Satellite operators need more accurate SSA data

09/16/2021 | Jeff Foust - Space News | External Article

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WAILEA, Hawaii — Space situational awareness data used by satellite operators isn’t accurate enough to support the decisions they need to make on whether and how to maneuver their spacecraft to avoid potential collisions.

In a paper presented at the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies, or AMOS, Conference here Sept. 15, officials with the COMSPOC Corporation, which specializes in commercial space situational awareness (SSA), looked at the various approaches satellite operators used to determine if they need to make a collision avoidance maneuver and compared it to the accuracy of the data they use to base “go/no-go” decisions for those maneuvers.

Dan Oltrogge, director of integrated operations and research at COMSPOC, said in an interview that a survey of members of the Space Data Association, a group of satellite operators, revealed no consensus in the criteria they used to determine what is a “high-interest” close approach in either low Earth orbit or geostationary orbit. GEO operators, for example, use a threshold of a projected miss distance ranging from 1,000 to 15,000 meters, and a probability of collision ranging from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 1 billion.  

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