U.S., Canada To Share Space Surveillance Data

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WASHINGTON — The United States and Canada have concluded a five-year agreement for sharing orbital surveillance data and established a framework for negotiating a longer-term deal, according to a U.S. Air Force spokeswoman.

The initial space situational awareness (SSA) data sharing agreement took effect May 4, Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Tracy Bunko said via email May 23. It was signed by Heidi Grant, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force for international affairs, and Vice Adm. A.B. Donaldson, vice chief of the Defence Staff for the Canadian Department of National Defence.

Canada’s planned Sapphire satellite system will play a role in the arrangement, Bunko said. That long-delayed satellite is tentatively slated for launch late this year aboard an Indian rocket.

“Canada’s Sapphire will be a space-based electro-optical sensor system functioning as a contributing sensor to the U.S. Space Surveillance Network (SSN),” Bunko wrote. “Sapphire will provide highly accurate tracking of objects in deep space allowing for more timely, complete and accurate SSA. This will improve overall spaceflight safety [through] better conjunction assessment for collision avoidance warning, as well as improve the operational picture and decision space for selecting and executing appropriate courses of action in response to space events and scenarios.”

The U.S.-Canadian deal follows an April 30 White House announcement that the United States and Japan will jointly develop a framework for sharing SSA data as part of expanded space-related ties between the countries. The U.S. National Security Space Strategy, released in January 2011, calls for increased partnerships with other nations. The strategy states that shared awareness of the orbital environment will prevent mishaps, misperceptions and mistrust.