WASHINGTON — The Office of Space Commerce has selected Parsons Corporation to develop key elements of its civil space traffic coordination system.

The office, located within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said March 18 it awarded a $15.5 million contract to Parsons to provide system integration and cloud management services for its Traffic Coordination System for Space, or TraCSS. The one-year contract includes an option for another year that would increase its total value to $26.9 million.

Under the contract, Parsons will develop what the office calls the “software backbone” for TraCSS, incorporating both the OASIS repository for space situational awareness data and the SKYLINE application layer. The contract also covers cybersecurity, cloud management and system administration.

“We look forward to leveraging Parsons’ expertise across the national security sector and our operational experience in space domain awareness supporting flight safety of all active satellites on orbit to support the Office of Space Commerce as it takes over this crucial mission from the Department of Defense,” Carey Smith, president and chief executive of Parsons, said in a statement about the TraCSS award.

The award to Parsons is part of the office’s efforts to build up TraCSS, which will be developed in a phased approach with an initial operating capability ready by the end of the current fiscal year. TraCSS will eventually take over civil space traffic coordination services from the Defense Department, as directed by Space Policy Directive 3 in 2018.

“We’re very much in the process of building the next generation space traffic coordination system, and we’ll be relying heavily both on commercial partners in the U.S. and on our allies and friends around the world,” Richard DalBello, director of the Office of Space Commerce, said during a panel discussion at the Satellite 2024 conference March 19.

The award to Parsons comes after a series of contracts for its Consolidated Pathfinder effort to inform development of TraCSS. The office has awarded $11.5 million in contracts to five companies for that project, focused on low Earth orbit operations. The office awarded contracts to COMSPOC, LeoLabs and Slingshot Aerospace for data and services in January, and to Kayhan Space and SpaceNav in February for data quality monitoring services. Separately, the office selected Amazon Web Services to provide secure cloud computing services in 2023.

One element of TraCSS yet to be developed is the presentation layer, which will provide the user interface for the system. In the statement about the award to Parsons, NOAA said it was conducting market research for that element after issuing a request for information last October.

The goal, DalBello said, is “putting into place an exquisite space tracking system” that will improve upon what is currently available. “We’re pretty good at something that something that we need to be consistently excellent at. We’re at the very beginning of space traffic monitoring and we have a long way to go on that.”


The development of TraCSS fits into a broader view of space sustainability that DalBello has previously discussed that goes beyond space traffic coordination to other impacts from space activities, from the effects satellites have on optical and radio astronomy to environmental impacts on the upper atmosphere from launches and spacecraft reentries.

DalBello said considerations of space sustainability fall into three categories. One is “understanding the totality of our impact” that includes space debris as well as astronomical and environmental impacts from satellites. The second is understanding what is going on, which his office is addressing with TraCSS. The third is determining what can be done to address those impacts.

The Office is Space Commerce is not the only government agency thinking about space sustainability along those lines. Speaking at the National Academies’ Space Science Week March 19, Nicola Fox, associate administrator for science at NASA, said the agency is preparing to roll out a space sustainability policy.

“We have been working on a space sustainability strategy and we will be discussing it robustly at Space Symposium,” she said. “The agency is very, very engaged.” She declined to discuss details about the policy since it has not been formally announced.

NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy is scheduled to discuss “the agency’s unified approach to support the long-term sustainability of the space environment” in a speech at the Space Symposium April 9.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...