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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A Summary of China’s Counterspace Capabilities

China’s 2007 test of its ground-based ASAT missile destroyed one of its own defunct satellites in LEO. The graphic depicts the orbits of trackable debris generated by the test 1 month after the event. The white line represents the International Space Station’s orbit. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpt from the report summarizes China’s counterspace capabilities.

The evidence strongly indicates that China has a sustained effort to develop a broad range of counterspace capabilities. China has conducted multiple tests of technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous orbit (GEO) that could lead to a co-orbital ASAT capability.

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A Summary of Russia’s Counterspace Capabilities

In 2009, the defunct Cosmos 2251 satellite and the Iridium 33 satellite collided in Earth’s orbit. A Livermore visualization shows the orbits of the two satellites prior to the collision among the thousands of other satellites in low-Earth orbit. The collision occurred where the two orbital paths cross near the North Pole. (Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpt from the report summarizes Russia’s counterspace capabilities.

There is strong evidence that Russia has embarked on a set of programs over the last decade to regain many of its Cold War-era counterspace capabilities. Since 2010, Russia has been testing technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low Earth orbit 9LEO) and geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) that could lead to or support a co-orbital anti-satellite (ASAT) capability. Evidence suggests at least two active programs: a new co-orbital ASAT program called Burevestnik that is potentially supported by a surveillance and tracking program called Nivelir.

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Numerica Tackles Growing Space Debris, Satellite Protection Problem

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Numerica PR) — Numerica is working on five contracts for the Air Force, worth more than $3.3 million, to provide state-of-the-art algorithms for improved space situational awareness (SSA). SSA involves the detection, cataloging and ongoing tracking of all space objects orbiting the Earth, and the prediction of events, threats and activities in space.

In the late 1950s, there were only a few satellites orbiting the Earth. In September 2011, the National Research Council reported there is so much government and commercial “space junk” in orbit that the debris could cause spacecraft collisions or destroy valuable communication satellites.

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US Space Force Awards Contract to L3Harris to Improve Object Tracking in Space

  • Estimated contract value is $1.2 billion over 10 years
  • Addresses growing threat to critical space assets by enhancing current and introducing new capabilities
  • Continues 17-year collaboration with U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center

MELBOURNE, Fla. (L3Harris PR) — L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX) has been awarded a $23 million contract to modernize and sustain critical space infrastructure used by the military to keep track of activities and objects in space. The current  estimated contract value with the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center is $1.2 billion over 10 years.

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Experts Say Much More Required to Avoid Satellite Collisions, Space Debris

Space debris

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Senate and House committees held hearings on consecutive days last week about space situational awareness (SSA) and space traffic management (STM), i.e., the ability to accurately track objects in Earth orbit and to avoid dangerous collisions that could knock out satellites and even render entire orbits unusable.

The overall conclusion was that, although progress is being made, we’re not nearly as aware as we need to be as orbital debris poses an ever bigger problem and companies prepare to launch tens of thousands of new satellites.

“Near Earth space is geo-politically contested, it’s commercially contested and it’s in dire need of environmental protection because it is a finite resource,” said Moriba Jah, an associate professor of astronautics at the University of Texas.

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Space Commerce Office Seeks Major Budget Increase

Wilbur Ross

The Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce (OSC) is seeking a major boost in its budget from $2.3 million to $15 million for fiscal year 2021.

The office’s director, Kevin O’Connell, told a Senate committee on Wednesday that the bulk of the increase would go toward improving space situational awareness (SSA) so objects in Earth orbit can be accurately tracked and collisions that increase space debris can be avoided.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wants OSC to be elevated from an office within NOAA to a higher profile bureau that would be headed by an assistant secretary. The new bureau would be in charge of non-military SSA activities and a host of other activities.

Congress has not approved either the creation of the bureau nor giving the Commerce Department authority over SSA. Different bills are pending in the Senate and House that address Ross’ plan and which government agency will oversee SAA activities.

Congress is now considering the FY 2021 budget proposal, which the Trump Administration unveiled last Monday.

House & Senate Hearings Set on Space Situational Awareness, Planetary Defense

House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology
Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

Space Situational Awareness

Tuesday, February 11, 2020
02:00 PM
2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses

Dr. Brian Weeden, Director of Program Planning, Secure World Foundation

Mr. Daniel Oltrogge, Co-Director, Space Safety Coalition, Founder and Administrator, Space Safety Coalition, AIAA Space Traffic Management Space Governance Task Force Chairman, Official International Standards Organization (ISO) representative to the United Nations Committee for the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UN COPUOS)

Professor Joanne Gabrynowicz, Professor Emerita of Space Law, University of Mississippi Law Center

Professor Danielle Wood, Director of the Space Enabled Research Group, Assistant Professor of Media Arts & Sciences and Aeronautics & Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Webcast

https://science.house.gov/hearings/space-situational-awareness-key-issues-in-an-evolving-landscape

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Space Missions of Global Importance: Planetary Defense, Space Weather Protection, and Space Situational Awareness

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
10:00 a.m
Hart Senate Office Building 216

The hearing will focus on U.S. leadership in space missions vital to the global economy and the protection of human health and life on Earth. Witnesses will also discuss policies, programs, and research that are important for planetary defense, space weather protection, and space situational awareness. 

