PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – U.S. Space Command signed the 100th Commercial Space Situational Awareness Data Sharing Agreement in the history of the command with Libre Space Foundation, a non-profit entity, to initiate the two-way flow of SSA services and information.
The memorandum, signed July 1 by U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Michael Bernacchi, USSPACECOM director of Plans, Strategy and Policy, will enhance the nation’s awareness within the space domain and increase the safety of global spaceflight operations.
“Our space systems underpin a wide range of services, providing vital national, military, civil, scientific and economic benefits to the global community,” said U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, commander of USSPACECOM. “Space situational awareness, which requires these types of cooperative agreements in order to achieve efficiency and effectiveness, is one of many approaches used to ensure all responsible space-faring nations continue benefitting from this critical domain.”
The Libre Space Foundation joins 26 nations, two intergovernmental organizations and three academic institutions who own, operate, launch or provide services to satellite operators already participating in the SSA data-sharing program.
“At Libre Space Foundation, we support open data and data sharing as a way to enhance space exploration and space safety,” Papadeas Pierros, Executive Director, Libre Space Foundation, said. “This SSA data-sharing agreement is a step towards achieving safer space operations for all.”
The timing for this agreement comes at a time when the space domain is becoming increasingly congested and contested. Mega constellations are quickly filling the available orbits. Commercial companies are launching 60 or more satellites at a time and China — the command’s pacing threat — has announced plans to launch more than 13,000 satellites for a new constellation in the coming years.
“As more countries, companies and organizations field space capabilities and benefit from the use of space systems, it is in our collective interest to act responsibly, promote transparency and enhance the long-term sustainability, stability, safety and security of space,” Dickinson said. “The best way to do that is to get a picture of what is going on up there. These agreements help generate that picture.”
SSA data-sharing agreements enhance multinational space cooperation and streamline the process for the command’s partners to request specific information gathered by USSPACECOM’s Combined Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The information, made readily available through these agreements, is crucial for launch support, satellite maneuver planning, support for on-orbit anomalies, electromagnetic interference reporting and investigation, satellite decommissioning activities and on-orbit conjunction assessments.
“The command strives to partner with every commercial entity interested in receiving the most accurate SSA data and providing information in return,” Bernacchi said. “This two-way data sharing contributes to ensuring safety of spaceflight for both U.S. and allied national security assets, and those of our allies and commercial partners.”