Space Force wants FAA for space

Space Vehicle

Space Force Maj Gen DeAnna Bert speaking at the AMOS conference mid-September

Space Force Maj Gen DeAnna Bert suggests a new path forward for space traffic management policy. The Space Force’s official position is to direct the Department of Commerce to create a new civilian agency, dubbing it the “FAA of space”. The goal is for the creation of the agency to be a stepping-stone for membership into (or perhaps even be a founding member) of an international civilian space traffic management organization with real regulatory power. Space Traffic Management is much more involved than Space Situational Awareness – while SSA is certainly the first step in ascertaining STM policy, STM requires more hands-on direct interaction with spacecraft. With LEO getting more crowded each year, the first suggested goal of the organization is to make sure spacecraft don’t linger in space for decades after the completion of their mission lifetimes. The Space Force can currently track objects in LEO but has no authority to do anything about derelict craft getting in the way of other missions. A two-pronged approach, both obtaining better quality tracking data as well developing a space “right of way” policy, would be advanced by the civilian agency.

Space policy (or rather the lack of one) is a security risk to most commercial, governmental, and military missions. Without policy to manage traffic, obtaining unauthorized access to the least secure asset is all that it takes to disrupt another mission. This highlights that security in space is a collective effort unique from other security domains given how theoretically any satellite’s propulsion systems can be hijacked and used to navigate towards any other satellite in orbit. The attack surface has grown quite a bit more and should be managed by enforceable (perhaps even fineable) policy considerations.