Cartwright: US Must Better Sat Awareness

Cartwright: US Must Better Sat Awareness

The United States should improve the quality and sharing of data about the location of satellites and space debris with other countries, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. James Cartwright told a space conference in Washington today. His remarks were made after news broke about the destruction of a US commercial communications satellite in low earth orbit by a dead Russian satellite.

Cartwright was speaking about the so-called space catalog for which the Air Force collects data from an array of sensors in space and on the ground. The US collects the data about active and dead satellites, as well as debris such as lost wrenches, shattered satellites and upper stages of old rockets. The tracking of data is performed by the Joint Space Operations Center, which tracks about 18,000 objects. However, the US refuses, on national security grounds, to share highly accurate data with other countries. France and other countries have pressed the US to improve the accuracy of the data, as well as improve its completeness. The orbits and existence of highly classified satellites are not shared at all, for example.

“I’d like to do more. I’d really like to find a way to ensure our sharing of data is more complete,” said Cartwright, one of the military’s most knowledgeable space experts from his time as head of Strategic Command in Omaha, Neb. The commercial satellite industry has been pushing for more complete data and more rapid sharing of data for several years, worried by events such as the Chinese anti-satellite test that created hundreds of pieces of debris [see picture]. Richard DalBello, vice president for government relations at Intelsat General, the government business subsidiary of the giant commercial satellite company, has spearheaded the industry push for better data. In a paper setting out for the need for improved situational awareness for the commercial industry, DalBello wrote that a “prototype active data center was established to study the feasibility of such approach following a workshop of commercial owners/operators held in February 2008 in Washington DC.” The data center is currently being tested to gauge its ability to better monitor space. “We have been in beta test for the last eight months or so. We have 120 sats and seven operators in the system today. But it is not yet an operational tool, ” DalBello told me after the conference.


The Pentagon did not predict the collision between the dead Russian satellite and the live one operated by Iridium Satellite LLC, said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. “There are limits on your ability to track and compute every piece of orbiting man made object,” said Whitman. “It’s an unfortunate incident that highlights the importance of cooperation and collaboration in space,” he said.

Improving space situational awareness has been a high priority for the US since the Chinese anti-satellite test in January 2007. Former President George Bush issued a classified memo about seven months after the Chinese test with ordering the State and Defense departments to improve U.S. space situational awareness. However, monitoring dead satellites and predicting where they will be with a high degree of accuracy is extremely difficult, said a national security space source familiar with the conjunction equations. For example, after the Chinese anti-satellite test the US tried to perform conjunction analyses for the Space Station and several hundred satellites that might be affected by the debris cloud. The attempt overwhelmed the computers and the Air Force analysts performing the work.

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Out of curiosity, was the orbit of the dead Russian satellite published? If it was, wouldn’t this incident be the responsibility of Iridium. Maybe companies, like Virgin Galactic, will someday take on contracts to clear orbits of junk. Or how about the Air Force out-sourcing satellite tracking to Google Maps. :)

This incident also brings up interesting questions of law. Such as; liability for leaving junk in space, insurance, when junk can be salvaged or destroyed by 3rd parties. Should the laws of the sea be extended to space… or some other craziness created.

And how long will it be until errant satellites “accidentally” colliding, become a game of foreign relations & a form prewar action.

It was bound to happen. We get more slack every day.

Camp, My understanding is that the Russian sat was lofted up before the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee’s guidelines came into being. So it is not subject to the international standards that came into being as a result of the IADC recommendations. Also, the military’s ability to monitor and analyze possible conjunctions is fairly limited. For example, after the Chinese anti-satellite test the AF tried to run analyses looking at how the new debris would affect operations and the system simply could not handle the calculations.

Disney’s “Wall.E” can clean up space debris for everybody while we sit on our buts on a pleasure cruze around space.… Its the future I tell you.…

I have a problem believing the Shuttles are going to be sent to museums or stripped to accomodaate other versions of what we are to use in there stead; to mobilize and replace the fleet. The shuttles should be left in space to retireve pods that have been catapulted into a low orbit to restock fuel and other suppllies needed to man space. The moon should be manned immmediately instead of the 2015 or later deadlines projected.

The shuttle should be used to retrieve debris; doing so will get the other culprets to do the same to keep our hands off their abandoned components that will give us an understanding of there technological where they really are where their programs are or see how much of what is out there is ours sold or stole from the U.S. The bottom line is they will be cleaning up their garbage making the envelope surrounding earth gets cleaned up and once again safe to come and go without catostrophic failure due to debris.

Any body believing the spent or dead satellite of the Russians’ just happened to encroach upon our communication satellites’ orbit was an unfortunate accident will be buying property on Mars before we get there.

While we have the G8 getting together to clean up the planet they should stop the destruction of the rain forests and stop burning up the atmosphere by using the rockets to get us out there (space.
while the looking for alternatives to public transportation and the family car they should take the time to get the world community behind the programs to clean up Organized crime and leave the public alone.

Making all in the civilian sector criminals so they can take action without cause and at will needs to be stopped. Think about it; we have been told there isn’t enough to go around for health care and infrastructure but they can warehouse millions for minor drug convictions or pranks that are a little more than a nuisence.

Now there are Trillions of dollars coming out of nowhere to bail out the banks and other white collar criminals insteead of pinning the blame on those that put us in this predicament; they should be given their time in an institution making restitutiion to the public.

The CEO’s know how easy it is to steal from the Federal government; it appears they set it up and posture to reap their share of what financial growth was in our coffers but now is lost. They did the very same thing 30 years ago and stole 650 billion dollars. What has taken place is a repeat to include enough to payoff all the officers of the government that should have been constantly watching the accounting.

They don’t fight to get those jobs controlling the purse-strings of the public without expecting a pinch. Think about it; how does a no name Muslim become President of the United States? Not enough of the public thought it odd that he came into a billion dollars to fund his campaign?

We are about to become a one world order. A national debt not likely to be paid off; instead they have bought us. We are the world police force already; we have the network to enforce the plan and we have been incorporated in the Russian FBI while the Chinese are absorbing the majority of free money in the world taking over as the wealthiest country on the planet.

The only thing left to acquire is the moon and this is where we are going to establish a base of operations for the mining and acquire the rarest fuel source to get to Mars using Helium 3.

There is roughly a couple hundred square miles of land on the moon that would make it possible to allow constant contact with the earth that is not in the harsh temperature zones allowing us to grow much of our food and provide and clean our air supplies needed for long term colonization there.

We need who is not out for our best interests; they exist because those watching them need the jobs.

Greed still is a controlling factor in our lives; nothing will be fixed until we take it back.

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