What steps are necessary to establish a cislunar sustainability paradigm?

A new publication underscores the fact that, as more nations become spacefarers and cislunar traffic increases, established and emerging players should employ lessons learned from operations in low Earth orbit and geosynchronous Earth orbit “to be better caretakers of the expanded orbital neighborhood.”

The report — Cislunar Stewardship:  Planning for Sustainability and International Cooperation – is available from the Center for Space Policy and Strategy, part of The Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit organization that advises the government on complex space enterprise and systems engineering problems.

Basic assumptions

Why is cislunar space important? The report notes that, between now and mid-century, some basic assumptions about the state of space operations are reasonable.

— Geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) will continue to be valuable and actively used.

— The number of operational satellites, especially in low and medium Earth orbits (LEO and MEO), will increase.

— Space operators will become more numerous and more diverse.

— Orbital debris will continue to be a significant concern.

— A greater variety of cislunar orbits will be used for an assortment of space applications, including communications, navigation, space domain awareness, scientific remote sensing, and human exploration.


Illustration of several types of cislunar orbits: halo and Lyapunov orbits about the five Lagrange points; distant
retrograde orbits.
Credit: Jonathan Aziz/Center for Space Policy and Strategy

Gravitational and policy stability

“Space operations are expanding beyond the geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) to other parts of the Earth-Moon system. As this trend continues, space operators will find preferred orbits and seek to leverage points of relative gravitational stability,” the report explains. “These locations can enable lower-energy transits or provide useful parking places for various types of facilities (e.g., fueling depots, storage sites, and way stations with access to the lunar poles). As cislunar activity grows, a policy framework should be developed to promote the sustainability of operations in these locations.”

To access the report — Cislunar Stewardship:  Planning for Sustainability and International Cooperation – go to:

https://aerospace.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/Pollock-Vedda_CislunarStewardship_20200601.pdf

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