Space traffic management (STM) oversees the organization, regulation, and processes used to achieve safe, secure, and sustainable space operations. At present, about 8,000 operational satellites and more than 26,000 pieces of debris are in orbit. Space is becoming crowded, and the risk of collision has increased significantly.
These challenges drive the need for an efficient and effective STM system, in addition to the growing number of satellites and launches, collision risks, overcrowded orbits, and space debris. The increasing need for safe space activities, national security, sustainability, and economic benefits are the main drivers supporting STM implementation and market growth. As a growing number of nations enter the space industry, regulatory entities aim to boost space operations' transparency, including the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the European Commission, and other federal organizations.
In response to the demand for more effective and efficient space operations, several companies, including Lockheed Martin and Airbus, are developing proprietary innovative solutions to tackle space traffic issues. The use of CubeSats and reusable and modular launch vehicles has reduced the costs associated with launches and decreased their environmental impact. Other technologies, such as space debris mitigation, situational awareness, collision avoidance, and in-space services, are either in use or under development to support STM system goals.
This study provides an overview of the current STM market; emphasizes key challenges; discusses existing guidelines and regulations as well as their deficiencies; evaluates STM technologies; and considers possible improvements. The study also analyzes drivers and restraints and potential growth opportunities for STM systems.