Space traffic management is defined by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) 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.”
Today, in view of many newly privately prepared space activities of commercial nature such as the use of communication satellites, the use of remote sensing satellites, the use of positioning satellites, space tourism and perhaps later also space transportation, it is important that all these activities can be followed up in order to know where in outer space and the most frequented orbits activities take place. This is of course necessary in order to avoid collisions which again would be counterproductive to a usable outer space by producing large amounts of space debris.
The concept of following objects whilst flying through the airspace is one of the major achievements of international air flight. Without traffic control, it would hardly be possible to have aviation as one of the most prominent means of transportation of passengers and goods through the entire world.
But here an important difference elucidates difficulties for space traffic management: Whereas the air space “belongs” to the subjacent state and the subjacent state is thus responsible for a safe and secure flying of foreign aircraft flying its airspace by fulfilling this responsibility with its air traffic control, outer space belongs to all humankind and it is difficult to establish an authority with this responsibility for all outer space. Arguably this must be an international authority established in the same spirit as the treaties on outer space are designed. Therefore, one can discuss for example to either entitle the United Nations Outer Space Affairs Division (UNOOSA) with this additional task or to use the existing experience from the International Civil Aviation Organization. It is important in the future that the international community comes up with legal rules that also clarify the relationship of the civil and the military use of outer space.