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Congested orbits a top concern for U.S. Space Command

21 Apr 2021, 00:22 UTC
Congested orbits a top concern for U.S. Space Command
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WASHINGTON — The rapidly growing number of satellites orbiting the Earth is causing apprehension, the commander of U.S. Space Command said April 20.
Gen. James Dickinson told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that congestion in space mostly fueled by commercial activity could create safety problems if it’s not managed.
“We need a new level of awareness,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson testified on Tuesday at a posture hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee alongside Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
U.S. Space Command’s traffic watchers at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, currently track about 32,000 objects on orbit, including more than 3,400 active satellites. They estimate the probability of collisions and send warnings to satellite operators.
Dickinson noted that the three largest constellations of satellites today are operated by commercial companies: SpaceX, Planet and Spire.
“Commercial opportunities open new possibilities, but can also complicate access to the domain with the proliferation of mega constellations,” he said.
“The safety and sustainability of an increasingly crowded space domain grows more complex as commercial entities plan to launch thousands of satellites in the next few years,” Dickinson said. “The explosive growth of nano, micro, and small satellites ...

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