Forthcoming Boost to Managing Space Debris

The Air Force expects to have the first increment of the Joint Space Operations Center’s new mission system available for operations by the end of the year, said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz last week. The new system, which will replace a legacy set-up that dates back to the mid-1980s, will greatly enhance the ability of airmen in the JSpOC to process umpteen sensor observations and track the roughly 22,000 man-made objects on orbit, said Schwartz during his April 19 address at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. Most of those objects are debris pieces from satellites or expended boosters. The new JSpOC mission system will offer “more efficient fusion of data from disparate sources” and enable “a correlated situational awareness picture and comprehensive, relevant, and actionable information for a variety of space users—civil, commercial, and military,” he said. “We will be better poised to make even more substantial contributions to broader intergovernmental organizations and global commercial entities in detecting, warning of, and attributing space systems disturbances, whether stemming from natural or man-made causes,” he added. Managing existing space debris and curtailing the creation of more debris is one of the biggest challenges for the space community, said Schwartz. (Schwartz speech transcript)