USAF, FAA in Talks to Hand Off Tracking of Space Traffic

The Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration are in talks to exchange responsibilities for tracking space vehicles and debris, a step that would free up responsibilities from the military and provide more public notification of space traffic. Lt. Gen. David Buck, commander of 14th Air Forces and the joint functional component command for space, said Friday the Air Force and FAA are talking about the agency taking over tasks that may not be “inherently military,” such as messages and notifications of conjunctions—possible collisions of space vehicles. For example, recently an Air Force weather satellite, which had no maneuver ability, was on track for a possible conjunction with an old Russian rocket. The Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center—now known as the National Space Defense Center—knew it would be close and there would possibly be “devastating” effects. The job of notifying the public, and Russia, about this possible incident is not really a military mission, and would be better suited for a civilian agency, Buck said. The FAA is willing to take on this task, and Congress has been notified about this possibility, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation said in September, according to Space News.

See also: Vandenberg to Launch Civil Space Traffic Pilot Program.