operations in space and on celestial bodies. This talk provides an initial look at how to reconcile space law and nuclear law to enable short- and long-term exploration and commercial plans.

How has the satellite sector transformed the maritime sector? A multi-system analysis

Augusta McGuinness, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Abstract: The commercialisation of the space sector, otherwise known as New Space, is causing a fundamental restructuration of the satellite sector. The new innovations and applications emerging from New Space are creating new sustainable development opportunities for many industries on Earth. A sector that has undergone radical change because of the satellite sector is the shipping sector. As a result of recent satellite innovations, the shipping sector has had increased technological capabilities such as vessel tracking, IoT vessels, autonomous shipping etc. which are contributing to the increase of operational efficiency of maritime transport and thereby, has great potential to transition towards less carbon emission. However, complex interests between actors in the satellite sector and the shipping sector lead to still high barriers for a successful transition. To better understand these multi-sectorial challenges, this study uses a semi-quantitative approach by means of large text data of news articles and interview data to analyse discourses shaped by relevant actors in both sectors The socio-technical configuration analysis method (STCA) helps to identify the types of competing interests that various actors have. By focusing on cognitive, normative, and regulative rules shaping behaviour of these actors, this study seeks to identify opportunities and challenges ahead between the shipping and satellite systems to help address future earth-space sustainability.

A New Space Agency and the Embryo of Comprehensive International Space Law Through the China Belt and Road Model

Miles McAnulty, Arizona State University, USA

Abstract: The focus of space research has almost solely been on how government, the private sector, and civil society will interact in space. Much research is based on International Law and International Relations. Questions regarding jurisdiction, treaties, and the like are debated with vigor yet little to no research focuses on what the business arrangements of space ought to or could look like. After researching Corporation law and delving into HR research I posit an idea around how organizations like the US Securities and Exchange Commission, The State Department, and the Treasury Department ought to regulate conflict, business practice, and the issue of Jurisdiction in space. This idea involves the creation of a new agency in each space-faring country whose task is solely to administer the Space Commons.

Near-Earth Space. Three Reflexive Events (1976, 1984, 1996)

Luca Thanei, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract: In just sixty years, the unchecked accumulation of long-lived aeronautical remnants has caused near-Earth space to transform from a yet nameless and promising void into a measurable and ever more scarce resource for satellite-based technologies.
Considering the fact that space agencies have been monitoring and modeling near-Earth space’s depletion ever since the early 1970s but have not yet developed any viable solutions to stop it, it does not seem unreasonable to ask more thoroughly about the history and the peculiarities of this depletion.
Therefore, this pre-recorded talk will present three events in which the increasing depletion of near-Earth space manifested itself in a sudden, unexpected, and consequential manner. Events that abruptly called into question the preceding monitoring and modeling of near-Earth space’s depletion and which critically reflected the depletion’s previous management.
The presented reflexive events will be the PARCS Small Satellite Test of 1976, the Solar Max retrieval of 1984, and the Cerise incident of 1996.
The talk aims to show how these seemingly distant historical events contributed to today’s perception of near-Earth space as a common and how they might also help to devise political approaches towards the future.

Pathways to Low Earth Orbit Slotting and Relevant Considerations

Miles Lifson, David Arnas, Martín Avendaño, and Richard Linares, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

Abstract: A number of very large satellite constellations are under construction or have been proposed for Low Earth Orbit (LEO), with many at nearby or overlapping altitudes. Uncoordinated overlapping constellations produce large numbers of hazardous close approaches, which must be mitigated at the cost of increased operational complexity, risk, and potential mission disruption. While orbital slotting (through the International Telecommunication Union) is used to manage spectral and physical interference for Geosynchronous Earth Orbits (GEO), no similar system is in place for LEO. Previous work by the authors and collaborators has defined methods for developing slots in LEO that inherently avoid collisions between slotted on-station active spacecraft. Such slotting would have benefits including reduced collision risk and complexity for operational collision avoidance. It also provides a quantitative method to understand the relative and absolute efficiency with which a particular constellation makes use of orbital volume as well as the opportunity cost of that allocation. This talk will discuss preliminary thinking on various ways slotting could be implemented, considering both voluntary and binding frameworks, as well as either top-down or bottom-up approaches to framework development and implementation. Of particular importance is decision-making concerning the designs of slots for various orbital shells (allocation) and who gets to use particular slots (assignment). While binding top-down LEO orbital slotting is unlikely to be implementable on a timeframe relevant for the first wave of large constellations, considerable benefit could be derived through voluntary bottom-up mechanisms that improve the efficiency with which orbital volume is used.