First awarded in 2019, the Space Stewardship Award seeks to recognize individuals and organizations going above and beyond to safeguard the orbital commons. 

The inaugural award went to Leo Labs, a Silicon Valley company that operates a network of sky-facing radar sites to provide global coverage of low Earth orbit to space traffic managers around the world.

In 2020, The Secure World Foundation took home the Space Stewardship Award for the work it has done since 2002 to put space sustainability on the agenda of all spacefaring nations. 

This year’s honorees include two pioneers in the field of space situational awareness and an industry-led initiative to foster best practices in on-orbit satellite servicing and related endeavors, including active removal of orbital debris. 

While all of the honorees are winners in our book, only one will take home the Space Stewardship Award during the SpaceNews 2023 Icon Awards.

Tickets are still available for the Dec. 5 SpaceNews 2023 Icon Awards being held this year InterContinental Washington D.C. – The Wharf. The afternoon event features a keynote address by the head of U.S. Space Force’s Commercial Space Office, a look-ahead panel discussion with 2023’s SpaceNews Icons, and concludes with a cocktail reception.

Let’s take a closer look at this year’s honorees, one of which will be receive SpaceNews’s Space Stewardship Award for 2023 and be featured in the December issue of SpaceNews monthly magazine

Moriba Jah

An astrodynamicist with a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, Jah is well known for promoting space environmentalism in both industry and academia. As a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, he and colleagues developed tools to merge datasets of space objects from academia, industry and government. The resulting catalogs plus visualization tools are available through free online platforms, ASTRIAGraph and Wayfinder. Jah is also co-founder and chief scientist of Privateer Space, a company working on space traffic management technologies. Jah received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award” in 2022.

T.S. Kelso

Kelso’s professional career spanned decades of contributions in space operations, space situational awareness research and applications, creation of processes that enabled use of satellite operator data and tools to improve the understanding of space situational awareness. While earning a Ph.D. in operations research at the University of Texas, Kelso created the first online bulletin board of satellite orbits, which evolved into CelesTrak, a nonprofit that provides free data and visualization tools that show the location of objects in orbit. Kelso also served as operations manager for the Space Data Centre, ensuring that the international organization stayed on the cutting edge of SSA accuracy.


The Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS) was established with the support of DARPA to create an industry forum for discussing standards and best practices for the emerging satellite servicing field. In the last year, CONFERS has become an organization independent of DARPA as it continues its work to further technology, policy and communications issues about satellite servicing.