Protecting Our Space Critical Infrastructure

11/20/2021 | Jim Cooper | News


Space is indispensable to our daily lives. We rely on ground, air, and maritime functions provided by space-based services, making protecting space as a critical infrastructure even more paramount today. Space situational awareness (SSA) and space traffic management (STM) enable a safe, secure, and sustainable space operational environment and protect the critical space infrastructure that delivers essential capabilities and services here on the ground.

Although SSA, STM, and orbital debris are critical matters – domestically and in the international arena – they have unfortunately fallen victim to years of stagnation by way of repetitious study and debate, confused priorities and limited, misdirected funding – resulting in very little actual progress. Too few resources have been allocated with too little discernible focus for any significant advancement—despite Space Policy Directive-3 (SPD-3) which formally initiated the STM responsibilities and implementation effort for the U.S. Government over 3 years ago.

COMSPOC joined other witnesses at a Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Subcommittee on Space and Science hearing on July 22 on examining the solutions for delivering SSA/STM. We appreciate the leadership of congressional policymakers to convene key stakeholders on this critical topic. The timing of this hearing is significant and provides a much-needed, clear legislative direction so that the responsible government agency can begin with urgency to execute and implement space safety solutions.

COMSPOC has been a global leader in delivering SSA and STM solutions for over 10 years. U.S. commercial SSA providers are world-renowned for innovation, subject matter expertise, and state-of-the-art capabilities. Today, U.S. private industry teams are delivering the most advanced SSA and STM capabilities in existence. We continue to research and innovate -- opening new doors to ground-breaking operating concepts, constructs, capabilities, and services. Commercial companies are better suited than the government to provide a higher standard of SSA because, by design, industry capabilities are more universal, interoperable and have a high level of operational readiness as opposed to traditional development approaches.

Unfortunately, the nature of government contracting ends up restricting the broad adoption of products and services available from private industry for SSA and STM. This stifles the innovation necessary to continue to meet evolving SSA and STM challenges as they arrive in the “new space” operational environment and puts the national critical infrastructure -- on the ground and in space -- at risk.

The U.S. Government (USG) has the opportunity now to provide global leadership in SSA and STM, paving the way for the development of international standards and best practices with respect to space operations, SSA, and STM, that are favorably predisposed to U.S interests, as well as the promotion and advocacy of U.S. commercial entity market share.

The U.S. needs to take advantage of the commercial innovation and the rate at which the commercial industry delivers solutions that address space safety challenges. To do this, COMSPOC recommends the following:

=        Empower NOAA and the Office of Space Commerce to fully embrace commercial SSA providers through contracts just like NASA and other agencies

=        Implement a national STM Pilot for space safety and continued space economy growth

=        Fully resource and adequately fund the Office of Space Commerce to take advantage of existing commercial STM services available from private industry.

=        Provide clear, deliberate direction to acquire, prioritize, implement, and deploy existing commercial SSA and STM services available.

=        Utilize the market research already performed by the Office of Space Commerce.

=        Leverage research and development for studying hard problems where solutions don’t exist and improve on promising ideas and technologies. The solutions exist today;                they just need to be utilized.


Leveraging the technology expertise of the commercial SSA industry ensures that the space- based services that all citizens use will continue to be available tomorrow and that new space-based services will continue to flourish.