Desch believes the U.S. should lead efforts in space activities, especially in manufacturing satellites, as start-ups have started designing and launching satellites at low cost, making them easily replaceable and vulnerable to failure.
“We are facing the possibility of thousands and thousands of satellites designed to have a short lifespan and a significant percentage of them become ‘rocks’ in space, waiting to collide, thus creating more debris,” he said.
The Iridium executive also said policymakers must ensure that satellite operators involved in problems in space become accountable for their actions before they launch more spacecraft into orbit.
Lastly, Desch called for a space debris management policy that would require operators to control their spacecraft that have reached above a specific altitude from the Earth to reduce passive satellites that will drift and be subject to gravity, radiation and space weather, among other things.
Iridium encountered the space debris problem first-hand when one of its original satellites collided with a defunct Russian spacecraft in 2009, which produced more fast-orbiting pieces of debris.