12 February 2009. This night’s collision between an active Iridium satellite and an inactive (debris) Russian satellite highlighted again the need for international action. ESPI has already worked broadly on the way forward to make space traffic safer.
The incident recorded on 11 February 2009 was one of the extremely rare cases where an active satellite was hit by space debris. It showed, however, in a dramatic way, how large and real the threat to active space objects is even when probabilities seem to be low in purely statistical terms.
The growing need for action can be focused on two areas. For both, ESPI has recently prepared relevant analysis and recommendations.
The first to mention is Space Situational Awareness (SSA). It is a basic prerequisite to know what is happening in outer space. Europe is not yet in such a state. In order to promote this, ESPI has issued a report on “Europe’s Way to SSA” in January 2008 and an issue of “ESPI Perspectives” on “SSA for Europe. A First Important Step” in December 2008.
With these analyses and recommendations, ESPI has been actively promoting an international regime, which would help to avoid accidents as the one happening now. It is encouraging that these results have already received the attention, e.g. of the past as well as the current chairpersons of UNCOPUOS. ESPI’s recommendations will also be presented next week at the annual conference of the International Space University on “Space for a Safe and Secure World” in Strasbourg (download presentation here).