Space Situational Awareness (SSA) refers to the knowledge of the space environment, including location and function of space objects and space weather phenomena. SSA is generally understood as covering three main areas:
- Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) of man-made objects.
- Space WEather (SWE) monitoring and forecast.
- Near-Earth Objects (NEO) monitoring (only natural space objects).
Activities in these areas, in particular in Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST), aim to protect space infrastructure against the mounting population of active and inactive man-made space objects and prevent or at least mitigate damage caused by such space objects in the event of uncontrolled re-entries. With the objective of contributing to these activities, allowing the EU and its Member States to better access and use space in line with the European Space Policy, the EU has adopted the SST Decision to establish a Space Surveillance and Tracking Support Framework. This will support the networking and operations of SST assets owned by EU Member States in order to provide SST services through an EU SST Service provision function.
SatCen activities on SSA
SatCen is an asset for the development of the SST Support Framework by having an extensive expertise in handling sensitive data in an operational environment and strong institutional links with EU Member States. SatCen cooperates with the SST Consortium (currently composed of five national designated entities: ASI, CDTI, CNES, DLR and UKSA) to provide SST services to SST Users. The Centre is an EU component in the SST Support Framework, in direct contact with SST Users, being the EU SST Front Desk.
The SST Decision identifies as SST Services: Collision Avoidance, In-Orbit Fragmentation and Uncontrolled Re-entry of space objects. SST Users benefiting from these services are: Member States, the Council, the European Commission (EC), the European External Action Service, public and private spacecraft owners and operators and public authorities concerned with civil protection.
Since 1st July 2016, SatCen is providing initial SST services – generated by the SST Consortium – via the first instance of the EU SST Service Provision Portal. It is founded by the SST2015 projects, working together with the SST Consortium.
In terms of the development of the EU SST service provision function, the SST Consortium, SatCen and the European Commission are working together to ensure the long-term availability of European and national space infrastructure.
Furthermore, SatCen cooperates with the European Defence Agency in the field of SSA inter alia by implementing the Recognized Space Picture (RSP) Display study. This study aims at developing a common understanding for an RSP Display focusing on visualization aspects, proposing a draft Operational Concept and analysing external interfaces and interoperability aspects for the benefit of EU Member States.
Considering the support SatCen provides for the decision making of the EU in the field of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the Centre relies on space assets and only if these are protected (security in space) it can support the CFSP (security from space). The contribution of the EU SatCen to the current SSA and SST activities is therefore of high value to the CFSP.
Past SatCen activities on SSA
SatCen has been working on preparing the establishment of a European Service Provision Function through the PASS project. PASS aimed at ensuring the transition of the EU SatCen activities, from the general studies conducted in Seventh Framework Programme (SPA and STEP projects), towards its contribution to the specific role of EU SST Front-Desk.
SPA and STEP FP7 Support Actions aimed at contributing to develop knowledge and competences on SSA at European level. In particular, SPA supported the technical definition of SSA services and participated in the validation of critical pre-operational SSA services. On other hand, STEP provided a technical perspective for the development of a SSA data policy.
Get in touch
To request further information on SSA-related issues or to be kept informed on current SSA activities at SatCen, please send an email to email@example.com.