GSTC 2023

Outer Space Institute Publishes Open Letter on Uncontrolled Reentries

The reentry prediction for the Long March 5B rocket body from the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies. Source: Aerospace Corporation

Ibadan, 21 December 2022. – The Outer Space Institute (OSI) has published the International Open Letter on Reducing Risks from Uncontrolled Reentries of Rocket Bodies, the third international open letter that the OSI has developed and released. The Open Letter calls on governments to negotiate a multilateral agreement requiring controlled reentries and, in the meantime, demonstrate leadership by immediately and unilaterally committing to national controlled reentry regimes.

According to the Letter, the uncontrolled reentry of space objects presents a significant, cumulative, fast-growing risk to human beings around the world. Noting that uncontrolled rocket bodies are of particular concern, the OSI, through the Letter, calls on Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to initiate multilateral negotiations on a controlled reentry agreement, starting with rocket bodies.

The Letter also notes that uncontrolled reentries of rocket bodies are usually preventable and, therefore, unnecessary. Adding that reignitable engines (and some extra fuel) can direct spent rockets into remote ocean areas. OSI admits that despite all reentries risking damage to the upper atmosphere and marine environments, mandating controlled reentries is currently the best way to reduce casualty risks for the global population.

As a result, OSI calls for multilateral negotiations on a controlled reentry agreement, noting that a controlled reentry regime would raise safety standards worldwide, creating a level playing field, including for new entrants. According to the Letter, the regime would also be verifiable, given the transparency of Earth’s orbit to the ground-based radar and telescopes already used for space situational awareness and collision avoidance.

The International Open Letter on Reducing Risks from Uncontrolled Reentries of Rocket Bodies is now open for signatures. You can add your name to the growing list of former foreign ministers, presidents of space agencies, astronauts, ambassadors, and other leaders in space sustainability, please use the following form. Furthermore, you can find the current list of signatories here.

SpaceWatch.Global will also be hosting a Space Cafe “33 minutes with Michael Byers”, the Co-Director of Outer Space Institute, on the topic of uncontrolled reentry on January 3 2023. You can register for the discussion here.

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