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Commerce Department Begins Work to Manage Space Congestion

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The Department of Commerce began addressing the growing congestion in space as directed by President Trump, National Defense Magazine reported Monday. The White House issued a space policy directive in 2018 giving the agency the responsibility to manage space debris and traffic.

Commerce is coordinating agencies to discuss new standards for orbital debris mitigation. The agency is also in talks with the space industry to understand current and future needs of companies for space initiatives.

Department officials hosted the Risks and Opportunities Space Summit in March 2019 that gathered officials from industry to discuss space insurance, situational awareness technology and orbital debris strategies. 

There are more than 20,000 objects in space being monitored by the Department of Defense, a number that is expected to continue increasing. 

“The volume and location of orbital debris are growing threats to space activities,” the directive stated. “It is in the interest of all to minimize new debris and mitigate effects of existing debris.”

Theresa Hitchens, senior research associate at the Center for International Security Studies at the University of Maryland, said Commerce may face challenges in managing space traffic and debris. 

She said the DoD limits the information it shares to track satellites, and Commerce has yet to secure clear authority to hire private companies or build its own capabilities to track objects in space.