Avoiding Space Collisions

The Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., has sent Russia 252 notifications and China 147 notifications in the past year “regarding close approaches between satellites,” said Frank Rose, deputy assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, during a space security conference Monday in Prague. This is part of the United States’ efforts to alert other nations of potential orbital collisions so as to prevent the creation of more orbital debris in the already congested space environment. Since the beginning of 2010, government and commercial satellite owners/operators have had to reposition their satellites more than 100 times in low Earth orbit just to avoid the debris that China created in 2007 with the destruction of one of its satellites in an anti-satellite-weapon test, said Rose. Space became even more congested in February 2009 when a commercial communications satellite collided with an inoperable Russian military satellite. The 2007 and 2009 events “created significant amounts of dangerous debris” in LEO, he said. (Rose transcript)