Thu. Feb 29th, 2024
Outer Space Governance: A Market-Based Solution to Satellite Congestion?

The Earth’s orbit is becoming increasingly crowded with privately-owned satellites. Currently, there are over 4,500 SpaceX Starlink satellites orbiting our planet, and this number is expected to grow to 42,000 in the next decade. Not to be left behind, tech giant Amazon has plans to launch more than 3,200 broadband satellites into orbit. While this rapid expansion of satellite constellations promises to revolutionize global connectivity, it also raises concerns about catastrophic collisions, signal interference, and the overall congestion in outer space.

To address the challenge of managing this shared resource, Enrique Guerra-Pujol, a law professor at the UCF College of Business and the School of Accounting, has proposed an innovative model of outer space governance. In his recent study published in the Annals of Air & Space Law, Guerra-Pujol suggests the implementation of outer space auctions as a market-based solution to satellite congestion.

Traditionally, private firms like SpaceX have had to obtain permission from multiple public agencies (such as the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and the International Telecommunication Union) to launch satellites into orbit. However, Guerra-Pujol proposes a different approach. He suggests that these agencies should consider using auctions to allocate resources instead of giving them away for free.

Drawing inspiration from Coasian principles, which advocate for market mechanisms to allocate resources efficiently, Guerra-Pujol argues for the adoption of auction formats like the simultaneous ascending auction or simultaneous multiple-round auction. These formats have been successfully used in previous cases, such as the allocation of property rights in the electromagnetic spectrum.

By implementing outer space auctions, the FCC or ITU (or both) could effectively manage the allocation of orbit or launch licenses, particularly in the case of mega-constellation satellites. These auctions would be flexible enough to accommodate the various factors involved, including different orbits, altitudes, radio-frequencies, and the number of satellites.

As satellite constellations continue to grow, it is crucial to explore alternative governance models that can ensure the efficient and fair allocation of resources in outer space. While Guerra-Pujol’s proposal may not be without its complexities, it presents a fresh perspective and opens the door to innovative solutions in the face of satellite congestion. As the world evolves further into the era of commercial space exploration, it is vital for policymakers and industry stakeholders to consider effective and sustainable approaches to outer space governance.

An FAQ Section:
Q: How many private satellites are currently orbiting the Earth?
A: There are over 4,500 SpaceX Starlink satellites orbiting the Earth.

Q: How many SpaceX Starlink satellites are expected to be launched in the next decade?
A: The number of SpaceX Starlink satellites is expected to grow to 42,000 in the next decade.

Q: How many broadband satellites does Amazon plan to launch?
A: Amazon plans to launch more than 3,200 broadband satellites.

Q: What are the concerns related to the rapid expansion of satellite constellations?
A: The concerns include catastrophic collisions, signal interference, and overall congestion in outer space.

Q: What does Enrique Guerra-Pujol propose to address the challenge of managing satellite congestion?
A: Enrique Guerra-Pujol proposes the implementation of outer space auctions as a market-based solution.

Q: What traditional approach does Guerra-Pujol suggest public agencies should reconsider?
A: Guerra-Pujol suggests that public agencies should reconsider giving away resources for free and instead use auctions to allocate resources.

Q: What auction formats does Guerra-Pujol suggest adopting?
A: Guerra-Pujol suggests adopting auction formats like the simultaneous ascending auction or simultaneous multiple-round auction.

Definitions:
– Satellite constellations: A group of satellites working together in coordination to provide certain services or coverage.
– Coasian principles: Economic principles developed by Ronald Coase, which advocate for market mechanisms to allocate resources efficiently.
– Mega-constellation satellites: Large constellations of satellites, often consisting of thousands of satellites.

Suggested Related Link:
NASA Website