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Fifth European Conference on Space Debris

30 March - 2 April 2009
Darmstadt, Germany

Data Sharing to Improve Close Approach Monitoring
and Safety of Flight

Joseph Chan Intelsat Corporation
Richard DalBello Intelsat General
Dean Hope Inmarsat
Pascal Wauthier SES-Engineering
Tim Douglas Telesat
Travis Inghram EchoStar Satellite Services


5th European Conference of Space Debris,
March 30 - April 2 2009

Managing the Space Environment

  • Space Environment becoming increasingly congested
  • Protecting high value assets is a priority for government and commercial actors
  • Better coordination among industry and government operators could:
    • Provide new awareness of the GEO orbit
    • Allow commercial fleets to be flown in a safer manner
    • Ensure sustainable use of key orbits
    • Reduce likelihood of an accidental crisis

Current Practices on Collision Monitoring

  • Publicly available Two Line Elements (TLE)
  • Form-1 request via the Air Force Commercial and Foreign Entity (CFE) Program and support from the United States Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC)
  • Informal agreements exist that allow the routine exchange orbital element and maneuver information between operators
  • During special operations, such as satellite relocations and transfer orbit operations, special notification is provided which typically includes:
    • Latest orbital information
    • Near-term maneuver plans
    • Frequency information
    • Company contact information

  • Third party Contract
    • Lincoln Lab
      • Via Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CDRA) using the Geosynchronous Monitoring and Warning System (GMWS)
      • Semi automated collision risk assessment based on miss distance – operation capability limited to non-active and other CRDA partner satellites in GEO rings
      • Monitoring performed with SP equivalent ephemeris data

Shortcomings of Current Approach

  • TLE does not have the required accuracy to provide reliable close approaches
  • Maneuver information on active satellites are not available to make reliable predictions
  • Although helpful Form 1 is inefficient and time consuming two-tier approach to identify potential threats
  • No common protocols and format for exchanging orbital and maneuver information
  • Not all operators participate in close approach monitoring

The Result?

  • Collision risks are increased
  • Many close approaches receive little or no attention
  • A wider range of threats must be evaluated through inter-operator coordination
  • Greater demands are place on government for information and assistance

The Solution?

  • Better cooperation between satellite operators
  • Better cooperation between governments
  • Better cooperation between satellite operators and governments

Cooperation Between Satellite Operators

  • Data center concept:
    • Consortium supported by international satellite operators
    • Active processing center – conjunction monitoring and reporting
    • Focal point for data exchange – incoming and outgoing
    • Member data is protected and secured
    • Established rules and protocol based on different levels of conjunction alerts
    • Technical support available for close approach mitigation
    • Encourage participation in conjunction monitoring

Goals of Data Center

  • Enhancing communication:
    • Developed protocol for data exchange – from operators to data center and report from data center to operators
    • Standardized data exchange format and content
    • Common usage and definition of terminologies
    • Established operator contact list
  • Enhance TLE data:
    • Augment TLE with operators’ precision orbit data and maneuver plans
    • Encourage data from other sources including radar, optical and other data from different academic institutions, observatories and private/government agencies

Our Vision – Current condition

Our Vision – Data Center Intermediate Phase

Our Vision – Data Center Final Phase


  • 1st Satellite Operators Round Table (Feb 2008, Washington DC)
    • Workshop with commercial operators on data sharing and the data center initiative
    • Established a prototype of the data center and started data exchange and close approach monitoring
      • SOCRATES-GEO developed to facilitate this activity
      • Total 7+ partners with data for 115 satellites (Intelsat, Inmarsat, EchoStar, SES, NOAA, Star One, Telesat, …)
      • Daily close approach alerts
      • Daily neighborhood watch
  • 2nd Satellite Operators Round Table (Dec 2008, Ottawa Canada)
    • Enhancements to the processing of operators ephemeris data and improvements on reporting
    • Benefits to conjunction monitoring with third party ISON data to supplement TLEs
    • Importance of calibrating user ephemeris data for reliable close approach monitoring
    • Possibility to include RF information
    • Outlining the steps needed to make data center operational

Next Steps

  • Continue working group to:
    • Standardize data quality and exchange format – orbital reference frame definitions, data calibration, uncertainties/covariance, data time span, …
    • Enhanced TLE and third party data to improve close approach predictions
    • Standardize close approach detection algorithm and process – conjunction box, probabilities and …
    • Establish protocol to respond to close approaches
    • Reach out to commercial operators, government and international community for support
    • Move from a prototype to an operational system

Размещено 10 апреля 2009

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