WASHINGTON — The United Kingdom will participate in a U.S. Space Command initiative focused on purchasing commercial space domain awareness data,  the U.K. military space chief announced June 26.

U.S. Space Command operates the so-called Joint Task Force-Space Defense Commercial Operations Cell (JCO) at Schriever Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The United Kingdom will stand up a JCO-U.K. cell and collaborate with the U.S.

 “I’m delighted that we can announce the stand-up of the national JCO-U.K. cell,” said Air Vice-Marshal Paul Alexander Godfrey, commander of the U.K. Space Command. 

JCO-U.S. was established in 2020 to augment the space-tracking capabilities of Space Command’s National Space Defense Center. The JCO buys data and analytics services from commercial companies.  

According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Space Force is planning to provide approximately $20 million to the JCO for commercial SSA data purchases in fiscal year 2023 and a total of approximately $110 million for fiscal years 2023 through 2027. 

Aiming for 24/7 operations 

“The stand-up of JCO-U.K. marks a step forward in building out our follow-the-sun model for 24/7 operations,” said U.S. Space Force Brig. Gen. Bythewood, JTF-SD commander. 

JCO-U.K. will assist in the JCO’s ‘follow-the-sun’ model, incorporating eight-hour operations shifts starting at local European time zones, allowing each cell to operate during normal business hours.  

Personnel from the JCO, Space Systems Command and the Air Force Research Laboratory helped establish U.S.-U.K. communications, network connectivity, access to commercial data and to space domain awareness analysis tools.

“JCO-U.K. has been leading the charge into global commercial operations, and our lessons learned together will help us deploy new capabilities faster for our combined missions,” said Barb Golf, Space Systems Command’s strategic advisor for space domain awareness. 

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...