News from the 30th Space Symposium | U.S., Three Allies Sign Space Situational Awareness Accord

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada have signed a memorandum of understanding to work more closely together on space situational awareness activities, the United Kingdom announced in a May 20 press release.

U.S. Air Force officials confirmed the announcement in a series of speeches here at the 30th Space Symposium, but the exact details of how the relationship might work are yet to be determined.

“The partnership will allow for more effective and coordinated use of their space capabilities through cooperation on activities such as identifying and understanding what objects are in space, ensuring uninterrupted satellite operations, and avoiding satellite collisions,” the U.K. statement said. “Such activities will make a significant contribution toward a safer and more secure space environment while also enhancing mutual security.”

The root of the relationship dates back, at least in part, to 2010 when the four countries participated in a joint war game. In recapping the event for a November 2010 edition of the Air Force’s magazine for cyber professionals, Gen. Robert Kehler, then the commander of Air Force Space Command, said, “There may be inherent value in evolving the Joint Space Operations Center to a Combined Space Operations Center.”

The Joint Space Operations Center, located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is the Pentagon’s nerve center for space operations, with responsibility for space situational awareness, space traffic management and launch support.

Brig. Gen. Roger Teague, director of space programs in the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said the agreement provides the foundation for cooperation on space situational awareness for years to come. The specific details of the agreement will be finalized in the next few years, but it likely will entail data sharing or access to one another’s space surveillance assets, Teague said in an interview here.

Brian Weeden, technical adviser at the Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to space sustainability, said the significance of the announcement is that it acknowledges that the U.S. Air Force, which operates the world’s most sophisticated space surveillance network, still needs help from U.S. allies to get a more-complete picture of what is going on in Earth orbit.

 

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