Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Traffic Management in Outer Space: Call for a Global Civil System

10.11.2008
Outer space is a busy thoroughfare of satellites operated by numbers of nations.

Earth orbits are crowded with active spacecraft, as well as dead or dying satellites – and countless bits of hazardous space debris.

Work is now underway to begin blueprinting a civilian space situational awareness system – a step toward global space traffic management. A recently held international meeting brought together some 500 specialists from America, Europe, Russia, and China – a cadre of experts in safety from the aerospace world to discuss how best to manage the active spacelanes of today and in the future.

Technical feasibility

At the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS), held October 21-23 in Rome Italy, the meeting theme set the tone: “Building, Together, a Safer Space.”

Brian Weeden, Technical Consultant with the Secure World Foundation (SWF), a sponsor of the event, organized three space traffic management sessions, as well as a lively panel discussion on the technical feasibility of international civil space situational awareness, or SSA.

Weeden points out that until now SSA has generally only been talked about in a military context. “SSA is extremely important for military space, but there is a significant need for SSA in civilian space as well.”

Increasingly, it is commercial and civil satellites which are being placed into orbit, Weeden said, and the nations and companies that operate them need to have the awareness to be able to operate them in a safe and sustainable way.

“This SSA system needs to work in an international context, much the same way as aviation does. But very few companies and States have the resources to fund and operate their own SSA network,” Weeden observed.

Global conversation

The recently held IAASS Conference has started a global conversation on the technical feasibility and requirements of a civilian SSA system.

“Much of the data needed is already being collected by various actors, from scientific institutions to multinational companies to backyard satellite observers,” Weeden points out. “The difficulty is in breaking down the barriers between these disparate sources, making the different types and sources of data compatible, and distributing it in such a way as to protect the rights and privacy concerns of the different sources. It’s definitely a challenge, but so far we haven’t come across any insurmountable technical barriers,” he added.

Commercial companies who operate large, expensive communication satellites in the geostationary belt – a densely packed area 22,236 miles directly above the equator -- have already recognized the importance of this and have started the process.

Ensure transparency, reduce tensions

Given an ever-crowded and polluted space environment, space situational awareness is going to become more and more important for all space actors.

That’s the view of Theresa Hitchens, Director of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C. “Further, as military investment in space assets grow, it will be increasingly important to have a neutral, reliable source of SSA data for non-military actors.”

An attendee of this year’s IAASS meeting, Hitchens said that a civil SSA structure can help to ensure transparency and reduce tensions by providing data in an apolitical way.

“It seems to me that the effort by global satellite communication companies to develop better processes for sharing data among themselves and with governments is testimony to this need…as well as a solid first step,” Hitchens concluded.

Predicting and avoiding close approaches

Taking part in this year’s SWF co-sponsored IAASS program was T.S. Kelso, a Senior Research Astrodynamicist for Analytical Graphics, Inc.’s Center for Space Standards and Innovation, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Kelso runs CelesTrak, a powerful on-line satellite tracking tool, making use of orbital data provided by U.S. military’s North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

The analyst also offers Satellite Orbital Conjunction Reports Assessing Threatening Encounters in Space - or SOCRATES for short. This service provides regular information on pending conjunctions on orbit over the coming week.

Because of the potentially catastrophic consequences of such conjunctions going unnoticed, Kelso explains, it is hoped that this service will help satellite operators avoid undesired close approaches through advanced mission planning.

Kelso said that the IAASS meeting in Rome was set up specifically to promote space safety, and this year’s conference was focused on working together.

Kelso is teamed with eight operators of satellites in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO), receiving orbital data directly from them for 124 satellites to establish SOCRATES-GEO. “We are able to use this data…to provide much better SSA for predicting and avoiding close approaches,” he pointed out.

To enhance overall satellite situational awareness, “we’re encouraging as many satellite operators to participate as possible, since the more that participate, the better the overall SSA,” Kelso explained.

SWF’s Weeden foresees a system where commercial entities and States voluntarily pool their SSA data – with information then made available to all participants.

“Our goal is to bring more participants into this system and expand it into other congested and high-value areas of Earth orbit, such as Sun-synchronous orbit,” Weeden adds. “Eventually, such an international, civil SSA system might form the foundation for a global space traffic management system.”

Reporter’s note:

If you would like additional information on the civil Satellite Situational Awareness concept, please contact:

Brian Weeden
Technical Consultant
Secure World Foundation
Email:
brian.weeden@gmail.com
Phone:
+1 (514) 466-2756 Canada
+1 (202) 683-8534 US

Brian Weeden | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://secureworldfoundation.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Computer model predicts how fracturing metallic glass releases energy at the atomic level
20.07.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
18.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>