In the not-too-distant future an international regulatory and enforcement agency may be looking for Space Traffic Controllers to fill hundreds of positions for well-trained professionals.
It is likely that these positions will be located in an international metropolis such as Washington, Paris, London, Hong Kong, Rome or Moscow. Applicants must pass a rigorous training program including many hours in class and in simulators. They will probably be required to have prior training in spacecraft dynamics and orbital mechanics.
In a fashion similar to that of air traffic controllers, space traffic controllers may not actually control spacecraft movements. Instead, they may oversee assigned segment of the low-earth orbital zone.
Their main responsibility will be to detect and report possible conjunctions between pairs of operating spacecraft and between spacecraft and debris. Once detected, Conjunction Alerts (CAs) would be sent to the appropriate satellite operators who are then responsible for taking evasive actions.
Today, most spacecraft are not easily maneuverable or unable to maneuver in response to CAs. However, once Space Traffic Management Regulations are internationally accepted by all space-faring nations, all satellites may be required to carry transponders and a minimum set of devices and software that enable them to safely navigate the very congested orbits above Earth. Furthermore, all satellite operators may be required to receive licensing for approved orbital "slots" from an appropriate international agency.
Of course, all this assumes that all space-faring nations can agree on a set of Space Traffic Management regulations and enforcement procedures. In addition, the question of how to deal with existing satellites, constellations and debris will have to be addressed. Based on the complexity of the problems and the current geo-political environment, it may be quite some time before Space Traffic Controller openings appear in help-wanted ads.
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