More chatter on Earth means more clutter in orbit.
In the past five years, orbiting operational satellites have increased by 40%, reports the Washington Post, due to the public’s growing demand for wireless and broadband services. In total, there are now 1,400 satellites in orbit and that number is certain to grow as several companies have expressed interest in deploying more satellites in the coming years.
Such a high rate of traffic has some federal agencies concerned Earth’s orbit lacks the proper regulatory oversight, as the growing number of orbiting satellites may increase the risk of a collision. Although the Pentagon tracks orbiting objects and monitors potential collisions, it currently does not have any regulatory authority over these objects, nor does any other federal agency.
Recently, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK.) has introduced a bill that would grant the FAA regulatory power over orbiting objects.
“As space becomes more congested and contested and competitive, there needs to be an agency with unambiguous authority that can compel somebody to maneuver,” Bridenstine recently told the Washington Post.
Even with authority, regulatory power may prove difficult for the agency to effectively exercise. The FAA is currently operating on a thinner budget, and several satellite operators have expressed disapproval of regulating satellites fearing they would create a competitive disadvantage for U.S. companies.