The Civilian Space Traffic Management Office Is Coming, But ‘Don’t Expect Magic’

DalBello: Establishment of civilian space traffic management office moving forward, but progress will be incremental

RESTON, Va. — The Office of Space Commerce is working to build an infrastructure that can handle the tracking demands of tens of thousands of active satellites and orbiting debris objects.

Speaking at the November 3 CyberSatGov conference, CSO Director Richard DalBello said the establishment of a civilian space traffic management office was progressing, but warned the process would take longer. slowly and more gradually than many anticipated.

The OSC’s primary job is to advocate for the U.S. space industry and oversee remote sensing business regulations, but most of the bureau’s efforts now focus on implementing a 2018 Policy Directive providing spaceflight security services to civilian and commercial satellite operators, a job currently performed by the US military.

This will require Commerce to set up cloud infrastructure, establish data sharing agreements with the DoD, enter into contracts for the purchase of Commerce data, and determine processes for issuing collision warnings to operators. when debris approaches active satellites.

The Departments of Commerce and Defense have signed an agreement in September formalizing their commitment to cooperate. DalBello said the memo was just the start of a discussion that will take place over the next few months to work out the details.

Not an AAF for space

DalBello said many people think the Office of Space Commerce will be a de facto traffic controller, like the Federal Aviation Administration for space. But that’s not what’s happening.

“We use all these terms a lot: space situational awareness, space traffic management, space traffic control, but really, all that really holds us back is space situational awareness,” he said. he declares.

OSC will not manage space traffic but rather provide information that operators can use to help prevent collisions, DalBello said. Once this warning is issued, “all responsibility is transferred to the operator”.

That said, “we are clearly at the beginning of what will be a long, very long process” of defining what responsibilities should lie with government and the private sector in managing space traffic, he added. “If you look back at air traffic control, it kind of started the same way. The first air traffic control centers were organized by the airlines.

Following the agreement with the DoD, two working groups were formed: one focused on clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the DoD and the CSO, and the other dealt with the issue. more complex data sharing.

DalBello insisted the DoD is not getting out of the business. “They are just shift focus. We try to support civil and commercial, as well as some international activities. We therefore need to clarify roles and responsibilities.

The working groups will meet over the next few months.

CSO won’t learn overnight how to do everything the DoD has been doing for decades, he said. And there will be no “big magic date” when a fully functioning civilian system is activated and the military system is deactivated.

A prototype cloud-based data repository unveiled last year was a first step, DalBello said. The CSO plans to acquire a working cloud system, but the procurement process is now on hold until Congress appropriates the 2023 funding. Separately, the office is working with the Business Operations Cell of US Space Command on pilot programs using Army data unified data library. Eventually, he said, “we will need a constant source of trade data.”

During this time, he said, “we will initiate processes to purchase other commercially available SSA services.”

Perhaps the transition from DoD services to OSC will start with SSA geostationary orbit, then launch collision avoidance, etc. “Once we have them in place and stabilized, we can say to the MoD, okay, you can get out of this.”

The OSC is also monitoring the progress of its European counterpart, the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) services.

“The world is not standing still waiting for us to pull ourselves together. Europe is going,” DalBello said. “But it raises the question of how do we coordinate all these data sources?”

“I have heard that EU SST will be offering its services to third parties from next year,” he said. “So we’re going to watch that carefully.”

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