Commercial satellite race calls for more regulation

(ORDO NEWS) — Rapidly advancing technology and increasing reports of space debris crashes are signaling the need for new rules to regulate space, experts at Flinder University say.

Ahead of a meeting of intergovernmental experts at next year’s World Broadcasting Conference, space experts from the Jeff Blech Center at Flinders University are raising questions on several fronts, from increasing commercial interest in satellite “megaconstellations” in low Earth orbit (LEO ).

“While there are laws that cover space activities, they are already under pressure due to the speed at which the commercial space industry is developing,” says Joel Lisk, a research fellow at Flinders University.

“We need to work to ensure that we have a broad and flexible regulatory framework that is geared towards rapid change and future development.

Without these ambitious and progressive steps, we risk reducing commercial activity and investment levels, and society will not be able to benefit from this important sector.”

In the five years to December 2019, the number of satellites in Earth orbit increased by 77% and in 2020 by another 37%, to 3,371 active satellites.

SpaceX’s Starlink system has received FCC approval to launch 12,000 satellites, and the company is seeking permission for another 30,000. With the increase in applications to launch LEO satellites, there are serious concerns about long-term space safety.

Flinders University professor Melissa de Zwart, Vice Chair of the Australian Space Industries Association, says there are indeed reasons for concern.

She speaks of the need to weigh all the risks and take into account the benefits associated with the opening of new low-cost communication channels that can bring significant benefits to remote and financially disadvantaged regions.

The Flinders University report addresses a number of other complex issues, including the management of physical and spectral interference, optical and radio astronomy, and competition between LEO operators.

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