AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific society, named a team of Russian and American scientists to receive the 2005 International Scientific Cooperation Award. They are Dr. Kyle T. Alfriend, Dr. Paul J. Cefola, Dr. Felix R. Hoots and Dr. P. Kenneth Seidelmann from the United States, and Dr. Andrey I. Nazarenko, Dr. Vasiliy S. Yurasov and Dr. Stanislav S. Veniaminov from Russia.

Once adversaries, these dedicated scientists are honored for both their determination to transcend numerous limitations to collaboration and their pioneering work to advance state-of-the-art space surveillance in both countries for the benefit of the worldwide astrodynamics community and the safety of human activity in space.

At the beginning of the Space Age, the United States and the former Soviet Union created separate systems for surveying space and classifying objects floating in space to ensure their own strategic and tactical advantage. The resulting data bases, called space object catalogs, contained regular tracks and orbital elements of the floating objects, and were not shared between the two countries. In addition to restraining advancements in astrodynamics, this information divide impeded international knowledge of all satellites orbiting the Earth and the scope and safety of human activity in space.

Beginning in 1994, the awardees embarked on an exceptional series of workshops aimed at exchanging information on the mathematical methods and systems used for space surveillance in their two countries, and ultimately on comparing space object catalogs. Given the proximity of these meetings to the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the scientists could have easily been deterred by the many logistical challenges alone. But they persevered. They held six workshops in the United States, Poland and Russia, which opened communication between U.S. and Russian experts in space surveillance, fostered cooperative research addressing common problems of space surveillance, and led to sharing of data, exchange of catalogs, and communication between people and organizations.

As a result of these collaborative efforts, it was possible to achieve near real-time determination of upper atmospheric density — the nagging problem for estimating drag on satellites — and therefore, improving orbits of geostationary satellites. The reduction in estimation errors led both the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office to proclaim this as the "greatest improvement in atmospheric drag modeling over the last 30 years." Background descriptions on the award winners follow:

Dr. Alfriend is the Distinguished Research Chair Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. He is a mechanical engineer and a recognized international expert in astrodynamics and satellite attitude dynamics and control. His research has contributed to protecting the International Space Station from collisions with floating objects and navigating satellites.

Dr. Cefola is a lecturer in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Aero-Astro Department and an independent consultant, with over 30 years experience in the Aerospace industry. He is a mechanical engineer with research interests in the application of optimization techniques to the design and maintenance of satellite constellations and of parallel processing paradigms to astrodynamical problems.

Dr. Hoots is the Group Manager of Space Programs for AT&T. He is an expert in astrodynamics and mathematical modeling, linear programming modeling and satellite motion, mechanics and geometry. He previously served in the directorate of astrodynamics at the U.S. Air Force Space Command and as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

Dr. Nazarenko is the chief scientist of the Space Observation Center, Department of Information Technologies, Russian Aviation-Space Agency. His main research interest is developing the statistical theory of motion of a satellite ensemble and applying it to studies of space debris. He also helped establish the Russian Space Control System.

Dr. Seidelmann is a dynamical astronomer and research professor in the Astronomy Department at the University of Virginia. After military service as a research and development coordinator at the U.S. Army Missile Command, he joined the U.S Naval Observatory, where he was director of the Nautical Almanac Office, the Orbital Mechanics Department, and the Directorate of Astrometry. He co-originated (with Dr. Veniaminov) the series of workshops this award honors.

Dr. Veniaminov is an engineer and leading scientist of the Scientific Research Center "Kosmos" of the Russian Department of Defense. He is an expert in cybernatics and cooperates internationally on space surveillance and debris contamination of near-Earth space. He has helped develop a theoretical base and method for optimum search of space objects on highly elliptical orbits and in geosynchronous orbit. He co-originated (with Dr. Seidelmann) the series of workshops this award honors.

Dr. Yurasov is a project manager for Space Informatics Analytical Systems (KIA Systems) in Moscow with more than 25 years’ experience in astrodynamics, orbital mechanics and information technology, including research, development and management in public and private sectors. He has worked on optical measurements processing technology for geostationary satellite orbits, a comparison of satellite theories, and determination of satellite re-entry time with the help of numerical and semi-analytical methods.

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For more information on AAAS awards, see Awards will be bestowed at the 2006 AAAS Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Mo., on 18 February.