WASHINGTON — U.S. Strategic Command and the European Space Agency will share space situational awareness data, the organizations announced Oct. 30.

The move continues a U.S. effort to bolster the number of countries and organizations Strategic Command shares data with as the space environment becomes more congested. 

In all, the U.S. government has signed nearly 50 data-sharing agreements with other governments and private-sector entities, Defense Department officials said in September. The United States has signed similar agreements with the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, Italy, France and the Republic of Korea. 

The agreement trades more timely information for the ESA in exchange for position, radio-frequency information and planned orbit maneuvers of some European satellites. In turn, the Defense Department will be able to “optimize surveillance” and provide more valuable information, the release said.

“USSTRATCOM is committed to improving SSA services and expanding our cooperation through formal partnerships such as these,” U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, the head of Strategic Command, said in the release.

Specifically, the move will improve coverage in low Earth orbit, where the ESA is expected to monitor satellites as part of ESA’s Earth Explorer and Copernicus programs in coming years.

“The more timely and customizable data exchange enabled by this agreement will improve our measures for collision avoidance as well as the safety of satellites immediately after launch in their early operations phase,” ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said in the release.

The U.S. Space Surveillance Network of ground- and space-based assets tracks the paths of debris large enough to be in its catalog and warns operators of possible future collisions so that the active satellites can be maneuvered out of the way.

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Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...