Space Force sees potential value from DoC commercial sat tracking data
WASHINGTON — As the Department of Commerce (DoC) gears up a new space tracking system to help commercial satellite operators avoid on-orbit smashups, the Space Force will be looking to see if it can leverage data gathered by DoC to enhance its own efforts to improve space domain awareness (SDA), the service’s newly confirmed vice chief said today.
“I can’t comment on what the Department of Commerce is doing, that’s kind of out outside of my lane. But under space domain awareness … we are really trying to take advantage of all data. So, if the Department of Commerce or any other agency or international partner, whatever, has data that we think has value, we want that data,” Gen. Michael Guetlein told the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “So, I would imagine that as Department of Commerce continues to mature this concept, we will definitely want to take advantage of what they’re doing.”
He explained that US Space Command’s Joint Commercial Operations Cell — which is the new name for the Joint Task Force-Space Defense Commercial Operations Cell — is seeking any SDA data “we can get our hands on.”
“The JCO network includes Allies, partners, academia, and industry, who joined the JCO’s global construct to help achieve 24/7 space operations worldwide,” according to a Dec. 29 press release.
Meanwhile, the Space Force and SPACECOM have been “sharing all of our data, all of our systems, all of our capabilities, intellectual capital, with the Department of Commerce” to help stand up the new civil service, Guetlein said.
DoC has been working since 2019 to take over the mission of providing commercial and civil space operators, both domestic and foreign, with information about where objects on orbit are and are headed in order to help prevent on-orbit collisions. The effort has proceeded in fits and starts over the years, but recently has picked up some (slow) momentum.
DoC today announced that it has chosen three commercial contractors to support a new “Consolidated Pathfinder” to support its Traffic Coordination System for Space (TraCSS) with space situational awareness (SSA) data and services:
- COMSPOC, “for the provision of orbit determination services;”
- LeoLabs, “for SSA data and services focused;” and
- Slingshot Aerospace, “for SSA data and services.”
The project “will inform the buildout of the operational TraCSS, and will assess industry capabilities to maintain a space object catalog for a subset of LEO [low Earth orbit] objects and provide follow-up tracking data on close approaches among those objects,” the announcement said.
SSA is the term of art used for keeping tabs on objects in space as they orbit; whereas the Defense Department uses the SDA to include tracking objects as well as characterizing their functions and whether or not they pose a threat to US and/or allied satellites or ground systems.