CONDITION AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE SPACE ENVIRONMENT
The space environment is a scarce natural resource with limited abilities to support human activity, including available orbital positions, and radiofrequency spectrum to communicate data back to Earth. It is a harsh environment where safe operations are threatened by natural occurrences such as space weather.
This environment is also fragile, threatened by the accumulation of debris that results from all human activities, but which is exacerbated by accidental collisions and the intentional destruction
of objects in orbit. Even the smallest pieces of debris can be harmful to satellites operating in space.
Stress to the sustainability and carrying capacity of the space environment is growing alongside increasing congestion, as access to and use of space expands rapidly. The emergence of new services, such as space-based Internet, that use massive constellations of satellites in low Earth orbit to provide constant, global service coverage are also contributing to congestion and growing demand for space’s natural resources.
Environmental challenges are exacerbated by limits to our knowledge about the space environment. Although capabilities are expanding, at this moment, we don’t have sufficiently precise information on what exactly is in outer space, where it is, and how it is moving through orbit to ensure that the objects and people that we send there remain safe. The same can be said of our ability to predict and collectively respond to natural threats such as space weather. Improving the quality, timeliness, and distribution of information about the space environment is a significant focus of space security.