FAA proposes rule to limit debris from commercial space vehicles

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There FAA proposed a rule designed to limit new orbital debris from commercial space vehicles.

The FAA argues by citing the need to “reduce the potential for collisions with spacecraft and satellites to promote a sustainable space environment”. According to the American agency, current estimates put more than 23,000 the number of orbital objects measuring 10 cm or more, and the projections for objects between 1 and 10 cm amount to half a million. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) focuses on how commercial operators will be required to get rid of the upper stages of their launchers.

If nothing is done, the accumulation of orbital debris will increase the risk of collisions and crowding of orbits used for human spaceflight and for satellites providing communications, weather and global positioning system services.the FAA said. “By strictly limiting uncontrolled re-entry of upper stages, the FAA seeks to mitigate the risk to people on the ground and in flight due to its significant size and mass and the uncertainty of where it will land. »

The NPRM (PDF) presents five options disposal of the upper stage, including performing a controlled reentry, moving it to a less congested storage or graveyard orbit, sending it to an Earth escape orbit, recovering it within five years, and performing atmospheric disposal uncontrolled or natural degradation within 25 years. The FAA noted that the proposed rule “would align commercial space orbital debris mitigation practices with those accepted by the U.S. government for its space missions”. The rule will be open to public comment for 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.

John Walker Avatar