Amassing metrics for space system management

Moriba Jah has written a thoughtful and constructive assessment of the need for assembling reliable metrics to facilitate the proper management of operational space systems [“Acta Non Verba: That should be the motto for NASA’s Artemis Accords,” July/August]. He observed that “you can’t enforce what you don’t know, and you don’t know what you can’t measure, like where objects in space are located.”

It is the case, as pointed out by Jah, that individual countries lack the resources to generate this situational awareness, and “collectively they lack a common pool of globally collected and shared space situational awareness measurements and information, such as the locations of objects and their sizes, shapes, materials and purposes.”

Jah concluded: “The key to making the Artemis Accords a reality lies in such monitoring and assessment of the activities of partners for compliance. Those who fail to comply should be held accountable with clear and quantifiable consequences that must still be established. One country or entity cannot do this alone: continued supervision will require global cooperation.”

Political, economic and cultural competition has been long practiced among the nations of the Earth. From time to time, the dominantly competitive spirit has been set aside, for various reasons and accords have been reached between and among nations in their common interest. When the need exists, the agreements are reached.

In brief, the number of nations participating in space activities is continually increasing. A quick check of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs in Vienna shows that there are, in addition to all the relevant international agreements relating to space activities, at least 25 recorded sets of national laws in place to provide the supervision and some possible continued monitoring of space activities as required by the 1967 Space Treaty’s Article VI. What has yet to be seriously considered is satisfying the need for an international agency that would be competent to assemble, maintain and report the appropriate metrics to allow proper monitoring of space activities.

Perhaps it is time for the United States representative to the next meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space recommend the committee study dealing with means of securing needed and appropriate metrics to monitor and report on the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies. Through constructive discussion at the U.N. it may be possible to move realistically toward an effective means to assemble the needed metrics.

Stephen Doyle
AIAA member
Hampstead, North Carolina

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Amassing metrics for space system management