WASHINGTON – The U.S. Space Force announced April 22 that its tracking radar that monitors low Earth orbit is now able to feed data directly into the military’s cloud platform known as the Unified Data Library.
The tracking radar, called Space Fence, started operating at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands in 2020. But up until now the data collected by the radar had not been integrated into the Unified Data Library.
The UDL is a Space Force-led initiative to integrate multiple sources of space domain awareness data of different classification levels into a common platform. It serves as a digital catalog for government and military organizations to access data on the space domain collected by satellites and ground-based sensors.
After several weeks of testing, the Space Systems Command has “established a permanent capability to directly ingest observation data from the Space Fence radar system into the UDL,” the command said in a news release.
The Space Fence is the first of the military’s Space Surveillance Network sensors to be integrated into the UDL. The SSN is a collection of ground-based radar, telescopes and space-based sensors used by the military to monitor Earth’s orbit.
Lt. Col. Daniel Kimmich, chief of the Space Systems Command’s Cross-Mission Ground and Communication Enterprise Data branch, said the addition of the Space Fence is an important milestone for the UDL.
“We have data from academia, commercial space partners, from the U.S. government, and we are working to share with our international partners and allies so their sovereign data can be delivered to the UDL and we can share in return,” he said in a statement.
“As the Russian anti-satellite test in November of 2021 highlighted, having an integrated awareness of the increasing number of objects and debris in the space domain is critical to the safety of our astronauts and the security of our space systems,” Kimmich said.
The UDL, run by the contractor Bluestaq, has more than 3,500 individual users.
The company works with commercial data suppliers to make sure their data formats are compliant with the UDL cloud platform. Government users can request data directly to commercial providers through the UDL.
The Unified Data Library began as an experiment by Bluestaq engineers trying to figure out how data could be shared across agencies that had different levels of security clearances. The U.S. Air Force gave the company a contract in 2019 to build a repository of space domain awareness data from commercial providers that could be tapped by military users. It has been expanded to handle multiple types of data from space, air, maritime and ground sensors.
Last year, the UDL was used to support the Kabul airlift in August, when the U.S. military had to evacuate tens of thousands of troops and civilians from Afghanistan. U.S. Northern Command and Air Mobility Command tapped into UDL data to track flights in and out of Kabul in real time.