Secure World Foundation Publishes Report on Improving Space Situational Awareness

10-Sep-2012 12:30 PM EDT

Secure World Foundation

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Newswise — Secure World Foundation (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 failure 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 complex software development 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. “The ultimate goal for all stakeholders should be ensuring long-term, sustainable access to Earth orbit so that humanity can continue to derive great benefits from space. Improving SSA is a key to acting responsibly in space and helps to prevent mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust,” said SWF Executive Director Dr. Michael Simpson.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.

“With the increase in both the number of space actors and the volume of space activity, it’s time to rethink the U.S. military’s role as the primary provider of what is largely a public safety function,” said Brian Weeden. “There are a number of good arguments for transferring the maintenance of the catalog of space objects and providing collision warnings to an entity other than the U.S. military. It’s time to let the military focus on the aspects of SSA that are critical to U.S. national security.”

The full report can be downloaded here:

ResourcesOther resources on SSA can be found in the SWF Resource Library:

For more information on space situational awareness or its role in space sustainability and space security, please contact:

Brian WeedenTechnical AdvisorSecure World Foundation+1 202 683 8534bweeden@swfound.orgAbout Secure World Foundation

SWF is a private operating foundation dedicated to the secure and sustainable use of space for the benefit of Earth and all its peoples.

SWF engages with academics, policy makers, scientists and advocates in the space and international affairs communities to support steps that strengthen global space sustainability. It promotes the development of cooperative and effective use of space for the protection of Earth’s environment and human security.

The Foundation acts as a research body, convener and facilitator to advocate for promoting key space security and other space related topics and to examine their influence on governance and international development.

Secure World Foundation is headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Brussels, Belgium.

For more information please visit

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