New SWF Report on Improving Space Situational Awareness
Monday, September 10, 2012
SWF has released a new report entitled "Going Blind: Why America is on the Verge of Losing its Situational Awareness in Space and What Can be Done About it." Authored by SWF Technical Advisor Brian Weeden, the report discusses U.S. national policy goals for improving space situational awareness (SSA) and the lack of success in actual efforts to make those improvements. The report argues that this lack of success is due largely to the failure of multiple acquisition programs over 12 years to replace legacy IT systems used to track the locations of objects in orbit around the Earth. The report traces these failures to materiel, cultural, and bureaucratic shackles from using a small, insular community to develop astrodynamic standards and the challenges with developing complex software within the military procurement system.
As the U.S. military is currently the premier source of SSA used by many satellite operators to avoid collisions with objects in orbit and operate responsibly in space, failure to improve its SSA capabilities can have repercussions beyond just the United States. To combat these challenges and successfully improve US SSA capabilities, the report recommends that the United States adopt a more open approach to developing astrodynamic standards and SSA requirements; expand the community of interest to involve all stakeholders, including commercial and foreign entities; and hold public competitions to evaluate and choose new algorithms in support of conjunction analysis. The report also examines the two major challenges in adopting a more open approach - the military's role as the primary provider of SSA services to the world and the classification policy for US national security satellites.