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 SST, aim to protect space infrastructure, facilities and services, which are essential for the safety and security of the economies, societies and citizens in Europe. 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 EU Space Policy, the EU adopted, on 16 April 2014, the SST Decision in order to establish an SST Support Framework.
The SST Support Framework supports the actions aimed at establishing an SST capability at European level with an appropriate level of European autonomy. These actions are:
- the operation and maintenance of a sensor function consisting of a network of EU Member State sensors to survey and track space objects;
- the operation and consolidation of a processing function to process and analyse the SST data at national level to produce SST information and services;
- the operation and consolidation of a service provision function to deliver SST services to the users.
The Framework is implemented by the SST Consortium in cooperation with the EU SatCen. The Consortium is composed of five EU Member States who are represented through their national designated entities: France (CNES), Germany (DLR), Italy (ASI), Spain (CDTI) and United Kingdom (UKSA).
The services produced and provided within the established SST capability are:
- risk assessment of collision between spacecraft or between spacecraft and space debris (Collision Avoidance service);
- detection and characterisation of in-orbit fragmentations, break-ups or collisions (Fragmentation Analysis service);
- risk assessment of the uncontrolled re-entry of space objects and space debris into the Earth's atmosphere (Re-entry Analysis service).
The SST users benefiting from the SST services are all EU Member States, the Council, the Commission, the EEAS, public and private spacecraft owners and operators and public authorities concerned with civil protection.
SatCen, as the EU component in the EUSST capability, cooperates with the SST Consortium in the provision of SST services. Its contribution is materialised by:
- Managing the EUSST Front Desk, which consists in operating and consolidating the dedicated service provision interface for delivering SST services to SST users (the EUSST Service Provision Portal accessible at https://sst.satcen.europa.eu) and in operating the EUSST Helpdesk to support SST users.
- Contributing to the interaction with the SST users via an established User Interaction Mechanism, which objective is to promote the enrolment of potential SST Users, increase and improve the usage of the SST services and facilitate the continuous improvement of the EU SST capability.
SatCen, in cooperation with the SST Consortium, is also playing an active role in other transversal areas within the SST Support Framework with the objective to consolidate a SST capability at European level.
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.
The EUSST Service Provision Portal is accessible at https://sst.satcen.europa.eu
The SST Support Framework is being financed by projects funded by the Galileo, Copernicus and H2020 programmes (more information at https://www.eusst.eu).
Preparatory phase of SatCen towards its contribution to the SST Support Framework
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.
In addition to the aforementioned projects, SatCen has cooperated with the European Defence Agency (EDA) in the field of SSA inter alia by implementing the Recognized Space Picture (RSP) Display study. This study aimed 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.
Get in touch
To request further information on SSA related matters, please send an email to the SatCen SSA Unit: firstname.lastname@example.org.