International SSA agreements could pave the way for further space cooperation, panelists said

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Countries establishing bilateral agreements to share Space Situational Awareness (SSA) data with U.S. Strategic Command hope the deals pave the way for future cooperation, according to speakers at the 34th Space Symposium here.

STRATCOM had established 82 international  sharing agreements with nations, companies and intergovernmental organizations prior to the 34th Space Symposium. During the Symposium, STRATCOM plans to sign its 83rd bilateral pact with Denmark, Maj. Gen. Nina Armagno, STRATCOM director of plans and policy, said April 17.

“The purpose of these arrangements is to maintain and share an accurate account for all man-made space objects in order to ensure spaceflight safety for all spacefaring nations,” Armagno said. “These agreements bring together our collective knowledge and contribute to the responsible use of space.”

At last year’s Space Symposium, STRATCOM Commander Gen. John Hyten set a goal for STRATCOM to establish SSA sharing agreements with all space-faring nations “because nations should benefit from a safe, stable, sustainable and secure space domain,” Armagno said.

The SSA data sharing agreement Denmark will sign with STRATCOM will cover the Ulloriaq, a Danish satellite launched Feb. 2 to monitor ships and planes in the Arctic and gather imagery with an onboard camera, as well as possible future Danish missions, said Maj. Gen. Agner Rokos of the Royal Danish Army, who is serving as director of U.S. Central Command’s coalition strategy and plans group.

“We hope the SSA agreement will strengthen cooperation in relation to space sensors and platforms as well as provide important information on how best to utilize space to support our national responsibilities in the Arctic,” Rokos said. “As a small nation, we have to rely on partners to succeed.”

Norway signed an SSA sharing agreement with STRATCOM at last year’s Space Symposium. Although that agreement is only a year old, “we see tremendous potential,” said Maj. Gen. Odd-Harald Hagen, head of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Defense’s Department of Defense Policy and Long-Term Planning. “The agreement is a starting point for exploring ways to cooperate in the unclassified domain for SSA.”

Brazil has nearly completed an SSA sharing agreement with the United States, said Maj. Gen. José Vagner Vital, executive vice president of Brazil’s Space Systems Coordination and Implementation Commission.

“For us, SSA is a question of safety and security,” Vagner Vital said. “There will be thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit of interest to Brazil. The more information sharing and more data we have, the better it is for operators.”

Japan, a nation with a strong history of space exploration and scientific activity, already shares unclassified SSA data with the United States, said Takashi Gomi, director of the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Bureau of Defense Policy Strategic Planning Division.

“Considering space is becoming more congested and contested, we’d like to share information which is more sensitive, even at the classified level with the United States,” Gomi said.

Japan is preparing to expand its own SSA capability. The Japanese Ministry of Defense plans to build a deep space radar to monitor geostationary orbit over the Asia-Pacific region. Japan also will establish a national SSA operations center run by Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, which will draw data from an optical telescope and near-Earth radar operated by JAXA, Gomi said.

“Japan’s new SSA operations center will work closely and collaboratively with the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center, soon to be Combined Space Operations Center,” Gomi said. “These efforts will help us further our space cooperation with the United States, expand our Japan-U.S. alliance and promote our partnership with other likeminded countries not just in SSA but in other activities in space.”