WASHINGTON — One of Capitol Hill’s most active lawmakers on space issues is planning to unveil a space reform bill this spring that could shift responsibility for tracking objects in orbit away from the Defense Department.
In a Jan. 15 interview with Defense News, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., offered details on the American Space Renaissance Act, which he plans to roll out during the Space Foundation’s annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in April.
The bill may eventually include language to transition responsibility for space situational awareness and space traffic management from the Pentagon to civilian agencies, Bridenstine said. Up until now, DoD has been responsible for monitoring and regulating space by default. However, with new advances in technology leading to more congestion in space, DoD, and particularly the Air Force, will soon be struggling to keep up with the workload.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which currently has a role in commercial space launch operations, should take more responsibility for space situational awareness, Bridenstine said.
“There are tremendous breakthroughs, and the concern there is, as phenomenal as they are, it will lead to more congestion in space, and that’s why we need to have some regulatory environment that is not inside the DoD,” Bridenstine said. “These are all things that ultimately are new and emerging capabilities that we have to figure out how to manage because ultimately the taxpayer is on the hook.”
The Air Force is currently responsible for tracking about 23,000 optics in space each day, and sends warnings to operators around the globe to prevent collisions, according to Lt. Gen. John Raymond, deputy chief of staff for operations. About once every three days, world satellite operators maneuver satellites into better positions based on that data, he noted.
“It is a pretty significant burden on us to be the air traffic control for the world,” Raymond said during a Jan. 20 event hosted by the Air Force Association.
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