Wicker Introduces Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency Act to Put Commerce Department in Charge of Space Situational Awareness

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced the Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act. The legislation would authorize the Department of Commerce (DOC) to provide space situational awareness (SSA) services to civil, commercial, and international space operators. 

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Im­proved Safe­ty in Space – GES­TRA Space Radar Ready to Be­gin Op­er­a­tions

Front of the GESTRA phased antenna (Credit: DLR)
  • After five years of development and construction, the first German space radar with transmitter and receiver units has been installed at Schmidtenhöhe near Koblenz.
  • Close cooperation between the DLR Space Administration, the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (FHR) and the German Space Situational Awareness Centre.
  • GESTRA data will also be used to improve security in low-Earth orbit at the European level.

Activity in space continues to increase. Several thousand satellites, spacecraft and other objects orbit Earth at altitudes of between 300 and 3000 kilometres. In addition to the inactive satellites and upper stages of rockets that are left behind here after missions, there are hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces of debris.

Satellites and other space infrastructure such as the International Space Station (ISS) need to be continuously monitored to avoid collisions. Active objects can engage in evasive manoevres, while inactive space debris such as disfunctional satellite parts, or the remains of rockets, pose a threat.

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The Current State of Space Debris

Debris and defunct launcher stages in the Geostationary ring. Aging satellites are known to release debris and explosions can occur due to residual energy sources. The resulting fragments can be thrown back and cross the Geostationary orbit. For this reason it’s fundamental to release residual energy once the nominal mission is completed. (Credit: ESA/ID&Sense/ONiRiXEL)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Swirling fragments of past space endeavours are trapped in orbit around Earth, threatening our future in space. Over time, the number, mass and area of these debris objects grows steadily, boosting the risk to functioning satellites.

ESA’s Space Debris Office constantly monitors this ever-evolving debris situation, and every year publishes a report on the current state of the debris environment.

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18 SPCS Now Predicts Debris-on-debris Collisions in Space, Enhancing Space Domain Awareness

An artist’s depiction of the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite tracking space debris. The 18th Space Control Squadron uses data collected from SBSS, and other sensors in the Space Surveillance Network, to track objects orbiting the earth, and provide Space Domain Awareness for space faring nations. (Credit: U.S. Space Command)

by Maj. Cody Chiles 
Combined Force Space Component Command

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Sept. 24, 2020 — For the first time, the Combined Force Space Component Command’s 18th Space Control Squadron began publicly sharing data for debris-on-debris conjunction predictions via www.Space-Track.org, Sept. 24.

Previously, the 18 SPCS only released debris-on-active satellite conjunction prediction data publically due to limited conjunction screening and reporting capacity.

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SIA: Act Now on Space Traffic Management, Sustainability

Distribution of space debris around Earth (Credit: ESA)

Satellite Industry Association says tens of thousands of satellites aren’t going to manage themselves

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 24, 2020 (SIA PR) – The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today announced the release of a number of recommendations addressing the issue of space traffic management, with the goal of supporting a long-term sustainable and safe space environment for commercial satellites and spacecraft. 

The recommendations were included in a SIA White Paper titled “The Future of Space and Space Traffic Coordination and Management (STCM)”.   The White Paper shares SIA and its members’ views and recommendations regarding the creation of a modern STCM regime, capable of supporting long term space sustainability and continued innovation and U.S. space leadership.

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Orbit Logic Awarded AFRL/AFWERX Space Situational Awareness Planning & Analysis Contract

GREENBELT, MD (Orbit Logic PR) – Orbit Logic, a leading provider of planning and scheduling software, announced today that it has been awarded an AFWERX Direct to Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The award will enhance the Heimdall Fire Space Situational Awareness (SSA) planning solution. Heimdall Fire is an existing software solution consisting of Orbit Logic COTS software products configured for SSA observation planning.

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EU Space Budget Request Slashed

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The European Commission (EC) has slashed its space budget for 2021-27 from a proposed €16 billion ($18.8 billion) to €13.2 billion ($15.1 billion) due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the exit of Britain from the European Union (EU).

Under terms worked out last week by EU leaders, the space budget will devote €8 billion ($9.4 billion) on the Galileo satellite navigation system and €4.8 billion ($5.65 billion) to the Copernicus constellation of environmental satellites.

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LeoLabs Selects Costa Rica as Site for Next Generation Space Radar

Expansion into Equatorial Region Will Protect Satellites from Small Debris and Drive Sustainability in Low Earth Orbit

MENLO PARK, Calif., July 22, 2020 (LeoLabs PR) — LeoLabs, Inc., the leading commercial provider of low Earth orbit (LEO) mapping and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services, today announced Costa Rica as the site for its next space radar.  

