Give and Take

US Strategic Command may soon start issuing regular warnings to other countries when their satellites are in danger of colliding with space debris, said Pentagon space policy lead Gregory Schulte. The Air Force performs what is known as conjunction analysis—monitoring objects in the heavens to determine if there is a potential orbital smash-up looming. STRATCOM already issues warnings if space debris comes within one kilometer of a satellite in low earth orbit or five kilometers of a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, said Schulte during a meeting with reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C. But the Pentagon wants to make the warnings a routine service that the Air Force provides. The hope is that, through such regular communications, STRATCOM “also will get information from those countries” about scheduled maneuvers or positioning of their satellites, he said. The Global Positioning System offers “an interesting analogy,” he said. “When GPS launched, it was initially to provide navigation for our ships at sea, and now it’s a global service that we all use,” he explained. “What we are going to see is that the conjunction warnings [are] going to be another global service that will be provided by the US Air Force.”