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US, UK, Australia and Canada Announce Combined Space Ops

May. 20, 2014 - 05:01PM   |  
By AARON MEHTA   |   Comments
Joint Space Operations Center
A missile warning duty officer at the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., reviews data on a computer screen. The Australia-Canada-UK-US agreement lays the groundwork for an international version of the JSpOC, which acts as a clearinghouse for the US military's tracking of space-based objects. (Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee/US Air Force)
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COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — Four nations have agreed to a new partnership to facilitate the sharing of space situational awareness information, according to a UK government news release.

The UK will be joined by Australia, Canada and the US in the agreement.

“The partnership will allow for more effective and coordinated use of their space capabilities through cooperation on activities such as identifying and understanding what objects are in space, ensuring uninterrupted satellite operations, and avoiding satellite collisions,” the statement reads. “Such activities will make a significant contribution towards a safer and more secure space environment while also enhancing mutual security.”

In other words, this agreement lays the groundwork for an international version of the Pentagon’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), which acts as a central clearinghouse for the military’s tracking of space-based objects.

“The significance is that there is the recognition that [the US] can’t go it alone,” said Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation. “We are going to need closer cooperation with our closest allies — we, the US government — in order to accomplish our goals.”

Weeden said the governments have been working toward a plan since a 2010 war game at Schriever Air Force Base in the US, which hosted representatives from the allied nations. That was when the concept of a “JSpOC of the future,” as Weeden called it, came about.

The limited nature of the UK’s announcement “sounds like they haven’t been able to get an agreement on that, and this is more about each country having their own op center and having coordination between them,” he said. “It’s a signaling agreement among the four countries that this is important and providing a political framework for moving forward, and moving forward is going to be the even more difficult part of how do we actually do this.”

Space situational awareness has been a hot topic for Gen. William Shelton, the outgoing head of Air Force Space Command. The service hopes to address some of its capabilities when it awards a contract for its Space Fence program.

Air Force officials had hoped to award that contract during this week’s National Space Symposium, but it is now expected to come next week. ■


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