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Across Karman FAQ

What is the Karman Line? Why “Across Karman”? 

The Karman Line, named after Hungarian-American engineer and physicist Theodore von Kármán, defines the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. The Karman Line is 100 kilometers (~62 miles) above sea level and is used by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and other organizations to define what constitutes “outer space.” However, not everyone defines the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space at the Karman Line. The Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, and the U.S. military place the line between outer space and the atmosphere at 50 miles above the Earth’s surface.  

What’s happening in space policy right now?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand space policy, but we’ll be the first to admit, there’s a lot going on. Space policy consists of the laws, regulations, and actions of governments in relation to their space systems often produced by the private sector. Space policy defines overall goals in both the civilian and military realms. Each nation state has its own national space policy, often focused on placing and monitoring satellites in orbit, conducting scientific research, and exploring the solar system. When space policies align, states can collaborate and share resources to the benefit of all, as we have seen on the International Space Station for the past 20 years. 

International space policy is harder to define, but can be understood by looking at the foundational international space treaties. The original, the Outer Space Treaty, was signed in 1967 and established a few key principles regarding the use of space: that space exploration will be for the benefit of all mankind, that no state can declare sovereignty in outer space, and that states will be responsible for all national space activities (governmental or non-governmental). Additional treaties established guidelines for the rescue of astronauts, liability for damage to spacecraft, and the registration of space activities. A few organizations help to regulate space activities internationally, but for the most part these treaties lay the groundwork for how states can use and explore space. That’s why we created Across Karman: to address the growing need for a collaborative, international and modern approach to space policy.

What is the importance of space technology? How can we preserve the space environment for future space technology?

Space technology includes spacecraft, satellites, space stations, support infrastructure equipment, and even counterspace weapons. But it’s more than just the technologies in LEO, GEO, or further out in the solar system–space technology also includes space-enabled critical infrastructure right here on Earth. The navigation, communications, and weather monitoring systems most people use on a regular basis rely heavily on the services provided by satellites, ground stations, and data links. 

Space is becoming increasingly contested as more governments and private corporations increase their rate of launching satellites into orbit. Over time, space debris will accumulate from the remains of defunct satellites and the wreckage of satellite collisions that could make earth’s orbit unsustainable for future satellite operations. States and non-governmental organizations are working to regulate and monitor activities in space, so that we can both usher in a new era of innovation and exploration and keep space operational well into the future. 

Who are the most advanced countries in space technology? 

As space has become more accessible, a greater number of states and non-governmental organizations have developed their own space-faring capabilities. The United States, China, and Russia continue to be major players in the space domain and have the capability to independently launch humans into space. The European Space Agency continues to be a major ally for the United States in civil space endeavors. Other countries–such as India, Great Britain, Japan, and Israel among others–are also building up their national space technologies and capabilities. 

Of course, states are not the only actors in the space realm. Commercial entities across the globe like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and One Web are pushing the limits of space utilisation and exploration, as well. Not to mention the growing number of everyday people who are participating in space science, whether that’s through citizen science projects or low-cost hardware initiatives like Cubesats.