ISU supports new book on sustainability of space operations

In the series ‘Space for the 21st Century’ ISU, together with IISC, supported the edition of a new book, now dedicated to sustainable space. Main authors are previous ISU President, Dr. Michael Simpson, and ISU faculty Dr. Ray Williamson.

The book deals principally with the topic of sustainability of space operations. In all fields of challenging endeavor, actually accomplishing an objective (e.g., putting a satellite into orbit) comes first, followed by exploitation or commercialization, and lastly by a realization that the resource is finite. Such “finite-ness” may come from considerations of pollution (e.g., space debris, propulsion effluent) or of actual limitations on the availability of the resource (e.g., crowding of Geostationary Earth Orbit – GEO). Both of these topics are among those discussed in detail in this volume. In the case of orbital debris we have collectively arrived at a point where tens of millions of tiny pieces of debris are currently in orbit, decaying at diverse rates in a situation where a single flake of paint has been demonstrated to be capable of causing damage when impacting at high relative velocities.

While space may realistically be dubbed “infinite,” very specific orbits, or sets of orbits, have practical capacity limits. In GEO, for example, spacing of satellites along it are subject to constraints arising from use of the same radio frequency spectra and the size of ground based antennas required to spatially discriminate between adjacent satellites.

In popular high inclination sun-synchronous Earth imaging orbits, these all converge near the poles, creating a traffic management concern arising from the risk of collision.

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