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Clean up space debris now, urges FFC

11 August 2022

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has called for the issue of space debris to be urgently addressed before space manufacturing is ramped up, and for new regulations in space to be implemented.

At an inquiry on 5 August, the FCC assessed the current potential for in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM), outlining the need for regulation amidst a rise in space tourism. 
 
Jessica Rosenworce, Chairwoman of the FCC, stated: “As we promote Space Innovation, we need to promote safety and responsibility. This is why this inquiry also considers how ISAM capabilities can lead to the development of new ways to clean up orbital debris.”
 
“After all, there are thousands of metric tons of junk in space that, if left unaddressed ,will constrain those new opportunities in the skies above and ISAM could help improve this environment.”
 
Last year, NASA reported that the Department of Defence’s global Space Surveillance Network were tracking more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris, many of which were travelling at approximately 15,700 mph, posing large potential problems for spacecraft. 
 
Amongst the debris, NASA highlighted that approximately 23,000 pieces were larger than a softball, whilst there are half a million pieces of debris the size of a marble or larger.
 
Lucy Edge, Chief Operating Officer for the Satellite Applications Catapult, commented: “Space debris poses risk to the sustainable use of space for human spaceflight, astronauts and satellites. As highlighted by the FCC, it is an issue we need to actively address.  However, we should not wait to progress in-orbit manufacturing – we should, instead, ensure we manage our risks appropriately.” 
 
“At the Catapult, we provide access to facilities which simulate in-orbit space conditions and allow for the rigorous testing of new technologies before launching hardware. Cleaner access to space will strengthen the UK’s supply chain and grow new services in the UK space industry.”


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