Office of Space Commerce’s space traffic coordination pilot commences

The office is testing commercial space situational awareness services to determine if they can form the core of its new system.
A time exposure shows the arc of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it streaks toward space after lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center on April 27, 2022. (Photo by Gregg Newton/AFP via Getty Images)

Commercial space firms began conducting space situational awareness data analysis for the Office of Space Commerce, as it takes over the role of space traffic coordinator, Monday.

Part of a two-month pilot providing spaceflight safety mission assurance to select spacecraft in medium Earth orbit (MEO) and geostationary Earth orbit (GEO), the analysis supports satellite tracking, safety notifications, and anomaly detection and alerts.

OSC resides within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Department of Commerce, which was given until 2024 to assume the Department of Defense‘s responsibility of coordinating increasingly congested commercial and civil satellite orbits around Earth in a 2018 presidential directive. The office contributed $850,000 to DOD for the award of space situational awareness (SSA) data analysis contracts to seven firms, via the Joint Task Force-Space Defense Commercial Office Operations (JCO) vehicle, enabling the pilot.

“The space traffic coordination pilot project contracts — combined with the approximately $3.1 million in contracts that the Department of Commerce let in the summer for data purchase — are designed to demonstrate commercial capabilities and to help the Office of Space Commerce team develop the structure and operational requirements for the future system,” a NOAA spokesperson told FedScoop.


OSC hopes the pilot will help determine the extent to which commercial SSA services can augment or replace DOD’s existing capabilities, ideally forming the core of the new system.

COMSPOC Corp.; ExoAnalytic Solutions; Kayhan Space; KBR; NorthStar Earth & Space, Inc.; Slingshot Aerospace; and the Space Data Association received contracts.

DOD already awarded five contracts for GEO space object tracking data in September that also support the pilot.

Members of the Space Data Association will gather feedback from commercial satellite operators on the usefulness of the SSA services provided. OSC will then compare results to determine the maturity of SSA services and inform its approach to low Earth orbit (LEO).

“This pilot project helps usher in a new phase in how government and commercial operators work together to coordinate activities on-orbit,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad in a statement. “NOAA looks forward to continued collaborations that safely enhance the economic and technical potential of the U.S. commercial space sector.”

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