Space Traffic Management (STM) was defined by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) “Cosmic Study on STM” of 2006 as “the set of technical and regulatory provisions for promoting safe access into outer space, operations in outer space and return from outer space to Earth free from physical or radio-frequency interference”. The relevance of STM results from the need to improve safety of outer space activities. The increase in the number of satellites, especially small satellites launched in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), the growing volume of space debris and the complex operations associated with the remediation of space debris, may increase the risk of collisions and thus affecting the safety of operations in outer space. By making LEO safer, STM can contribute to the safety of human spaceflight. STM can accommodate operations taking place exclusively in outer space, which makes such a regime relevant for the imminent lunar activities.
Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is a key component of STM. SSA data can support the ability to predict the location of objects in orbit and assess the risk of collisions. Sharing of SSA data can improve the precision of locating objects in orbit, but it may also raise concerns about competition and national security. For such reasons, some limitations in sharing of data may be imposed. Traffic rules are a main component of STM, including the right of way but also more specific rules. The consequence of developing traffic rules and sharing SSA data is the ability of attributing fault. The STM regime should also comprise mechanisms for implementation and enforcement, at national and international level.
An international STM regime should find the balance between the right to access space and use it safely, while avoiding carrying abnormal burdens, especially for the newcomers in space activities. The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) is a multilateral forum which can facilitate the negotiation of STM. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) system of law-making and coordination can be a model for an international STM regime. While taking into consideration the particularities of the space environment, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) air traffic management framework should also be analyzed. To avoid the development of unilateral standards for accessing space, STM should be negotiated by all states, and not only by one or by a group of states. Thus, the role of multilateral forums to develop an international STM regime is increasing.