HomeNewsArticle Display

Officials expand space-tracking website

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Defense Department officials announced additions to its space situational awareness program’s Space-Track.org website.

In a recent telephone interview with DOD News, Maj. Gen. David D. Thompson, U.S. Strategic Command’s director of plans and policy at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, said the release of new high-quality positional information on space debris of an unknown origin will help owner-operators better protect their satellites from objects and ultimately create less space debris.

“We run a predictive program that shows where the objects are, where they will be in the future, and the potential for these objects to run into each other,” Thompson said.

Thompson explained that most of the debris that is considered “objects of unknown origin” resulted from launches or space collisions, but has not been definitively identified by source.

Thousands of space objects

The Joint Functional Component Command for Space at Vandenberg AFB, California currently tracks more than 17,000 objects in space on a continuous basis, Thompson said. Among those objects, he said, about 1,100 are active satellites currently conducting operations.

The average person has a lot more invested in space than he or she may realize, Thompson said.

“We have more than 30 GPS satellites on orbit today providing global navigation and positioning for the world,” the general said.

With modern smart phones offering so many diverse functions, the loss of connectivity and functionality could cripple a fair amount of consumers in the U.S. and abroad.

“Networks that run those and the timing required to keep them all in sync is enabled through the global positioning system that every U.S. citizen and just about every advanced global citizen depends on,” Thompson said.

Yet it is the other approximately 16,000 objects -- the ones not active and/or of unknown origin in space -- that JFCC Space and STRATCOM are most concerned with.

Objects present collision threat

Many objects, ranging from at least the size of the human fist to as large as the international space station, which is slightly larger than a full-sized soccer field, continue to pose a collision threat in space, Thompson said.

“There is also a high volume of debris smaller than the average fist that (JFCC Space) cannot track that are also on orbit today,” he said.

With old satellites and debris orbiting at thousands of miles per hour, the probability of a collision poses a threat to the continuing mission of operational satellites.

Exchange of space information
While some active satellites are not maneuverable, JFCC Space officials said they try to inform the owners of all satellites that they may want to take action to reduce the likelihood of collision.

“Exchanging information allows spacefaring organizations to take action to reduce the risk of a collision that could generate hundreds of thousands of pieces of additional space debris,” said Lt. Gen. John W. Raymond, the JFCC Space commander. “JFCC Space shares information globally because it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure the safety of the space domain.”

An example of space cluttering occurred in 2007, Thompson said, when the Chinese conducted an anti-satellite weapons test and almost immediately created 1,500 new objects that pose a risk to satellites in orbit.

STRATCOM tracks space objects

And after the collision of an inoperable spacecraft with a commercial communications satellite in 2009, STRATCOM took on the role for the world in keeping track of such objects and providing that warning to others to prevent the situation from worsening, Thompson said.

“We have the assigned responsibility for planning and conducting space operations,” said Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, the STRATCOM commander.

“By sharing previously unavailable information on space objects, we’re helping nations that operate in space to do so safely and effectively,” Haney added. “It is one way we fulfill our assigned space mission for the U.S. and its allies, while also protecting capabilities important to citizens around the world.”

Yet it is a mission that extends beyond the average civilian.

Warfighters depend on satellites

Joint warfighters depend on advanced warning such as missile launch or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from satellite systems, Thompson said.

“It’s understanding what’s there (in space), what (the object) is doing, and how it poses a threat to our military mission, to our ability to support joint forces and contribute to the global good,” the Thompson said. “While space is a very big place, there are a lot of things up there.”

As such, for several years, JFCC Space has been responsible for monitoring, coordinating and synchronizing space operations for DOD.

“We are the single point of contact for U.S. military space operational matters,” Raymond said. “We are not, however, the only ones who operate in that environment.”

Many organizations in space

Many public, private, commercial and other governmental organizations conduct space operations.

“Space is not owned by anyone, it is used by all and we strongly support responsible and safe use of space and transparency of operations that go on in space,” Thompson said.

Reversing congestion and pollution in space, he said, is a complex task.

“We are talking decades or centuries before the environment will clean itself naturally so we have to share and act responsibly with this precious resource because it’s important to all of us,” Thompson said.

Engage

Twitter
RT @AFGlobalStrike: Make sure you're still washing your hands and following CDC precautionary guidelines to help protect yourself and other…
Twitter
Twitter
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: There are rarely parades or accolades given to those in the business of anticipating and avoiding catastrophic enemy a…
Twitter
One pilot was killed when a U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon assigned to Shaw Air Force Base crashed at approx… https://t.co/iBc3rCDzSw
Twitter
Senior Airman Ezra Chavez, 31st Civil Engineer Squadron EOD flight, dons a new EOD 10 bomb suit @AirAviano. The sui… https://t.co/7AxzoWTNGf
Twitter
.@910AW maintenance Airmen are planning to save costs and increase efficiency with a new 3D printer. @USAFReservehttps://t.co/fOUWO8YhKs
Twitter
The E-3 Sentry is an airborne warning & control system, or AWACS, aircraft w/ an integrated command & control battl… https://t.co/qM1mXkvqow
Twitter
.@EielsonAirForce Airmen conducted airborne training to maintain operational readiness at Joint Base Elmendorf-Rich… https://t.co/5ivZf24ay8
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: Know your #rights: Service members are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a law designed to ease financial bur…
Twitter
“Publishing JADO doctrine is a first step in changing how we think and conduct operations with the reemergence of g… https://t.co/9wnN5ILNS2
Twitter
RT @AETCommand: Have you checked @AFWERX’s #DisruptiveAF🎙pod? Check it out! https://t.co/NAMYv6OSLd
Twitter
The 317th Airlift Wing @DyessAFBase recently finished the first round of the new 4/12 C-130 deployment cycle. The c… https://t.co/Pw9tw2NIqq
Twitter
We control the air in this multi-domain fight! #ReadyAF #AimHigh https://t.co/6SYQwbs2ym
Twitter
They called it "the biggest test of @NATO Allies’ ability" in years. #TotalForce #ReadyAF #AimHigh https://t.co/brNWrvaMch
Twitter
.@GenDaveGoldfein visited @RobinsAFB_GA to get updates on the installation. He heard about how missions have progre… https://t.co/4Hvz5ZvRJ8
Twitter
.@SecAFOfficial outlines the Air Force's 4 top priorities: build the Space Force, modernize the Air and Space Force… https://t.co/pIkl23NVtG
Twitter
Register by August 1! Exercise your right to vote! https://t.co/SkTSooPFrr
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,245,636
Follow Us