“We are delighted to be working with an incredible team in Costa Rica, and proud to bring the first commercial phased-array radar to the equatorial region,” said Mike Nicolls, LeoLabs Chief Technology Officer and co-founder. “This improves our coverage of equatorial and low inclination orbits, filling a critical gap for tracking satellites and space debris.” LeoLabs’ Costa Rica radar will be capable of tracking small debris down to 2cm and work in concert with LeoLabs’ other radars.

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DoD Awards $15 Million Contract to LeoLabs

WASHINGTON (Defense Department PR) — As part of the national response to COVID-19, the Department of Defense entered into a $15 million agreement with LeoLabs, Inc. to ensure the continued viability of space surveillance capability through the operation and maintenance of a world-wide highly capable phased-array radar network.

The ability to surveil and analyze spacecraft in low earth orbit is essential to national defense. LeoLabs, Inc. is the only domestic commercial supplier with demonstrated capability in this critical area.

Using funds authorized and appropriated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, this DPA Title III investment will offset direct workforce and financial distress brought about by the coronavirus pandemic to a sole-source capability within the defense industrial base and ensure resultant critical capabilities are retained within the U.S.

LeoLabs, Inc. is based in Menlo Park, California, with operating locations throughout the United States.

Australia Provides $11 Million in Space Grants to Boost Businesses and Local Jobs

CANBERRA (Karen Andrews PR) — The Morrison Government is backing a series of projects designed to grow Australia’s space sector and create local jobs, including improving GPS technology and the design of innovative spacesuits that will make spacewalking easier.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the 10 projects sharing in $11 million [USD $7.6 million] would boost jobs and skills in the space sector, and contribute to the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Techstars Allied Space Accelerator Announces Class of 2020

BOULDER, Colo. (Techstars PR) — Techstars is delighted to announce the inaugural class for the Techstars Allied Space Accelerator, a virtual accelerator program in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, the Netherlands Ministry of Defence, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, and the Norwegian Space Agency. 

The virtual program focuses on the next generation of space technologies, with 10 companies in the commercial space industry to include geospatial analytics, satellite servicing, space situational awareness, resilient communications, AI in space, and others. 

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ISRO, ARIES Sign MOU on Space Situational Awareness, Astrophysics Cooperation

BENGALURU, India (ISRO PR) — A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Bengaluru and Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital for cooperation in the field of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Astrophysics was signed by Shri.R. Umamaheswaran, Scientific Secretary, ISRO and Prof. (Dr.) Dipankar Banerjee, Director, ARIES through video at ISRO Headquarters and ARIES Headquarters on 4th June 2020. 

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New DLR Research Observatory Will Track Near-Earth Satellites, Space Debris

Computer visualisation of the DLR research observatory. (Credit: DLR)
  • DLR is building a new research observatory to determine the nature and trajectory of objects in low-Earth orbit quickly, precisely and reliably. Accurate data are important to avoid collisions between satellites and space debris.
  • Construction work will begin at the end of May 2020 at the Empfingen Innovation Campus in Baden-Württemberg. The inauguration is planned for spring 2021.
  • The project focuses on particularly accurate measurement of distances using specialised lasers.
  • The research telescope will be the largest of its kind in Europe.

Baden-Württemberg, Germany (DLR PR) — With the construction of a new research observatory, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is taking the next step in determining the nature and trajectory of objects in low-Earth orbit as quickly, precisely and reliably as possible. This is fundamental for the future of spaceflight as it is the only way to prevent collisions between objects such as space debris and active satellites.

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An Overview of Japan’s Counterspace Strategy

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpts from the report summarize Japan’s counterspace capabilities.

Country Summary

Japan has long been a well-established space actor and its space activities have historically been entirely non-military in nature. In 2008, Japan made a change to its constitution to enable national security-related activities in space and more recently, government officials have begun to publicly speak about developing various counterspace capabilities or developing military SSA capacity.

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A Summary of U.S. Counterspace Capabilities

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpt from the report summarizes U.S. counterspace capabilities.

The United States has conducted multiple tests of technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low Earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), along with tracking, targeting, and intercept technologies that could lead to a co-orbital anti-satellite (ASAT) capability.

These tests and demonstrations were conducted for other non-offensive missions, such as missile defense, on-orbit inspections, and satellite servicing, and the United States does not have an acknowledged program to develop co-orbital capabilities. However, the United States possesses the technological capability to develop a co-orbital capability in a short period of time if it chooses to.

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