[Source: SPACE NEWS]

WASHINGTON — Two years after a space policy directive gave it responsibility for space traffic management, the Commerce Department says it is making progress on implementing that policy as it continues to seek additional funding from Congress.

On June 18, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross visited the headquarters of Analytical Graphics Inc. (AGI) outside of Philadelphia for a briefing on its commercial space traffic management (STM) efforts. AGI operates the Commercial Space Operations Center, which collects space situational awareness data to provide satellite operators with warnings of potential close approaches, or conjunctions, between objects in orbit.

Ross said he was impressed with AGI’s services. “What they seem to have been able to accomplish is much more precise of tracking of objects,” he said in a June 19 interview with SpaceNews. “They are able to do it more quickly and more accurately than even Vandenberg,” the Air Force base that hosts the Combined Space Operations Center.

Improved accuracy is vital, he noted, to reduce the number of false alarms about potential conjunctions that satellite operators get. “The more false warnings that someone gets, the less likely they are to actually implement the next warning by moving the satellite,” he said.

Ross’ visit to AGI took place on the second anniversary of President Donald Trump’s signing of Space Policy Directive (SPD) 3, which assigned the Commerce Department the mission of providing civil STM services. The timing, he said, was a coincidence, since it was part of a series of meetings he had in Pennsylvania that day to discuss the economic recovery from the pandemic.

Ross said companies like AGI, as well as ExoAnalytic Solutions and LeoLabs, which track satellites with optical telescopes or radars, play a key role in the Commerce Department’s implementation of SPD-3. The department has plans to establish what it calls an “open architecture data repository” that would combine space situational awareness data from both government and commercial sources, and in turn support more accurate notifications of potential conjunctions.

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