Witnesses:*

Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Mr. William Murtagh, Director, Space Weather Prediction Center, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration

Mr. Kevin O’Connell, Director, Office of Space Commerce, Department of Commerce

Dr. Moriba Jah, Associate Professor, Advanced Sciences and Technology Research in Astronautics, University of Texas

*Witness list subject to change

Webcast

Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing  will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Luxembourg, NorthStar Create Centre of Excellence for Clean Space

Luxembourg (Luxembourg Government PR) — The Luxembourg Government and NorthStar Earth & Space signed a Letter of Intent to create a Centre of Excellence for Clean Space in Luxembourg and to consider a contribution to NorthStar and its innovation activities in order to promote the safe and sustainable use of outer space for the benefit of all humanity.

The Centre will be operated by NorthStar in Luxembourg, it will deliver highly accurate Space Traffic Management and Space Situational Awareness information services. The Centre of Excellence for Clean Space will enable collaboration and cooperation with the international academic, industrial and governmental partners from the space and data analytics sectors already established in Luxembourg. This will promote an open, safe and sustainable use of outer space for the benefit of all mankind, common goals shared by Luxembourg and NorthStar.

Étienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy stated: “The establishment of this Centre in the Grand-Duchy is in line with the country’s efforts to stimulate innovation and technological development in the data space sector. The project fits perfectly into our national data-based innovation strategy that aims at building a sustainable and reliable digital economy in general and the sustainable commercialization of space activities in particular.”

“The world faces global challenges which require technology companies and governments to innovate together,” said Stewart Bain, CEO and Co-Founder of NorthStar Earth & Space. “NorthStar is dedicated to developing solutions critical to space governance, security and sustainability.  As we move into the year 2020 and beyond, we are proud to have Luxembourg as our partner.”

Lasers at Forefront of Space Tracking Systems

CANBERRA (Australian Government PR) — The Australian Space Agency has signed a Statement of Strategic Intent and Cooperation with EOS Space Systems, an Australian company specialising in space tracking systems.

Anthony Murfett, Deputy Head of the Australian Space Agency said that the joint statement aligns with the Australian Civil Space Strategy, which sets out a 10-year plan to transform and grow the space industry.

“Space situational awareness and debris monitoring is one of the seven National Civil Space Priorities outlined in the Strategy,” said Mr Murfett

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Saber Astronautics Wins $2.1 Million Contract with RAAF for Space Domain Awareness

SYDNEY (Saber Astronautics PR) — Australia’s Department of Defence has awarded space engineering company Saber Astronautics a Defence Innovation Hub contract for an intelligent data fusion network to process a large number of space objects. The contract, valued at AUD $2.1M [USD $1.44 million] will use new and existing sensor networks to provide advanced insights in space domain awareness and democratise access to spacecraft location data.

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SIA Releases Principles of Space Safety for Commercial Satellite Industry

WASHINGTON, DC (SIA PR) — The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today announced the release of a set of Principles of Space Safety, drafted to help protect freedom of use and long-term access to space by ensuring safe flight operations for satellites, human spacecraft and other space missions.

SIA is a U.S.-based trade association that for more than two decades has advocated on behalf of the U.S. satellite industry regarding policy, regulatory, and legislative issues affecting the commercial satellite business. 

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SMC Awards SBIR Phase 2 Contract for Space Situational Awareness

LOS ANGELES (USAF SMC PR) — The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Directorate of Special Programs (DirSP) awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 2 contract to Bluestaq LLC who will develop the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Marketplace program under the auspices of AFWERX.

AFWERX was created in 2017 by then Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to support rapid innovation within the Defense Department. SBIR is a prime example of the AFWERX goal of fostering a culture of innovation.

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SpaceNav Receives NOAA Contract for Space Situational Awareness

BOULDER, Colo. (SpaceNav PR) − SpaceNav, a Colorado-based engineering and applied mathematics company has been awarded a new contract by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to deliver subject matter expertise or Space Situational Awareness (SSA) operations. NOAA’s operational fleet of spacecraft resides in both Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) regimes and requires real-time safety of flight risk quantification and mitigation; precision orbit determination; and mission production generation.

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BAE Systems Wins DARPA Contract to Develop Machine Learning Capabilities for Space Situational Awareness

ARLINGTON, Va. (BAE Systems PR) — BAE Systems has been awarded a Phase 2 contract to develop machine learning capabilities aimed to help the military gain better awareness of space scenarios for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The goal of DARPA’s Hallmark Tools, Capabilities, and Evaluation Methodology (Hallmark-TCEM) program is to not only develop and evaluate tools and capabilities that increase an operator’s understanding of space events, but also enhance the ability to select effective courses of action for any given situation.

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