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Senators Agree on ORBITS Act Space Junk Bill

Senators Agree on ORBITS Act Space Junk Bill

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Orbital Sustainability (ORBITS) Act, a bipartisan bill to establish a novel demonstration program to reduce the amount of space junk in orbit. “Space junk,” or orbital debris, currently poses a threat to human space exploration, scientific research missions and emerging commercial space services. There are approximately 8,000 metric tons of space junk currently in orbit, including at least 900,000 individual pieces of debris that are potentially lethal to satellites. Because of the magnitude of the current debris, simply preventing more debris in the future is not enough.

A version of the bill also made it through the Senate last year, but was not taken up by the House. The core action of the bill is to establish a NASA program to demonstrate the removal of debris from orbit to accelerate the development of required technologies.  Other ORBITS Act reforms include:
  • Direct the Department of Commerce Office of Space Commerce (OSC) to publish a list of debris that poses the greatest risk to orbiting spacecraft
  • Encourage consistent orbital debris regulations by initiating a multi-agency update to existing orbital debris standards applicable to Government systems
  • Require OSC, with the National Space Council and Federal Communications Commission, to encourage the development of practices for coordinating space traffic, which will help avoid collisions that create debris

To read the full text of the Orbits Act, visit:

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