U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced the Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act. The legislation would authorize the Department of Commerce (DOC) to provide space situational awareness (SSA) services to civil, commercial, and international space operators. 

“Over the past two decades, space debris has created a more dangerous environment for our astronauts and satellites in orbit,” said Wicker. “The SPACE Act would empower the Department of Commerce to track this debris and issue collision warnings by leveraging its technical expertise and partnerships with the private sector. This legislation is critical to keeping low Earth orbit safe for exploration and protecting our satellite infrastructure.”

The SPACE Act would:

  • Codify Space Policy Directive-3 (SPD-3) by transferring authority for civil, commercial, and international SSA notification from the Department of Defense (DoD) to DOC;
  • Elevate the Office of Space Commerce from an office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to a Bureau led by an assistant secretary reporting directly to the Secretary of Commerce;
  • Authorize $15 million for the Bureau for FY 2021. This level of funding would be sufficient to start building the data repository, hire the appropriate staff, and begin an initial operational capability. 

Click here to read the bill.

On June 18, 2018, President Trump signed SPD-3, the National Space Traffic Management Policy. SPD-3 shifts responsibility for providing SSA data to satellite operators from DoD to DOC. SSA data is used to inform satellite operators of potential conjunctions or collisions with another passing satellite or piece of debris, allowing operators to maneuver if possible. DoD currently provides SSA services and issues collision warnings to satellite operators around the world. Under this directive, these responsibilities would be transferred to DOC.