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Accepted Paper:

Guardians of the orbits? Space situational awareness and taming of security leftovers in outer space  
Kai Strycker (University of Vienna) Nina Klimburg-Witjes (University of Vienna)

Short abstract:

Through a collaborative dialogue between STS and aerospace engineering, the study explores the complexities of managing and mitigating the risks associated with space debris, shedding light on the daily struggles and affective engagements of engineers maintaining space infrastructures.

Long abstract:

Space technologies like satellites play an integral role in national and international security – and defense strategies and infrastructures. But when satellites break down or run out of fuel, they become space debris, continuing their trajectories unresponsive to ground control and self-multiplying through collisions. Decades of spaceflight activities have left an ever-growing pile of space debris in Earth’s orbits, and a gridlocked outer space has now taken the shape of a haunting specter (Clormann & Klimburg-Witjes, 2022). Hurtling through space at incredibly high velocities, these former objects of security become objects of risk for active satellites and space infrastructures alike. Linking work from STS on the temporalities of infrastructures to CSS approaches on materiality and the technologization of security, we explore how space governance and engineering actors relate to the material leftovers of past security regimes in their attempts to protect functioning space assets from their risky predecessors. Methodologically, this paper is an experiment in collaboration (Passoth et al., 2021) written as a conversation between social science and aerospace engineering in an attempt to capture the “lively, energetic and sometimes unruly behaviour of materials and objects” (Walters, 2014) from a transdisciplinary perspective. Together, we will trace space and security experts' daily struggles of and affective relations with space debris and their efforts to tame the risks stemming from security leftovers.

Traditional Open Panel P371
Repair in outer space, repairing outer space
  Session 1