Responsible Space Operations

Responsible Space Operations

We have entered an era where all nations and people benefit from the responsible use of space. It is critical for all operators to use the space environment responsibly by following best practices for space traffic management and advocating for sound policies. Maxar aims to be a leader in responsible space operations by promoting flight safety and helping mitigate the risks of space debris.

Flight Safety

Maxar publishes daily flight plans for our satellites on Space-Track, a website that supports space flight safety. These flight plans are predicted satellite trajectories that help satellite operators position satellites’ future locations to avoid collisions. We likewise use data from other satellite operators to avoid collisions with their satellites. We have automated processes to respond around the clock to close approaches with other satellites and cataloged space debris. Maxar encrypts commands to lock out hackers who might seek to control a satellite. We support efforts to require satellite providers to share position location data in a central repository. Any Maxar spacecraft operating above an altitude of 400 kilometers carries propulsion capabilities to execute timely and effective avoidance maneuvers and to allow safe disposal at the end of the satellite’s life.

Space Debris

According to space environment models, there are an estimated 30,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters in orbit. Space debris poses a risk to satellites and humans in space. It is imperative that debris objects are tracked for the safety of all satellites and that creation of additional space debris is avoided whenever possible. Maxar encourages all satellite operators to help preserve the space environment by acting responsibly and following guidelines such as the World Economic Forum’s Space Industry Debris Statement.

Maxar is a founding member of the Space Safety Coalition, an ad hoc coalition of government and industry stakeholders that actively promotes responsible space safety practices. This coalition has published a comprehensive set of best practices for sustainable space operations which has been endorsed by 60 space organizations around the globe.

Maxar is actively involved in space object identification and tracking, including participating in workshops, working groups and conferences. We continue to support LeoLabs, a commercial provider of high-performance tracking and mapping data for low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. LeoLabs’ cloud-based software platform turns radar data into real-time, actionable information on where debris is located. In 2022, the Federal Communications Commission approved a rule that aims to minimize space debris by requiring LEO satellites to be disposed of within five years after being taken out of service. The new rules shorten the previous 25-year guideline for deorbiting satellites post-mission. Maxar supports this change to keep space free of derelict satellites that could cause harmful space debris.

Non-Earth Imaging

Space technology has become an important part of our lives and the global economy. But our growing dependence on an ever-expanding array of space-based tools also creates a challenge: space congestion. To ensure that we can all continue to benefit from the growing reliance on space-based solutions, it is critical that industry and governments work together to sustainably manage the risks of orbital traffic.

Maxar has been at the forefront of that effort by setting high standards of responsibility for its own satellite operations, helping to unite the space industry behind a code of best practices, and calling for regulation that protects this essential resource. And we are not stopping there.

In 2022, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration modified Maxar’s remote sensing license to commercialize non-Earth imaging (NEI) for its current constellation in orbit as well as its next-generation WorldView Legion satellites. NEI can help address space debris challenges by bringing more transparency to the near-Earth space domain, thus helping operators better protect and maintain their assets. Maxar will work closely with government and commercial customers to effectively utilize our NEI capabilities.

Through this new license authority, Maxar can collect images of space objects across LEO—the area ranging from 200 kilometers up to 1,000 kilometers in altitude—and distribute them to both government and commercial customers. Maxar’s constellation is capable of imaging objects at resolutions of less than 6-inches at these altitudes and can support tracking of objects across a much wider volume of space. Taken together, these capabilities can provide customers with accurate information to assist with mission operations and help address important space domain awareness and space traffic management needs.