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In Space Traffic Control, Stuart Eves makes a deliberate analogy between operations in space and air traffic control. When the early aviation pioneers took to the skies, they did not require permission to take off and land. Over time, and for good reason, a system of standards and regulations was developed to enable safe, reliable international air travel. For similar reasons, we have now reached that juncture in space. This demands urgent action both political and technical.
Satellites, such as the global positioning system (GPS), form part of the infrastructure that is relied upon worldwide on a daily basis. The loss of such critical international infrastructure would have global consequences. Indeed, near-Earth space currently faces a potential tragedy of the commons due to an increasing population of debris objects that have been left in orbit around the Earth. These uncontrolled objects could create a cascade of collisions (the so-called Kessler syndrome), rendering low Earth orbit (LEO) largely unusable.
Fortunately, it is not yet too late. There are a variety of technical measures, which collectively can be described as space traffic control, which would maintain the near-Earth orbital regime as a place where humans can conduct vital operations. Space Traffic Control considers the systems and procedures which can provide solutions to the problem of space debris and concludes with recommended approaches.
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