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23 September, 2021 / By: Tech Stewardship Team

TS+ Space

The space industry faces a number of stewardship challenges, where it provides unique capabilities to us, to communicate around the world, navigate safely, observe the world and our impacts on it, look out to the stars and to our own planet’s and sun’s past, and work out our small first steps towards sustaining life away from Earth. 

In achieving these unique capabilities, we have created large amounts of space junk, which now threaten the infrastructure we created. In developing large constellations to better support these unique capabilities, there will be a larger impact on the atmosphere as a whole from the current technology of rockets for launching the constellations, and on the upper atmosphere in particular from spacecraft burning up on re-entry, larger impacts of light pollution affecting not just astronomy, but changing the night sky, and a change to the rf environment resulting from the new sets of space to ground links. 

A significant challenge with space stewardship relates to the voices empowered to discuss the topic.

There are a small (but growing) number of nations with capabilities to launch into space, and the technologies those launches use often have a dual use for military purposes, making them restricted or controlled goods, and limiting the possibility of completely open dialogue with the world. The cost of the technology has created inequities of access, again resulting in constraining the voices around the table. 

There are also many aspects of the space environment that can be counterintuitive, creating barriers to a broader public technological literacy. And there are many aspects of space which present untested legal and social territory, where international governance is needed, yet international treaties only having as many teeth as the individual member states choose to implement nationally. 

This also offers a unique opportunity, however, to establish new approaches for stewardship, where there are not as many long traditions to break down as in other industries, and where the landscape is set to change so significantly over the coming years.

What do you think?

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