Space Traffic Control: Avoiding Collisions in Earth Orbit

November 20th, 2010

If you’re trying to avoid future collisions of satellites, something akin to a space traffic control system is likely in the offing. This year alone, dozens of spacecraft have been purposely jockeyed around to lessen the chance of running into trouble.

Today it’s called the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Sharing Program, run by the U.S. Strategic Command, or USSTRATCOM.

The military is working with the commercial space sector, helping to avoid on-orbit bang-ups between spacecraft. This sharing of tracking information was detailed recently by Air Force General Robert Kehler to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Kehler is U.S. President Barack Obama’s nominee to become the chief of USSTRATCOM based at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

In responding to advance questions from the committee, Kehler noted that the Space Situational Awareness Sharing Program is a strong effort to share SSA information with commercial partners.

“Currently USSTRATCOM supplies high fidelity information to over 41,000 users from 141 countries,” Kehler explained.

Since September 2010, USSTRATCOM has concluded 17 agreements with major commercial providers and is in the process of concluding additional agreements, Kehler said. “So far in 2010, 64 satellites have maneuvered to avoid potential on-orbit collisions based on the information shared,” he added.

By Leonard David