The Sputnik satellite was launched into space on October 4th, 1957, marking not only our first step into the Cosmos, but also becoming the first object to crowd Earth’s orbit. Since 1957, our orbit has become increasingly more cluttered, consisting of active and inactive spacecraft and space debris whose numbers are ever increasing.
NASA says there are over 5000,000 pieces of debris the size of a marble or even larger, and they travel at speeds of up to 17,500mph around the Earth. That speed is more than enough to damage a satellite or a spacecraft upon contact.
In addition to that, we also have the International Space Station (ISS) itself, the Hubble Space Telescope and other crewed spacecraft congesting the low Earth orbit (LEO) somewhere between 200 to 2000 kilometers in altitude. With more and more space systems becoming available and ready for launch, the LEO is becoming an important area that we need to take care of and maintain.
All the systems present, including thousands of both small and medium-sized satellites create what we have now called ‘space traffic’, which is becoming increasingly more crowded and risky.
So it seems that we might need someone to regulate that, somehow, and word is that in the near future, job openings for Space Traffic Controllers will become available.
It’s very likely the positions will be up for the grabs for well trained professionals with knowledge of spacecraft dynamics and orbital mechanics, which will allow them to detect possible crashes between spacecrafts or spacecrafts and debris.
Though most spacecrafts we have sent out so far are either not easily maneuverable or not maneuverable at all, once the space traffic regulations will be set in place and unanimously accepted by all the space-faring nations out there, they might be expected to carry the bare minimum of equipment that will allow them to respond to commands from the satellite operators.
It is a complex issue, to say the least, and the amount of man power and brain power we need to achieve it is gargantuan. But then again we never thought it possible to go to the Moon and now not only have we done that but we also have the Tesla Roadster floating about in space, adding up to all that traffic. At least, at the moment, it’s somewhere around Mars, so it’s not an immediate problem for us.