In an announcement yesterday at a space conference, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Trump administration will give the Commerce Department the task of creating a new system for monitoring and managing satellites and space junk in order to avoid traffic conflicts.
The policy calls on the Commerce Department to provide “a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use,” based on tracking data compiled by the Defense Department. Commercial space ventures would also be encouraged to partner with the government on the development of data-sharing systems and guidelines for minimizing orbital debris and avoiding satellite collisions, Pence said.
In truth, I suspect that this is the first political maneuver in a long term plan to shift the entire space regulatory bureaucracy to the Commerce Department. Right now it is split between agencies in a number of different agencies, including State, NOAA, the FAA, the FCC, and even NASA. It is this complex and Byzantine arrangement the private sector most complains about. I am not sure why Commerce is getting favored, but it has appeared that many powerful members in Congress have wanted things shifted to Commerce for awhile, and so the Trump administration appears willing to go along in order to get the system streamlined.
We shall see if this streamlining really takes place. Often in government the creation of a new single agency to handle everything merely adds an additional layer of bureaucracy, because no one wants to cut the older layers.