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Space Traffic Management: U.S. Military Considerations for the Future

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This article explores the considerations the U.S. Department of Defense must take into account as efforts go forward both at the U.S., national, and international level to develop an STM regime to ensure both safety of space operations and sustainability of the future space environment.

The Defense Department and the relevant military services/organizations (i.e., the Air Force and U.S. Strategic Command) have yet to come to grips with the security dilemmas they will face as governance decisions related to STM are taken.

The question of how to manage increasing congestion in orbit has now come to the fore within the U.S. government, as well as within the international community of space operators, as the trends regarding space traffic have become impossible for space-faring nations to ignore. Space traffic management (STM) is fundamentally an issue of space safety. Unfortunately, ensuring space safety and assuaging national security concerns about national space assets are fundamentally contradictory efforts. Safety and security require opposing strategies; national versus international control require opposing approaches; and the U.S. military faces a number of security dilemmas in dealing with its needs versus those of the wider space operating community.

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