Small Satellite Systems to Manage Global Resources, Energy Systems, Transportation, and Key Assets More Efficiently

Living reference work entry


The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its Working Group on the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities (LTSOSA) have sought to develop recommendations that could help allow humans to continue to access space for the longer term on a sustainable basis. The United Nations General Assembly has also approved a series of 17 sustainable development goals to assist nations to create clearly defined aims to improve the human condition for the longer term by means of well-defined objectives. These include goals to improve the atmosphere, the land, water, energy systems, transportation, and more. These various efforts of UN COPUOS and the UN General Assembly are described elsewhere in this chapter.

This chapter, however, is not about attaining these various clearly set goals and recommended actions. Rather it is about the opposite side of the coin. Thus it specifically addresses how small satellite projects and activities can provide capabilities to improve performance in many areas and also to aid new monitoring and enforcement capabilities. The areas of monitoring and enforcement can be as wide as new zoning and planning systems, a strengthening of environmental protection practices, or various forms of law enforcement and national defense. These new tools can help to assist nations, in both developed and developing economies, to exploit new and cost-affordable small satellite capabilities to make many industrial, corporate, or business more efficient on one hand or to prevent harmful practices related to the air, land, and sea environment.

The monitoring of certain key resources such as fish or fresh water or key natural resources might serve a key function of monitoring the “health of our planet” as a sustainer of life, especially human life. In short small satellites that monitor and keep track of our supplies of drinking water and nourishment and help protect vital resources could serve the function of a canary in a coal mine of letting us know when the dangers of overconsumption have reached perilous levels.

This can also be stated in a more positive and proactive way. Our new cost-effective “eyes in the skies” can be translated into finding new ways to manage resources such as fishing grounds, water, forests, natural resource mining, and other finite materials that need better management and systematic recycling. These new satellite tools can assist with longer-term goal setting to meet the needs of future generations. Such efforts may need deployment and use of not only small satellite networks but new regulatory processes, laws, or best practices that can be established on a global basis and consistently followed around the world.

This chapter seeks to address the use of small satellites to address areas of water, energy, transportation, and environmental concerns, as well as the use of satellites to help provide oversight and enforcement processes in these and related sectors. These sectors of regulatory concern include such areas as fishing, mining, packaging, and even recycling practices. Ultimately, addressing these issues involves more than efficiency of global operations and economic success but sustainability of humans and all the life forms on Earth over the longer term. Thus it is now recognized that one must produce energy for use by consumers and industry but do so in a sustainable way. The same is applied to transportation systems, mining, food production, and so on. The prudent use and supply of potable water may prove to be one of the greatest challenges of the coming decades.

Thus the topics that will be considered are addressed not simply in terms of economic output but in other ways that include possible enforcement practices, environmental concerns, and perhaps ways to create new incentives for positive behavior by citizens and businesses.

The special emphasis will be on how small satellites and related ground systems and data analytics might be combined together and used in a constructive way to achieve required results around the world to preserve the resources needed for future generations. In some ways, this chapter closely correlates to the chapter on small satellites, resource management, and “smart farming” and “smart forest management.” The discussion of “smart farming” and “smart forestry management” is geared to see how constructive use of new satellite technology and systems can increase productivity and multiply output; yet here too, there may well be a need to develop improved standards and environmental enforcement measures to achieve overall desired results.


Anthropocene Age best practices Developing nation Digital divide Energy consumption Environmental enforcement Fishing Hyper-spectral sensing Legal rights of future generations Natural resource mining Oil spills Packaging Paris Accord on Climate Change Polluting practices Quotas Remote sensing Strip mining Sustainability 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.International Association for the Advancement of Space SafetyArlingtonUSA
  3. 3.International Space University (ISU)StrasbourgFrance

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