The term “space situational awareness” refers to our capacity to scan the space environment and conduct safe operations there.
In this article, we discuss the importance of space situational awareness and why each space agency or organisation needs it in their practice.
Why is space situational awareness important?
Each organisation has its ways of adopting space situational awareness. In making sure that space activities take place safely and in conformity with national and international laws, regulations, and other norms, space situational awareness (SSA) is crucial.
Space situational awareness entails being informed of the potential hazards to space activities and the space environment. SSA can help reduce problems like orbital collisions among spacecraft and space junk. Operators need to be aware of their legal responsibilities, such as those relating to responsibility, ownership, and management of space objects.
In SSA, space objects are tracked, their actions are understood, space weather phenomena are observed, and possible risks to space operations are identified. Operators can go through their operations securely, lower the chance of collisions, and prevent interfering with other entities’ or nations’ activities in space by being aware of where space objects are located in orbit, their paths, and their status.
SSA also includes spotting potentially dangerous natural occurrences in space, such as asteroids and the dangers they pose to spacecraft, as well as electromagnetic interference brought on by “space weather” events.
Using a range of current technology and SSA services, SSA can be accomplished. These technologies and services frequently include the launch of space-based SSA gear, accessing databases for tracking space objects and tracking space objects through ground stations.
With the help of these techniques, operators may achieve various states of consciousness that are suitable for their unique requirements and goals.
Systems of SSA
There is no one final result for “achieving” SSA. The level of awareness that an operator should attain relies on the nature of their tasks and the goals they have for themselves in space.
- Information gathered by operators while doing SSA activities would usually fall into these broad categories:
- Information on satellite, spacecraft, and debris navigation, including approach vectors and the distance between them.
- Information on the owners, features, and purposes of satellites and spacecraft, including how they utilise the electromagnetic spectrum.
- Information recognising and tracing the movements of asteroids and other natural space objects.
- Information on the observation of “space weather”.
After collecting such information, these will be shared and applied to different systems of SSA:
Space Traffic Management
To guarantee that space operations are carried out safely without interference with others and without damaging the space environment, space traffic management, or STM, entails “planning, coordination and on-orbit synchronisation” of space activities.
To lower the chance of collisions and ensure operators have enough “room” in space to do their tasks safely, it entails utilising navigational and positional data to de-conflict launch, orbit, and orbital manoeuvre paths of space objects.
Threat Identification and Warning
To anticipate, monitor, and stop any dangers to space activities, acquired SSA data must be analysed.
Services might include delivering collision/close-approach alerts to satellite operators or keeping an eye on the sun to foresee solar activity that could cause damaging electromagnetic interference.
In situations where operators lack the technological capability or resources to carry out SSA independently, SSA information-sharing agreements and databases may be utilised to provide alerts to operators.
Active Debris Mitigation
By being aware of its location, space debris can be prevented or possibly even caught and eliminated from orbit. Any operator wishing to engage in active space debris countermeasures would benefit from collecting and using SSA data.
Operators who are considering engaging in these activities need to be conscious of the legal risks they face, especially those involving liability and insurance.
According to international law, outer space is a public domain that is available for everyone’s use and exploration. To ensure the accessibility and safety of the space environment, it is in the best interests of all states to collaborate in creating and improving SSA.
The equal, unhindered use and exploration of space, free from undesired intervention or restrictions from others, is one of the goals of international space law.
Although there are no specific international legal requirements, engaging in SSA activities is probably essential to comply with several basic legal principles.
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