India which recently launched a record number of 104 satellites in one go, would continue to do so and “saturate” the orbits, a US space expert has told lawmakers but said it is not a matter of concern. “We should not be concerned with congestion. We should be concerned with not understanding where these things are going, how they are behaving so that we can help businesses and commerce thrive,” said Moriba Jah, Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, University of Texas, Austin School of Engineering.
The US, as of now, tracks 23,000 objects in the space. But with 23,000 objects that are being tracked and others that are detected but not tracked for a variety of reasons, it poses a huge problem, Jah said. “The other thing too is that we have countries like India. They just broke this record of launching 104 satellites in one go a few months ago. They’re going to continue to do this and just saturate the orbits with a lot of satellites, which… is not a bad thing,” Jah said.
Before, when space first started with Sputnik, there were only a few objects on orbit, he said in his testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Space. So, it was not very difficult to know where things were or where things could be. Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity said currently, there are a lack of ideal on sites in the US for small class launch vehicles to meet polar, retrograde and sun synchronous orbits.
“Consequently, many small satellite customers look to foreign launches from India, Russia and Europe. The use of an offshore drone ship launch platform operating under an FAA license could potentially alleviate this problem by allowing for launches in international waters,” Ellis said. “The concept we envisioned is more like the reverse of the drone ships and barges SpaceX and Blue Origin pioneered for landing recovered boost stages versus the expensive sea launch platform. Creating an open access West Coast launch site, similar to Kennedy’s 39-C, could be another alternative,” Ellis said.
Senator Ted Cruz said the US must continue to challenge NASA and the commercial space community to find new ways to partner to advance its national space policy goals as Congress will never be able to fully fund every priority within the space community.
“And in preparation of an expansion of commercial space activity, we will also need to examine orbital debris and how it impacts exploration and space traffic management,” he said. “There are people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the very nature of space exploration. And if they keep pressing forward, they just might,” he added.